10 Latin quotes used by lawyers and their meaning

1) “Nemo auditur propriam turpitudinem allegans”– No one shall be heard, who invokes his own guilt

The maxim represents a rejection for those who seek to rely upon their own turpitude to face justice, because immoral acts should not be protected by law.

2) “Nullum crimen, nulla poena sine lege” – No crime and no penalty without law

This is a legal principle requiring that one cannot be punished for doing something that is not prohibited by law. Thus, the individual is not asked to foresee a future criminalisation, so he is directing his behavior according to regulations in force at the time the acts are committed.

3) “Pacta sunt servanda” – Conventions must be preserved

According to this principle, a valid contract has the force of law between contracting parties. It also emphasises the traditional idea based on keeping one’s word and provides, at the same time, certain security of legal relations.

4) “De minimis non curat lex” – The law does not concern itself with trifles

Accordingly, social values seen as less important by the law makers cannot be overseen in legal terms. An application of this maxim is found in criminal law, in cases in which the judge can decide to discharge or postpone penalty, if he is certain that the act shows a minimum level of social danger.

5) “Divide et impera” – Divide and conquer

Divide et impera is a principle of state power and a strategy of manipulating human behavior. It can be defined as gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy.

6)“Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat” – The burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies

Considering this rule, we can draw two conclusions: the idea that the burden of proof should be supported by the claimant, and also the presumption that any person is considered innocent until proven otherwise.

7) “Nemo censetur ignorare legem” – Ignorance of law excuses no one

Based on this principle, it is alleged that every person is acquainted with the law and no one can be discharged of liability on claiming unawareness of regulations. It represents every citizen’s onus towards their society, social values and interests considered fundamental.

8) In dubio pro reo – When in doubt, for the accused

This rule reinforces the presumption of innocence, which means that a defendant may not be convicted by the court when evidence is not convincing enough and doubts about his or her guilt remain.

9) Suum cuique tribuere– To each his own

This is one of the three fundamental principles of roman law, written by Ulpian as it follows: Iurus praecepta sunt haec: honeste vivere, neminem laedere, suum cuique tribuere which translates „The basic principles of law are: to live honorably, not to harm any other person, to render each his own”.

10) “Ius est ars boni et aequi” – The law is the art of goodness and equity

The romans, through Celsus, defined the law as the art of goodness and equity, with no distiction between law and morality. This well-known definition reflects the reality of that time, when the law was built around the moral values of society, its purpose being the practice in good faith.

Negulescu Anca – Intern

R&R Partners Bucharest

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