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Legal glossary

A
  • Acceptance The taking and receiving of anything in good faith with the intention of retaining it. Accomplice
    1. A partner in a crime.
    2. A person who knowingly and voluntarily participates with another in a criminal activity.
    Acknowledgment A formal declaration before an authorized official by the person who executed an instrument that it is his free act and deed; the certificate of the official on such instrument attesting that it was so acknowledged. Acquittal A release, absolution, or discharge of an obligation or liability. In criminal law the finding of not guilty. Action Case Cause, suit, or controversy disputed or contested before a court of justice. Additur An increase by a judge in the amount of damages awarded by a jury. Adjective law Also, procedural law. That body of law which governs the process of protecting the rights under substantive law. Adjudication Giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree. Also the judgment given. Administrator
    1. One who administers the estate of a person who dies without a will.
    2. A court official.
    Admissible evidence Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial. Admonish To advise or caution. For example the court may caution or admonish counsel for wrong practices. Adversary proceeding One having opposing parties such as a plaintiff and a defendant. Individual lawsuit(s) brought within a bankruptcy proceeding. Affiant The person who makes and subscribes an affidavit. Affidavit A voluntary, written, or printed declaration of facts, confirmed by oath of the party making it before a person with authority to administer the oath. Affirmation A solemn and formal declaration that an affidavit is true. This is substituted for an oath in certain cases. Affirmative defense A defense raised in a responsive pleading (answer) relating a new matter as a defense to the complaint; affirmative defenses might include contributory negligence or estopped in civil actions; in criminal cases insanity, duress, or self-defense might be used. Affirmed In the practice of appellate courts, the word means that the decision of the trial court is correct. Agreement Mutual consent. Aid and Abet To actively, knowingly, or intentionally assist another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime. Alien A foreign-born person who has not qualified as a citizen of the country. Allegation -A statement of the issues in a written document (a pleading) which a person is prepared to prove in court. Alteration Changing or making different. Alternative dispute resolution Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement, among others. American Bar Association A national association of lawyers whose primary purpose is improvement of lawyers and the administration of justice. Answer A formal, written statement by the defendant in a lawsuit which answers each allegation contained in the complaint. Answers to Interrogatories A formal written statement by a party to a lawsuit which answers each question or interrogatory propounded by the other party. These answers must be acknowledged before a notary public or other person authorized to take acknowledgments. Appeal A proceeding brought to a higher court to review a lower court decision. Appeal Bond A guaranty by the appealing party insuring that court costs will be paid. Appearance The act of coming into court as a party to a suit either in person or through an attorney. Appellate court A court having jurisdiction to hear appeals and review a trial court's procedure. Appellee (See respondent) The party against whom an appeal is taken. Arbitration The hearing of a dispute by an impartial third person or persons (chosen by the parties), whose award the parties agree to accept. Arbitrator A private, disinterested person chosen by the parties in arbitration to hear evidence concerning the dispute and to make an award based on the evidence. Arraignment The hearing at which the accused is brought before the court to plead to the criminal charge in the indictment. He may plead "guilty," "not guilty," or where permitted "nolo contendere." (See preliminary hearing.) Arrest To take into custody by legal authority. Assault Threat to inflict injury with an apparent ability to do so. Also, any intentional display of force that would give the victim reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm. Assignment The transfer to another person of any property, real or personal. Assumption of risk A doctrine under which a person may not recover for an injury received when he has voluntarily exposed himself to a known danger. At issue The time in a lawsuit when the complaining party has stated their claim and the other side has responded with a denial and the matter is ready to be tried. Attachment Taking a person's property to satisfy a court-ordered debt. Attorney-at-law An advocate, counsel, or official agent employed in preparing, managing, and trying cases in the courts. Attorney-in-fact A private person (who is not necessarily a lawyer) authorized by another to act in his or her place, either for some particular purpose, as to do a specific act, or for the transaction of business in general, not of legal character. This authority is conferred by an instrument in writing, called a "letter of attorney," or more commonly "power of attorney." Attorney of record The principal attorney in a lawsuit, who signs all formal documents relating to the suit.
B
  • Bail Money or other security (such as a bail bond) provided to the court to temporarily allow a person’s release from jail and assure their appearance in court. “Bail” and “Bond” are often used interchangeably. (Applies mainly to state courts.) Bail bond An obligation signed by the accused to secure his or her presence at the trial. This obligation means that the accused may lose money by not properly appearing for the trial. Often referred to simply as “bond.” Bailiff An officer of the court responsible for keeping order and maintaining appropriate courtroom decorum and has custody of the jury. Bankruptcy Refers to statutes and judicial proceedings involving persons or businesses that cannot pay their debts and seek the assistance of the court in getting a fresh start. Under the protection of the bankruptcy court, debtors may be released from or “discharged” from their debts, perhaps by paying a portion of each debt. Bankruptcy judges preside over these proceedings. The person with the debts is called the debtor and the people or companies to whom the debtor owes money are called creditors. Bankruptcy Judge The judge who determines whether a debtor is entitled to a discharge in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy law The area of federal law dealing with the handling of bankrupt persons or businesses. Bar
    1. Historically, the partition separating the general public from the space occupied by the judges, lawyers, and other participants in a trial.
    2. More commonly, the term means the who body of lawyers.
    Bar examination A state examination taken by prospective lawyers in order to be admitted and licensed to practice law. Battery A beating, or wrongful physical violence. The actual threat to use force is an “assault;” the use of it is a battery, which usually includes an assault. Bench The seat occupied by the judge. More broadly, the court itself. Bench trial (Also known as court trial.) Trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts. Bench warrant An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person. Beneficiary Someone named to receive property or benefits in a will. In a trust, a person who is to receive benefits from the trust. Bequeath To give a gift to someone through a will. Bequests Gifts made in a will. Best evidence Primary evidence; the best evidence available. Evidence short of this is “secondary.” That is, an original letter is “best evidence,” and a photocopy is “secondary evidence.” Beyond a reasonable doubt The standard in a criminal case requiring that the jury be satisfied to a moral certainty that every element of a crime has been proven by the prosecution. This standard of proof does not require that the state establish absolute certainty by eliminating all doubt, but it does require that the evidence be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of the ordinary person. Bill of particulars A statement of the details of the charge made against the defendant. Bind over To hold a person for trial on bond (bail) or in jail. If the judicial official conducting a hearing finds probable cause to believe the accused committed a crime, the official will bind over the accused, normally by setting bail for the accused’s appearance at trial. (This is a state court procedure.) Bond (See bail bond.) A written agreement by which a person insures he will pay a certain sum of money if he does not perform certain duties property. Bound supplement A supplement to a book or books to update the service bound in permanent form. Booking The process of photographing, fingerprinting, and recording identifying data of a suspect. This process follows the arrest. Breach The breaking or violating of a law, right, or duty, either by commission or omission. The failure of one part to carry out any condition of a contract. Breach of contract An unjustified failure to perform when performance is due. Brief A written argument by counsel arguing a case, which contains a summary of the facts of the case, pertinent laws, and an argument of how the law applies to the fact situation. Also called a memorandum of law. Burden of proof In the law of evidence, the necessity or duty of affirmatively proving a fact or facts in dispute on an issue raised between the parties in a lawsuit. The responsibility of proving a point (the burden of proof). It deals with which side must establish a point or points. (See standard of proof.) Burglary The act of illegal entry with the intent to steal. Business bankruptcy A proceeding under the Bankruptcy Code filed by a business entity. Bylaws Rules or laws adopted by an association or corporation to govern its actions.
C
  • Capital crime A crime punishable by death. Canons of ethics Standards of ethical conduct for attorneys. Capacity Having legal authority or mental ability. Being of sound mind. Caption Heading or introductory party of a pleading. Case law Law established by previous decisions of appellate courts, particularly the United States Supreme Court. (See stare decisis in Foreign Words Glossary.) Cases General term for an action, cause, suit, or controversy, at law or in equity; questions contested before a court of justice. Cause A lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice. Cause of action The fact or facts which give a person a right to relief in court. Caveat A warning; a note of caution. Censure An official reprimand or condemnation of an attorney. (See disbarment or suspension.) Certificate of Title Document issued by Registrar of Titles for real estate registered under the Torrens System, which is considered conclusive evidence of the present ownership and state of the title to the property described therein. Certification
    1. Written attestation.
    2. Authorized declaration verifying that an instrument is a true and correct copy of the original.
    Certiorari A writ of review issued by a higher court to a lower court. A means of getting an appellate court to review a lower court's decision. If an appellate court grants a writ of certiorari, it agrees to take the appeal. (Sometimes referred to as "granting cert.") Challenge An objection, such as when an attorney objects at a hearing to the seating of a particular person on a civil or criminal jury. Challenge for cause A request from a party to a judge that a certain prospective juror not be allowed to be a member of a jury because of specified causes or reasons. (Also, see peremptory challenge.) Chambers A judge's private office. A hearing in chambers takes place in the judge's office outside of the presence of the jury and the public. Change of venue Moving a lawsuit or criminal trial to another place for trial. (See venue.) Charge to the jury The judge's instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of the case on trial. Chief judge Presiding or administrative judge in a court. Chronological Arranged in the order in which events happened; according to date. Circumstantial evidence All evidence except eyewitness testimony. One example is physical evidence, such as fingerprints, from which an inference can be drawn. Citation A writ or order issued by a court commanding the person named therein to appear at the time and place named; also the written reference to legal authorities, precedents, reported cases, etc., in briefs or other legal documents. Civil Relating to private rights and remedies sought by civil actions as contrasted with criminal proceedings. Civil action An action brought to enforce or protect private rights. Civil law Law based on a series of written codes or laws. Civil procedure The rules and process by which a civil case is tried and appealed, including the preparations for trial, the rules of evidence and trial conduct, and the procedure for pursuing appeals. Claim A debt owing by a debtor to another person or business. In probate parlance, the term used for debts of the decedent and a procedure that must be followed by a creditor to obtain payment from his estate. Class action A lawsuit brought by one or more persons on behalf of a larger group. Clear and convincing evidence Standard of proof commonly used in civil lawsuits and in regulatory agency cases. It governs the amount of proof that must be offered in order for the plaintiff to win the case. Clemency or executive clemency Act of grace or mercy by the president or governor to ease the consequences of a criminal act, accusation, or conviction. (Sometimes known as commutation or pardon.) Clerk of Court Administrator or chief clerical officer of the court. Closing argument The closing statement, by counsel, to the trier of facts after all parties have concluded their presentation of evidence. Codicil An amendment to a will. Commit To send a person to prison, asylum, or reformatory by a court order. Common law Also case law. Law established by subject matter heard in earlier cases. Commutation The reduction of a sentence, as from death to life imprisonment. Comparative negligence The rule under which negligence is measured by percentage, and damages are diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person seeking recovery. Complainant The party who complains or sues; one who applies to the court for legal redress. (See also plaintiff.) Complaint
    1. The legal document that usually begins a civil lawsuit. It states the facts and identifies the action the court is asked to take.
    2. Formal written charge that a person has committed a criminal offense.
    Conciliation A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps lower tensions, improve communications, and explore possible solutions. Conciliation is similar to mediation, but is may be less formal. Concurrent sentences Sentences for more than one crime that are to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other. (See also cumulative or consecutive sentences.) Condemnation The legal process by which the government takes private land for public use, paying the owners a fair price. (See eminent domain.) Conformed copy An exact copy of a document on which has been written things that could not or were not copied, i.e., a written signature is replaced on the conformed copy with a notation that it was signed by the parties. Consecutive sentences Successive sentences, one beginning at the expiration of another, imposed against a person convicted of two or more violations. (See also cumulative or concurrent sentences.) Consent Agreement; voluntary acceptance of the wish of another. Conservatorship Legal right given to a person to manage the property and financial affairs of a person deemed incapable of doing that for himself or herself. (See also guardianship.) Consideration The price bargained for and paid for a promise, goods, or real estate. Constitution The fundamental law of a nation or state which establishes the character and basic principles of the government. Constitutional law Law set forth in the Constitution of the United States and the state constitutions. Consumer bankruptcy A proceeding under the Bankruptcy Code filed by an individual (or husband and wife) who is not in business. Contempt of court Willful disobedience of a judge's command or of an official court order. Continuance Postponement of a legal proceeding to a later date. Contract An agreement between two or more persons which creates an obligation to do or not to do a particular thing. A legally enforceable agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing. Contributory negligence The rule of law under which an act or omission of plaintiff is a contributing cause of injury and a bar to recovery. Conveyance Instrument transferring title of land for one person or group of persons to another. Conviction A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant. Corroborating evidence Supplementary evidence that tends to strengthen or confirm the initial evidence. Counsel A legal adviser; a term used to refer to lawyers in a case. Counterclaim A claim made by the defendant in a civil lawsuit against the plaintiff. In essence, a counter lawsuit within a lawsuit. Court A body in government to which the administration of justice is delegated. Court appointed attorney Attorney appointed by the court to represent a defendant, usually with respect to criminal charges and without the defendant having to pay for the representation. Court costs The expenses of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, other than the attorney fees. An amount of money may be awarded to the successful party (and may be recoverable from the losing party) as reimbursement for court costs. Court of original jurisdiction A court where a matter is initiated and heard in the first instance; a trial court. Court reporter A person who transcribes by shorthand or stenographically takes down testimony during court proceedings, a deposition, or other trial-related proceeding. Court rules Regulations governing practice and procedure in the various courts. Creditor A person to whom a debt is owed by another. Crime An act in violation of the penal laws of a state or the United States. A positive or negative act in violation of penal law. Criminal justice system The network of courts and tribunals which deal with criminal law and its enforcement. Cross-claim A pleading which asserts a claim arising out of the same subject action as the original complaint against a co-party, i.e., one co-defendant cross claims against another co-defendant for contribution for any damages assessed against him. Cross-examination The questioning of a witness produced by the other side. Cumulative sentences Sentences for two or more crimes to run consecutively, rather than concurrently. Custody Detaining of a person by lawful process or authority to assure his or her appearance to any hearing; the jailing or imprisonment of a person convicted of a crime.
D
  • Damages Money awarded by a court to a person injured by the unlawful actor negligence of another person. Debtor One who owes a debt to another; a person filing for relief under the Bankruptcy Code. Decision The opinion of the court in concluding a case at law. Declaratory judgment A statutory remedy for judicial determination of a controversy where plaintiff is in doubt about his legal rights. Decree An order of the court. A final decree is one that fully and finally disposes of the litigation. (See interlocutory.) Defamation That which tends to injure a person's reputation. (See libel and slander.) Default Failure of the defendant to appear and answer the summons and complaint. Default judgment A judgment entered against a party who fails to appear in court or respond to the charges. Defendant The person defending or denying a suit. Defense of property Affirmative defense in criminal law or tort law where force was used to protect one's property. Deficient Incomplete; defective; not sufficient in quantity or force. Demurrer A pleading filed by the defendant that the complaint as filed is not sufficient to require an answer. Dependent One who derives existence and support from another. Deposition Testimony of a witness or a party taken under oath outside the courtroom, the transcript of which becomes a part of the court's file. Direct evidence Proof of facts by witnesses who saw acts done or heard words spoken. Direct examination The first questioning of witnesses by the party on whose behalf they are called. Directed verdict In a case in which the plaintiff has failed to present on the facts of his case proper evidence for jury consideration, the trial judge may order the entry of a verdict without allowing the jury to consider it. Disclaim To refuse a gift made in a will. Discovery The name given pretrial devices for obtaining facts and information about the case. Dismissal The termination of a lawsuit. (See with prejudice and without prejudice.) Dissent To disagree An appellate court opinion setting forth the minority view and outlining the disagreement of one or more judges with the decision of the majority. Dissolution The termination; process of dissolving or winding up something. Diversion The process of removing some minor criminal, traffic, or juvenile cases from the full judicial process, on the condition that the accused undergo some sort of rehabilitation or make restitution for damages. Docket An abstract or listing of all pleadings filed in a case; the book containing such entries; trial docket is a list of or calendar of cases to be tried in a certain term. Docket control A system for keeping track of deadlines and court dates for both litigation and non-litigation matters. Domicile The place where a person has his permanent home to which he intends to return. Double jeopardy Putting a person on trial more than once for the same crime. It is forbidden by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Due process of law The right of all persons to receive the guarantees and safeguards of the law and the judicial process. It includes such constitutional requirements as adequate notice, assistance of counsel, and the rights to remain silent, to a speedy and public trial, to an impartial jury, and to confront and secure witnesses.
E
  • Elements of a crime Specific factors that define a crime which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction: (1) that a crime has actually occurred, (2) that the accused intended the crime to happen, and (3) a timely relationship between the first two factors. Eminent Domain The power of the government to take private property for public use through condemnation. Enjoining An order by the court telling a person to stop performing a specific act. Entity A person or legally recognized organization. Entrapment The act of inducing a person to commit a crime so that a criminal charge will be brought against him. Entry A statement of conclusion reached by the court and placed in the court record. Environment The conditions, influences, or forces which affect the desirability and value of property, as well as the effect on people's lives. Equal Protection of the Law The guarantee in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that all persons be treated equally by the law. Equity Justice administered according to fairness; the spirit or habit of fairness in dealing with other persons. Escheat The process by which a deceased person's property goes to the state if no heir can be found. Escrow Money or a written instrument such as a deed that, by agreement between two parties, is held by a neutral third party (held in escrow) until all conditions of the agreement are met. Esquire In the United States the title commonly appended after the name of an attorney. In English law a title of dignity next above gentleman and below knight. Title also given to barristers at law and others. Abbreviated: Esq. Estate A person's property. Estate tax Generally, a tax on the privilege of transferring property to others after a person's death. In addition to federal estate taxes, many states have their own estate taxes. Estoppel An impediment that prevents a person from asserting or doing something contrary to his own previous assertion or act. Ethics Of or relating to moral action and conduct; professionally right; conforming to professional standards. Evidence Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other. Exceptions Declarations by either side in a civil or criminal case reserving the right to appeal a judge's ruling upon a motion. Also, in regulatory cases, objections by either side to points made by the other side or to rulings by the agency or one of its hearing officers. Exclusionary Rule The rule preventing illegally obtained evidence to be used in any trial. Execute To complete; to sign; to carry out according to its terms. Executor A personal representative, named in a will, who administers an estate. Exempt property All the property of a debtor which is not attachable under the Bankruptcy Code or the state statute. Exhibit A document or other item introduced as evidence during a trial or hearing. Exonerate Removal of a charge, responsibility, or duty. Ex parte On behalf of only one party, without notice to any other party. For example, a request for a search warrant is an ex parte proceeding, since the person subject to the search is not notified of the proceeding and is not present at the hearing. Ex parte proceeding Action Circumstances which render a crime less aggravated, heinous, or reprehensible than it would otherwise be. Expungement The process by which the record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed. Extradition The surrender of an accused criminal by one state to the jurisdiction of another.
F
  • Family law Those areas of the law pertaining to families, i.e., marriage, divorce, child custody, juvenile, paternity, etc. Federal Bureau of (FBI) A federal agency which investigates all violations of federal Investigation laws. Felony A serious criminal offense. Under federal law any offense punishable by death or imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. Fiduciary A person or institution who manages money or property for another and who must exercise a standard care imposed by law, i.e., personal representative or executor of an estate, a trustee, etc. File To place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of court/court administrator to enter into the files or records of a case. Filing Fee The fee required for filing various documents. Finding Formal conclusion by a judge or regulatory agency on issues of fact. Also, a conclusion by a jury regarding a fact. Foreclosure A court proceeding upon default in a mortgage to vest title in the mortgagee. Forfeiture A cancellation. A legal action whereby a contract purchaser following default loses all his interest in the property. Fraud A false representation of a matter of fact which is intended to deceive another.
G
  • Garnishment A legal proceeding in which a debtor's money, in the possession of another (called the garnishee) is applied to the debts of the debtor, such as when an employer garnishes a debtor's wages. General jurisdiction Refers to courts that have no limit on the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. Good time A reduction in sentenced time in prison as a reward for good behavior. It usually is one third to one half of the maximum sentence. Grand Jury A jury of inquiry whose duty it is to receive complaints and accusations in criminal matters and if appropriate issue a formal indictment. Grantor The person who sets up a trust. Also referred to as "settlor." Grievance In labor law a complaint filed by an employee regarding working conditions to be resolved by procedural machinery provided in the union contract. An injury, injustice, or wrong which gives ground for complaint. Guardian A person appointed by will or by law to assume responsibility for incompetent adults or minor children. If a parent dies, this will usually be the other parent. If both die, it probably will be a close relative. Guardianship Legal right given to a person to be responsible for the food, housing, health care, and other necessities of a person deemed incapable of providing these necessities for himself or herself.
H
  • Habeas corpus The name of a writ having for its object to bring a person before a court. Headnote A brief summary of a legal rule or significant facts in a case, which along with other headnotes, precedes the printed opinion in reports. Hearing A formal proceeding (generally less formal than a trial) with definite issues of law or of fact to be heard. Hearings are used extensively by legislative and administrative agencies. Hearsay Statements by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. Hearsay is usually not admissible as evidence in court. Hostile witness A witness whose testimony is not favorable to the party who calls him or her as a witness. A hostile witness may be asked leading questions and may be cross-examined by the party who calls him or her to the stand. Hung jury A jury whose members cannot agree upon a verdict.
I
  • Immigrants Persons who come into a foreign country or region to live. Immigration The entry of foreign persons into a country to live permanently. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) A federal agency which regulates immigration and naturalization of aliens. Immunity Grant by the court, which assures someone will not face prosecution in return for providing criminal evidence. Impeachment A criminal proceeding against a public official. Impeachment of a witness An attack on the credibility (believability) of a witness, through evidence introduced for that purpose. Implied Consent Is an agreement made between the recipient of a Florida State Drivers License and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that states that if the licensee is arrested for Driving under the Influence the licensee is required by law to have their license suspended for 6 months or 1 year if they refuse to submit to a breath test. Implied contract A contract not created or evidenced by the explicit agreement of the parties but one inferred by law; as the use of electric power in your home implies a contract with the light company. Inadmissible That which, under the rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or received as evidence. Incapacity Lack of legal ability to act; disability, incompetence; lack of adequate power. Incarceration Imprisonment in a jail or penitentiary. Incompetent One who lacks ability, legal qualification, or fitness to manage his own affairs. Independent executor A special kind of executor, permitted by the laws of certain states, who performs the duties of an executor without intervention by the court. Indeterminate sentence A sentence of imprisonment to a specified minimum and maximum period of time, specifically authorized by statute, subject to termination by a parole board or other authorized agency after the prisoner has served the minimum term. Indictment A written accusation by a grand jury charging a person with a crime. (See information.) Indigent Needy or impoverished. A defendant who can demonstrate his or her indigence to the court may be assigned a court-appointed attorney at public expense. Initial appearance The defendant comes before a judge within hours of the arrest to determine whether or not there is probable cause for his or her arrest. Information Accusatory document, filed by the prosecutor, detailing the charges against the defendant. An alternative to an indictment, it serves to bring a defendant to trial. Infraction A violation of law not punishable by imprisonment. Minor traffic offenses generally are considered infractions. Injunction A prohibitive order or remedy issued by the court at the suit of the complaining party, which forbids the defendant to do some act which he is threatening or attempting to do. Conversely, it may require him to perform an act which he is obligated to perform but refuses to do. Insolvent When the total debt of an entity is greater than all of its property. Instructions Judge's explanation to the jury before it begins deliberations of the question it must answer and the applicable law governing the case. (Also referred to as charge.) Intangible assets Nonphysical items such as stock certificates, bonds, bank accounts, and pension benefits that have value and must be taken into account in estate planning. Intentional tort Wrong perpetrated by one who intends to break the law. Interlocutory Temporary; provisional; interim; not final. Interrogatories A set or series of written questions propounded to a party, witness, or other person having information or interest in a case; a discovery device. Intervention An action by which a third person who may be affected by a lawsuit is permitted to become a party to the suit. Involuntary bankruptcy A proceeding initiated by creditors requesting the bankruptcy court to place a debtor in liquidation. Issue
    1. The disputed pint in a disagreement between parties in a lawsuit.
    2. To send out officially, as in to issue an order.
J
  • Joint and several liability A legal doctrine that makes each of the parties who are responsible for an injury, liable for all the damages awarded in a lawsuit if the other parties responsible cannot pay. Joint tenancy A form of legal co-ownership of property (also known as survivorship). At the death of one co-owner, the surviving co-owner becomes sole owner of the property. Tenancy by the entirety is a special form of joint tenancy between a husband and wife. Judge A presiding officer of the court. Judgment The official and authentic decision of a court of justice upon the rights and claims of parties to an action or suit submitted to the court for determination. (See also summary judgment.) Judgment debtor One who owes money as a result of a judgment in favor of a creditor. Judicial lien A lien obtained by judgment or other judicial process against a debtor. Judicial review The authority of a court to review the official actions of other branches of government. Also, the authority to declare unconstitutional the actions of other branches. Judiciary The branch of government invested with judicial power to interpret and apply the law; the court system; the body of judges; then bench. Jurat Certificate of person and officer before whom a writing is sworn to. Jurisdiction The power or authority of a court to hear and try a case; the geographic area in which a court has power or the types of cases it has power to hear. Jurisprudence The study of law and the structure of the legal system. Jury A certain number of men and women selected according to law and sworn to try a question of fact or indict a person for public offense. Jury Administrator The court officer responsible for choosing the panel of persons to serve as potential jurors for a particular court term. Justiciable Issues and claims capable of being properly examined in court.
L
  • Lapsed gift A gift made in a will to a person who has died prior to the will-makers death. Larceny Obtaining property by fraud or deceit. Law The combination of those rules and principles of conduct promulgated by legislative authority, derived from court decisions and established by local custom. Law Blank A printed legal form available for preparing documents. Law Clerk In the United States, usually a law school student employed by a law firm to do research and other tasks. In the courts, a lawyer (or law school student) employed to do legal research. Lawsuit An action or proceeding in a civil court; term used for a suit or action between two private parties in a court of law. Leading question A question that suggests the answer desired of the witness. A party generally may not ask one's own witness leading questions. Leading questions may be asked only of hostile witnesses and on cross-examination. Legal aid Professional legal services available usually to persons or organizations unable to afford such services. Legal process A formal paper that is legally valid; something issuing from the court, usually a command such as a writ or mandate. Legal texts Books that cover specific areas of the law, usually dealing with a single topic. Legislation The act of giving or enacting laws; the power to make laws via legislation in contrast to court-made laws. Legitimate That which is legal, lawful, recognized by law or according to law. Leniency Recommendation for a sentence less than the maximum allowed. Letters of Administration Legal document issued by a court that shows an administrator's legal right to take control of assets in the deceased person's name. Letters Testamentary Legal document issued by a court that shows an executor's legal right to take control of assets in the deceased person's name. Liable Legally responsible. Libel Published defamation which tends to injure a person's reputation. Licensing boards State agencies created to regulate the issuance of licenses, i.e., to contractors, cosmetologists, realtors, etc. Lien An encumbrance or legal burden upon property. Limine (See "in limine" in Foreign Words Glossary). Limited Jurisdiction Refers to courts that are limited in the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. For example, traffic violations generally are heard by limited jurisdiction courts. Litigant A party to a lawsuit. Litigation A lawsuit; a legal action, including all proceedings therein. Living trust A trust set up and in effect during the lifetime of the grantor. (Also called inter vivos trust.) Loose-leaf services Loose-leaf replacement pages provided by a publisher in areas of the law where changes occur at a rapid rate.
M
  • Magistrate (See U.S. Magistrate Judge.) Judicial officer exercising some of the functions of a judge. It also refers in a general way to a judge. Malfeasance The commission of an unlawful act. Malicious prosecution An action instituted with intention of injuring the defendant and without probable cause, and which terminates in favor of the person prosecuted. Malpractice Any professional misconduct. Manslaughter The unlawful killing of another without intent to kill; either voluntary (upon a sudden impulse); or involuntary (during the commission of an unlawful act not ordinarily expected to result in great bodily harm). (See also murder.) Marshal The executive officer of the federal court. Martindale-Hubbell Law A publication of several volumes which contains names, addresses, Director specialties, and rating of United States lawyers; also includes digests of state and foreign statutory law. Mediation A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps them agree on a settlement. Memorandum An informal note or instrument embodying something the parties desire to have in written evidence. Memorialized In writing. Merger The absorption of one thing or right into another. Minor A person under the age of legal competence. Minute book A book maintained by the courtroom deputy (bailiff), which contains minute entries of all hearings and trial conducted by the judge. Minutes Memorandum of a transaction or proceeding. Miranda warning Requirement that police tell a suspect in their custody of his or her constitutional rights before they question him or her. So named as a result of the Miranda v. Arizona ruling by the United States Supreme Court. Misdemeanor A criminal offense lesser than a felony and generally punishable by fine or by imprisonment other than in a penitentiary. Misfeasance Improper performance of an act which a person might lawfully do. Mistrial An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again from the selection of the jury. Mitigating circumstances Those which do not constitute a justification or excuse for an offense but which may be considered as reasons for reducing the degree of blame. Mittimus The name of an order in writing, issuing from a court and directing the sheriff or other officer to convey a person to a prison, asylum, or reformatory, and directing the jailer or other appropriate official to receive and safely keep the person until his or her fate shall be determined by due course of law. Mitigation A reduction, abatement, or diminution of a penalty or punishment imposed by law. Moot A moot case or a moot point is one not subject to a judicial determination because it involves an abstract question or a pretended controversy that has not yet actually arisen or has already passed. Mootness usually refers to a court's refusal to consider a case because the issue involved has been resolved prior to the court's decision, leaving nothing that would be affected by the court's decision. Motion An application made to a court or judge which requests a ruling or order in favor of the applicant. Motion in Limine A motion made by counsel requesting that information which might be prejudicial not be allowed to be heard in a case. Murder The unlawful killing of a human being with deliberate intent to kill: (1) murder in the first degree is characterized by premeditation; (2) murder in the second degree is characterized by a sudden and instantaneous intent to kill or to cause injury without caring whether the injury kills or not.
N
  • Naturalization Process by which a person acquires nationality after birth and becomes entitled to privileges of citizenship. Negligence Failure to use care which a reasonable and prudent person would use under similar circumstances. Negotiation The process of submission and consideration of offers until an acceptable offer is made and accepted. Next friend One acting without formal appointment as guardian for the benefit of an infant, a person of unsound mind not judicially declared incompetent, or other person under some disability. No-contest Clause Language in a will that provides that a person who makes a legal challenge to the will's validity will be disinherited. No-fault Proceedings A civil case in which parties may resolve their dispute without a formal finding of error or fault. Noise Control Act An act which gives government agencies the right to promulgate standards and regulations relating to abatement of noise emissions, i.e., requirement that autos and like vehicles must have mufflers. Nonfeasance Nonperformance of an act which should be performed; omission to perform a required duty or total neglect of duty. Nonjury trial Trial before the court but without a jury. Notary Public A public officer whose function it is to administer oaths, to attest and certify documents, and to take acknowledgments. Notice Formal notification to the party that has been sued in a civil case of the fact that the lawsuit has been filed. Also, any form of notification of a legal proceeding. Notice to creditors A notice given by the bankruptcy court to all creditors of a meeting of creditors. Nuncupative will, An oral (unwritten) will.
O
  • Oath A solemn pledge made under a sense of responsibility in attestation of the truth of a statement or in verification of a statement made. Objection The process by which one party takes exception to some statement or procedure. An objection is either sustained (allowed) or overruled by the judge. Official reports The publication of cumulated court decisions of state or federal courts in advance sheets and bound volumes as provided by statutory authority. On a person's own recognizance Release of a person from custody without the payment of any bail or posting of bond, upon the promise to return to court. Opening statement The initial statement made by attorneys for each side, outlining the facts each intends to establish during the trial. Opinion A judge's written explanation of a decision of the court or of a majority of judges. A dissenting opinion disagrees with the majority opinion because of the reasoning and/or the principles of law on which the decision is based. A concurring opinion agrees with the decision of the court but offers further comment. (A per curiam opinion is an unsigned opinion "of the court.") Oral argument Presentation of a case before a court by spoken argument; usually with respect to a presentation of a case to an appellate court where a time limit might be set for oral argument. Order A mandate, command, or direction authoritatively given. Direction of a court or judge made in writing. Ordinance A rule established by authority; may be a municipal statute of a city council, regulating such matters as zoning, building, safety, matters of municipality, etc. Overrule A judge's decision not to allow an objection. Also, a decision by a higher court finding that a lower court decision was in error.
P
  • Paralegal Also, legal assistant. A person with legal skills who works under the supervision of a lawyer. Pardon An act of grace from governing power which mitigates punishment and restores rights and privileges forfeited on account of the offense. Parole Supervised release of a prisoner from imprisonment on certain prescribed conditions which entitle him to termination of his sentence. Party A person, business, or government agency actively involved in the prosecution of defense of a legal proceeding. Peremptory challenge Request by a party that a judge not allow a certain prospective juror as a member of the jury. No reason or cause need be stated. (See challenge for cause.) Periodical A publication which appears regularly but less often than daily. Perjury The criminal offense of making a false statement under oath. Permanent injunction A court order requiring that some action be taken, or that some party refrain from taking action. It differs from forms of temporary relief, such as a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction. Per se doctrine Under this doctrine an activity such as price fixing can be declared as a violation of the antitrust laws without necessity of a court inquiring into the reasonableness of the activity. Personal property Anything a person owns other than real estate. Personal recognizance In criminal proceedings, the pretrial release of a defendant without bail upon his or her promise to return to court. (See also recognizance.) Personal representative The person who administers an estate. If named in a will, that person's title is an executor. If there is no valid will, that person's title is an administrator. Person in need of supervision Juvenile found to have committed a "status offense" rather than a crime that would provide a basis for a finding of delinquency. (See status offense.) Petitioner The person filing an action in a court of original jurisdiction. Also, the person who appeals the judgment of a lower court. (See respondent.) Plaintiff A person who brings an action; the party who complains or sues in a civil action. (See complainant.) Plea The first pleading by a criminal defendant, the defendant's declaration in open court that he or she is guilty or not guilty. The defendant's answer to the charges made in the indictment or information. Plea bargaining Process where the accused and the prosecutor in a criminal case work out a satisfactory disposition of the case, usually by the accused agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser offense. Such bargains are not binding on the court. Also referred to as plea negotiating. Pleadings The written statements of fact and law filed by the parties to a lawsuit. Polling the jury The act, after a jury verdict has been announced, of asking jurors individually whether they agree with the verdict. Post-trial Refers to items happening after the trial, i.e., post-trial motions or post-trial discovery. Pour-Over will A will that leaves some or all estate assets to a trust established before the will-maker's death. Power Authority to do. One has the power to do something if he is of legal age. Also, used as "powers," the term refers to authority granted by one person to another, i.e., powers given an executor in a will or an agent in a power of attorney. Power of attorney An formal instrument authorizing another to act as one's agent or attorney. Precedent Laws established by previous cases which must be followed in cases involving identical circumstances. (See stare decisis in Foreign Words Glossary.) Pre-injunction Court order requiring action or forbidding action until a decision can be made whether to issue a permanent injunction. It differs from a temporary restraining order. Preliminary hearing Also, preliminary examination. A hearing by a judge to determine whether a person charged with a crime should be held for trial. (See arraignment.) Preponderance of the proof Greater weight of the evidence, the common standard of evidence in civil cases. Pre-sentence report A report to the sentencing judge containing background information about the crime and the defendant to assist the judge in making his or her sentencing decision. Presentment Declaration or document issued by a grand jury that either makes a neutral report or notes misdeeds by officials charged with specified public duties. It ordinarily does not include a formal charge of crime. A presentment differs from an indictment. Pretermitted child A child born after a will is executed, who is not provided for by the will. Most states have laws that provide for a share of estate property to go to such children. Pretrial conference Conference among the opposing attorneys and the judge called at the discretion of the court to narrow the issues to be tried and to make a final effort to settle the case without a trial. Prima facie case A case that is sufficient and has the minimum amount of evidence necessary to allow it to continue in the judicial process. (See prima facie in the Foreign Words Glossary.) Primary authority Constitutions, codes, statutes, ordinances, and case law sources. Private law That law, such as a contract bet The last negligent act which contributes to an injury. A person generally is liable only if an injury was proximately caused by his or her action or by his or her failure to act when he or she had a duty to act. Proxy The instrument authorizing one person to represent, act, and vote for another at a shareholders' meeting of a corporation. Public law That law such as traffic ordinances or zoning ordinances which applies to the public. Public defender Government lawyer who provides free legal defense services to a poor person accused of a crime. Public Service Commission Also, Public Utilities Commission. A state agency which regulates utilities. Punitive damages Money award given to punish the defendant or wrongdoer. Purchase agreement or purchase offer Also, sales agreement and earnest money contract. Agreement between buyer and seller of property which sets forth in general the price and terms of a proposed sale. Putative Alleged; supposed; reputed.
Q
  • Quash To vacate or void a summons, subpoena, etc. Quasi-contract An obligation created by the law in the absence of an agreement or contract; not based upon the intentions or expressions of the parties. Quasi-criminal action A classification of actions such as violation of a city ordinance that is not also violation of a criminal statute, which are wrongs against the public punishable through fines but are not usually indictable offenses. Quiet title action A court proceeding to remove a cloud on the title to real property. Quitclaim deed A deed without warranty of title which passes whatever title the grantor has to another.
R
  • Real property Land, buildings, and whatever is attached or affixed to the land. Generally synonymous with the words "real estate." Reasonable doubt An accused person is entitled to acquittal if, in the minds of the jury, his or her guilt has not been proved beyond a "reasonable doubt;" that state of minds of jurors in which they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction as to the truth of the charge. Reasonable person A phrase used to denote a hypothetical person who exercises qualities of attention, knowledge; intelligence, and judgment that society requires of its members for the protection of their own interest and the interests of others. Thus, the test of negligence is based on either a failure to do something that a reasonable person, guided by considerations that ordinarily regulate conduct, would do, or on the doing of something that a reasonable and prudent (wise) person would not do. Rebut Evidence Disproving other evidence previously given or reestablishing the credibility of challenged evidence. (See rejoinder.) Recognizance An obligation entered into before a court whereby the recognizor acknowledges that he will do a specific act required by law. Record All the documents and evidence plus transcripts of oral proceedings in a case. Recuse The process by which a judge is disqualified from hearing a case, on his or her own motion or upon the objection of either party. Re-direct examination Opportunity to present rebuttal evidence after one's evidence has been subjected to cross-examination. Redress To set right; to remedy; to compensate; to remove the causes of a grievance. Referee A person to whom the court refers a pending case to take testimony, hear the parties, and report back to the court. A referee is an officer with judicial powers who serves as an arm of the court. Rehearing Another hearing of a civil or criminal case by the same court in which the case was originally heard. Registered mark Trademark with the words "Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office" or the letter "R" enclosed within a circle. Rejoinder Opportunity for the side that opened the case to offer limited response to evidence presented during the rebuttal by the opposing side. (See rebut.) Remand To send a dispute back to the court where it was originally heard. Usually it is an appellate court that remands a case for proceedings in the trial court consistent with the appellate court's ruling. Remedy Legal or judicial means by which a right or privilege is enforced or the violation of a right or privilege is prevented, redressed, or compensated. Remittitur The reduction by a judge of the damages awarded by a jury. Removal The transfer of a state case to federal court for trial; in civil cases, because the parties are from different states; in criminal and some civil cases, because there is a significant possibility that there could not be a fair trial in state court. Replacement volumes Volumes which replace books and their pocket parts when the pocket parts cause the books to become too bulky. Replevin> An action for the recovery of a possession that has been wrongfully taken. Reply The response by a party to charges raised in a pleading by the other party. Reporters Books which contain court decisions. Request for admission Also, Request to Admit Written statements of facts concerning a case which are submitted to an adverse party and which that party must admit or deny; a discovery device. Request for production of documents A direction or command served upon another party for production of specified documents for review with respect to a suit; a discovery devise. Request to admit See, Request for Admission. Rescission The unmaking or undoing of a contract; repeal. Research A careful hunting for facts or truth about a subject; inquiry; investigation. Resolution The formal adoption of a motion. Respondent The person against whom an appeal is taken. (See petitioner.) Rest A party is said to "rest" or "rest its case" when it has presented all the evidence it intends to offer. Restatement A publication which tells what the law is in a particular field, as compiled from statutes and decisions. Restitution Act of restoring anything to its rightful owner; the act of restoring someone to an economic position he enjoyed before he suffered a loss. Retainer Act of the client in employing the attorney or counsel, and also denotes the fee which the client pays when he or she retains the attorney to act for them. Return A report to a judge by police on the implementation of an arrest or search warrant. Also, a report to a judge in reply to a subpoena, civil or criminal. Reverse An action of a higher court in setting aside or revoking a lower court decision. Reversible error A procedural error during a trial or hearing sufficiently harmful to justify reversing the judgment of a lower court. Revocable trust A trust that the grantor may change or revoke. Revoke To cancel or nullify a legal document. Right of way The right of a party to pass over the land of another. Robinson-Patman Act An amendment to the Clayton Act which deals with price discrimination. Robbery Felonious taking of another's property, from his or her person or immediate presence and against his or her will, by means of force or fear. (See larceny.) Rules Established standards, guides, or regulations set up by authority. Rules of evidence Standards governing whether evidence in a civil or criminal case is admissible.
S
  • 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.
T
  • Tangible Personal Property Memorandum (TPPM) A legal document that is referred to in a will and used to guide the distribution of tangible personal property. Taxable income The income against which tax rates are applied to compute tax paid; gross income of businesses or adjusted gross income of individuals less deductions and exemptions. Temporary relief Any form of action by a court granting one of the parties an order to protect its interest pending further action by the court. Temporary restraining order An emergency remedy of brief duration issued by a court only in exceptional circumstances, usually when immediate or irreparable damages or loss might result before the opposition could take action. Tender of performance An offer or attempt to do what is required under a contract or under the law. Testamentary capacity The legal ability to make a will. Testamentary trust A trust set up by a will. Testator Person who makes a will (Female: testatrix). Testimony The evidence given by a witness under oath. It does not include evidence from documents and other physical evidence. Third party complaint A petition filed by a defendant against a third party (not presently a party to the suit) which alleges that the third party is liable for all or part of the damages plaintiff may win from defendant. Title Legal ownership of property, usually real property or automobiles. Tort A private or civil wrong or injury for which the court provides a remedy through an action for damages. Trademark A word, name, symbol, or devise used by a manufacturer to distinguish his goods from those sold by others. Transcript A written, word-for-word record of what was said. Usually refers to a record of a trial, hearing, or other proceeding which has been transcribed from a recording or from shorthand. Transmittal form Form required in certain courts for transmitting documents for filing. Treatise A formal and systematic book or writing containing a narrative statement on a field of law. Trial A judicial examination of issues between parties to an action. Trial brief A written document prepared for and used by an attorney at trial. It contains the issues to be tried, synopsis of evidence to be presented and case and statutory authority to substantiate the attorney's position at trial. Trust A legal device used to manage real or personal property, established by one person (grantor or settlor) for the benefit of another (beneficiary). (See trustee.) Trust agreement or declaration The legal document that sets up a living trust. Testamentary trusts are set up in a will. Trustee The person or institution that manages the property put in trust. Truth in lending Statutes which provide that precise and meaningful cost of credit information be provided to the credit customer.
U
  • Uniform Laws Annotated Annotated uniform and model acts approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Unilateral contract An agreement by which one undertakes an express performance without receiving any express promise of performance from the other. Union An organization of workers formed for the purpose of collective bargaining. United States Attorney A federal district attorney appointed by the President to prosecute for all offenses committed against the United States; to prosecute or defend for the government all civil actions in which it is concerned and perform all duties of the district to which he/she is assigned. United States Court of Appeals Courts which hear appeals from federal district courts, bankruptcy courts, and tax courts. United States Court of Claims Court which hears actions against the U.S. Government. United States Court of Military Appeals Court which hears appeals from court marshal decisions. United States Court of Customs & Patent Appeals Court which hears appeals from all U.S. customs courts. United States Court of International Trade Court which hears cases concerning federal tariff laws. United States District Courts Courts which try both criminal and civil actions and admiralty cases. United States Magistrate Judge Courts given authority by 28 U.S.C. s 636. This court hears all preliminary criminal matters, but does not conduct felony trials, and any pretrial civil matters referred by the district court. If all parties consent, criminal misdemeanor and civil trials can be heard by this court. United States Marshal's Service Agency which serves civil and criminal process in federal courts. United States Reports Publication of court decisions of the United States Supreme Court. United States Supreme Court The highest court in the land, established by U.S. Constitution. Unlawful detainer A detention of real estate without the consent of the owner or other person entitled to its possession. Unliquidated debt Remaining not determined; unassessed or unsettled; in dispute as to the proper amount. Unsecured debts In bankruptcy, debts such as open accounts at department stores for which the debtor has not pledged collateral to guarantee payment. Usury Extraction of interest on a loan above the maximum rate permitted by statute.
V
  • Vacate To set aside. Venire A writ summoning persons to court to act as jurors. (See venire facias in Foreign Words Glossary.) Venue Authority of a court to hear a matter based on geographical location. Verdict A conclusion, as to fact or law, that forms the basis for the court's judgment. (See directed verdict.) Visa An official endorsement on a document or passport denoting that the bearer may proceed. Void Invalid; a void agreement is one for which there is no remedy. Voidable Capable of being declared invalid; a voidable contract is one where a person may avoid his obligation, as a contract between an adult and a minor. Voir dire The preliminary examination made in court of a witness or juror to determine his competency or interest in a matter. Literally, to speak the truth. Voluntary bankruptcy A proceeding by which a debtor voluntarily asks for a discharge of his debts under the Bankruptcy Code.
W
  • Waiver Intentionally given up a right. Waiver of immunity A means authorized by statute by which a witness, before testifying or producing evidence, may relinquish the right to refuse to testify against himself or herself, thereby making it possible for his or her testimony to be used against him or her in future proceedings. Warrant Most commonly, a court order authorizing law enforcement officers to make an arrest or conduct a search. An application seeking a warrant must be accompanied by an affidavit which establishes probable cause by detailing the facts upon which the request is based. Warranty A promise that a proposition of fact is true. Warranty deed A deed which guarantees that the title conveyed is good and its transfer rightful. Water rights The right to use water. Will A legal declaration that disposes of a person's property when that person dies. Withholding A tax deducted from a salary, wage, or other income on behalf of the government at the time of payment of wages to the person who pays it. With prejudice A declaration which dismisses all rights. A judgment barring the right to bring or maintain an action on the same claim or cause. Without prejudice A declaration that no rights or privileges of the party concerned are waived or lost. In a dismissal these words maintain the right to bring a subsequent suit on the same claim. Witness One who personally sees or perceives a thing; one who testifies as to what he has seen, heard, or otherwise observed. Worker's compensation A state agency which handles claims of workers injured on their jobs. Writ A judicial order directing a person to do something. Writ of certiorari An order issued by the Supreme Court directing the lower court to transmit records for a case for which it will hear on appeal. (See certiorari in Foreign Words Glossary.) Writ of execution An order of the court evidencing debt of one party to another and commanding the court officer to take property in satisfaction of the debt. Writ of garnishment An order of the court whereby property, money, or credits int he possession of another person may be seized and applied to pay a debtor's debt. It is used as an incident to or auxiliary of a judgment rendered in a principal action.