Common Latin is Uncommon Texan

Latin creeps into the most innocuous of legal documents. That is why everyone should be able to translate the basic phrases. Of course, in Texas we lawyers have our own interpretation of the court’s meaning.

Here are some of them more common phrases, translated into English, with a Texas interpretation provided:

Pro Hac Vice
This time only, referring to an application for an out- of- state lawyer who is granted special permission to practice in the state for purposes of only one case.

Texas interpretation: a high–paid, unnecessary interloper who thinks he knows more about Texas law than Texas attorneys and judges.

A judge’s expression of opinion on a point other than the precise issue involved in determining a case.

Texas interpretation: confusing language included in an opinion just for the heck of it; the judge opining on the case she wishes she had before her, not the one that is actually before the court.

Ex Parte
From one side only, referring to a party to talks to a judge about a case without letting the other side know about it.

Texas interpretation: if done by the other side, then a low-down, sneaky action to unfairlysway the judge. If done by you, then a regrettable action made necessary by the low-down sneaky tactics of the other side.

Sua Sponte
Of their own accord. The Court enters an order on its own volition, without a request from a lawyer in the case.

Texas interpretation: “Are you kidding me? The Judge did what?”

Res Ipsa Loquiteur
The thing speaks for itself. The doctrine of law that one is presumed to be negligent if he had exclusive control of whatever caused the injury, without having to prove actual negligence.

Texas interpretation: Get out your checkbook.

Pro Se
A person who represents himself in a legal proceeding.

Texas interpretation: Loser.

Habeas Corpu
You have the body. A Writ of Habeas Corpus is a pleading to a court to release a prisoner or detainee.

Texas interpretation: let my people go.

Ex Post Facto
After the facts; a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of an action.

Texas interpretation: Every law that has been passed by the Texas Legislature since 1890.

Ad Nauseum
To the point of excess; causing nausea.

Texas interpretation: the use of Latin by judges.

Hammerle Finley– Give us a call– we can help.


Virginia Hammerle is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and an Accredited Estate Planner by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. She can be contacted at Theinformation contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice. ©2014