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Search warrant

A written order issued by a judge that directs a law enforcement officer to search a specific area for a particular piece of evidence.

Seal

To mark a document with a seal; to authenticate or make binding by affixing a seal. Court seal, corporate seal.

Secondary authority

Legal encyclopedias, treatises, legal texts, law review articles, and citators. Writings which set forth the opinion of the writer as to the law.

Secured debts

In bankruptcy, a debt is secured if the debtor gave the creditor a right to repossess the property or goods used as collateral.

Self-defense

The claim that an act otherwise criminal was legally justifiable because it was necessary to protect a person or property from the threat or action of another.

Self-incrimination, privilege against:

The constitutional right of people to refuse to give testimony against themselves that could subject them to criminal prosecution. The right is guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution . Asserting the right is often referred to as “taking the Fifth.”

Self-proving will

A will whose validity does not have to be testified to in court by the witnesses to it, since the witnesses executed an affidavit reflecting proper execution of the will prior to the maker’s death.

Sentence

The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime. (See concurrent and consecutive sentences.)

Sentence Report

(See Presentence Report.)

Sequester

To separate. Sometimes juries are separated from outside influences during their deliberations. For example, this may occur during a highly publicized trial.

Sequestration of witnesses

Keeping all witnesses (except plaintiff and defendant) out of the courtroom except for their time on the stand, and cautioning them not to discuss their testimony with other witnesses. Also referred to as “separation of witnesses.”

Service of process

The delivering of writs, summonses, and subpoenas by delivering them to the party named in the document. Also referred to as “service.”

Settlement

An agreement between the parties disposing of a lawsuit.

Settlor

The person who sets up a trust. Also referred to as “grantor.”

Shepardizing

Method for finding subsequent development of a legal theory by tracing status of a case as legal authority.

Sheriff

The executive officer of local court in some areas. In other jurisdictions the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer of a county.

Sherman Act

The basic antitrust statute prohibiting any unreasonable interference, conspiracy, restraint of trade, or monopolies with respect to interstate commerce.

Sidebar

A conference between the judge and lawyers, usually in the courtroom, out of earshot of the jury and spectators.

Slander

Spoken defamation which tends to injure a person’s reputation. (See libel.)

Small Business (SBA)

A federal agency which provides assistance of all kinds, Administration including loans, to small businesses.

Small Claims Court

A state court that handles civil claims for small amounts of money. People often represent themselves rather than hire an attorney.

Sovereign Immunity

The doctrine that the government, state or federal, is immune to lawsuit unless it give its consent.

Specific performance

A remedy requiring a person who has breached a contract to perform specifically what he or she has agreed to do. Specific performance is ordered when damages would be inadequate compensation.

Speedy Trial Act

Federal law establishing time limits for carrying out major events, i.e. indictment, arraignment, etc., in a criminal prosecution.

Spendthrift trust

A trust set up for the benefit of someone who the grantor believes would be incapable of managing his or her own financial affairs.

Standard of proof

Indicates the degree to which the point must be proven. In a civil case, the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff, who must establish his or her case by such standards of proof as a “preponderance of evidence” or “clear and convincing evidence.” (See burden of proof.)

Standing

The legal right to bring a lawsuit. Only a person with something at stake has standing to bring a lawsuit.

Status offenders

Youths charged with the status of being beyond the control of their legal guardian or are habitually disobedient, truant from school, or having committed other acts that would not be a crime if committed by an adult, i.e., smoking. Also referred to as minors or children in need of supervision.

Statute

Legislative enactment; it may be a single act of a legislature or a body of acts which are collected and arranged for a session of a legislature. (See statutory law.)

Statute of frauds

A statutory requirement that certain contracts must be in writing.

Statute of limitations

A statute which limits the right of a plaintiff to file an action unless it is done within a specified time period after the occurrence which gives rise to the right to sue.

Statutory

Relating to a statute; created or defined by a law.

Statutory construction

Process by which a court seeks to interpret the meaning and scope of legislation.

Statutory law

Laws promulgated by Congress and state legislatures. (See case law and common law.)

Statutory research

Research of legislation enacted by a state or the United States.

Stay

A court order halting a judicial proceeding.

Stipulation

An agreement between the parties involved in a suit regulating matters incidental to trial.

Strict liability

Concept applied by the courts in product liability cases that when a manufacturer presents his goods for public sale, he is representing that they are suitable for their intended use.

Strike

Highlighting in the record of a case, evidence that has been improperly offered and will not be relied upon.

Subject research

Research of matter by determining all law related to that matter by finding everything on the subject.

Subpoena

A command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony upon a certain matter.

Subpoena Duces Tecum

A court order commanding a witness to bring certain documents or records to court.

Substantive criminal law

Law with the purpose of prevention of harm to society which prescribed punishment for specific offenses. The basic law of rights and duties as opposed to “remedial law” which provides methods of enforcement.

Substantive law

The statutory or written law that governs rights and obligations of those who are subject to it.

Summary judgment

A judgment given on the basis of pleadings, affidavits, and exhibits presented for the record without any need for a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case and one party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

Summons

Instrument used to commence a civil action or special proceeding; the means of acquiring jurisdiction over a party.

Support trust

A trust that instructs the trustee to spend only as much income and principal (the assets held in the trust) as needed for the beneficiary’s support.

Suppress

To forbid the use of evidence at a trial because it is improper or was improperly obtained. (See also exclusionary rule.)

Surety Bond

A bond purchased at the expense of the estate to insure the executor’s proper performance. Also referred to as “fidelity bond.”

Survivorship

(See joint tenancy.)

Suspension

A temporary loss of the right to practice law by an attorney. (See disbarment or censure.)

Sustain

A court ruling upholding an objection or a motion.