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.
The commission of an unlawful act.
An action instituted with intention of injuring the defendant and without probable cause, and which terminates in favor of the person prosecuted.
Any professional misconduct.
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.)
The executive officer of the federal court.
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.
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.
An informal note or instrument embodying something the parties desire to have in written evidence.
The absorption of one thing or right into another.
A person under the age of legal competence.
A book maintained by the courtroom deputy (bailiff), which contains minute entries of all hearings and trial conducted by the judge.
Memorandum of a transaction or proceeding.
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.
A criminal offense lesser than a felony and generally punishable by fine or by imprisonment other than in a penitentiary.
Improper performance of an act which a person might lawfully do.
An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again from the selection of the jury.
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.
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.
A reduction, abatement, or diminution of a penalty or punishment imposed by law.
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.
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.
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.
A gift made in a will to a person who has died prior to the will-makers death.
Obtaining property by fraud or deceit.
The combination of those rules and principles of conduct promulgated by legislative authority, derived from court decisions and established by local custom.
A printed legal form available for preparing documents.
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.
An action or proceeding in a civil court; term used for a suit or action between two private parties in a court of law.
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.
Professional legal services available usually to persons or organizations unable to afford such services.
A formal paper that is legally valid; something issuing from the court, usually a command such as a writ or mandate.
Books that cover specific areas of the law, usually dealing with a single topic.
The act of giving or enacting laws; the power to make laws via legislation in contrast to court-made laws.
That which is legal, lawful, recognized by law or according to law.
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.
Legal document issued by a court that shows an executor’s legal right to take control of assets in the deceased person’s name.
Published defamation which tends to injure a person’s reputation.
State agencies created to regulate the issuance of licenses, i.e., to contractors, cosmetologists, realtors, etc.
An encumbrance or legal burden upon property.
(See “in limine” in Foreign Words Glossary).
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.
A party to a lawsuit.
A lawsuit; a legal action, including all proceedings therein.
A trust set up and in effect during the lifetime of the grantor. (Also called inter vivos trust.)
Loose-leaf replacement pages provided by a publisher in areas of the law where changes occur at a rapid rate.
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.
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.
A presiding officer of the court.
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.)
One who owes money as a result of a judgment in favor of a creditor.
A lien obtained by judgment or other judicial process against a debtor.
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.
The branch of government invested with judicial power to interpret and apply the law; the court system; the body of judges; then bench.
Certificate of person and officer before whom a writing is sworn to.
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.
The study of law and the structure of the legal system.
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.
The court officer responsible for choosing the panel of persons to serve as potential jurors for a particular court term.
Issues and claims capable of being properly examined in court.
Persons who come into a foreign country or region to live.
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.
Grant by the court, which assures someone will not face prosecution in return for providing criminal evidence.
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.
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.
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.
That which, under the rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or received as evidence.
Lack of legal ability to act; disability, incompetence; lack of adequate power.
Imprisonment in a jail or penitentiary.
One who lacks ability, legal qualification, or fitness to manage his own affairs.
A special kind of executor, permitted by the laws of certain states, who performs the duties of an executor without intervention by the court.
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.
A written accusation by a grand jury charging a person with a crime. (See information.)
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.
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.
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.
A violation of law not punishable by imprisonment. Minor traffic offenses generally are considered infractions.
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.
When the total debt of an entity is greater than all of its property.
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.)
Nonphysical items such as stock certificates, bonds, bank accounts, and pension benefits that have value and must be taken into account in estate planning.
Wrong perpetrated by one who intends to break the law.
Temporary; provisional; interim; not final.
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.
An action by which a third person who may be affected by a lawsuit is permitted to become a party to the suit.
A proceeding initiated by creditors requesting the bankruptcy court to place a debtor in liquidation.
The name of a writ having for its object to bring a person before a court.
A brief summary of a legal rule or significant facts in a case, which along with other headnotes, precedes the printed opinion in reports.
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.
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.
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.
A jury whose members cannot agree upon a verdict.
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.
Refers to courts that have no limit on the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear.
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.
A jury of inquiry whose duty it is to receive complaints and accusations in criminal matters and if appropriate issue a formal indictment.
The person who sets up a trust. Also referred to as “settlor.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
A serious criminal offense. Under federal law any offense punishable by death or imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
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.
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.
The fee required for filing various documents.
Formal conclusion by a judge or regulatory agency on issues of fact. Also, a conclusion by a jury regarding a fact.
A court proceeding upon default in a mortgage to vest title in the mortgagee.
A cancellation. A legal action whereby a contract purchaser following default loses all his interest in the property.
A false representation of a matter of fact which is intended to deceive another.
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.
The power of the government to take private property for public use through condemnation.
An order by the court telling a person to stop performing a specific act.
A person or legally recognized organization.
The act of inducing a person to commit a crime so that a criminal charge will be brought against him.
A statement of conclusion reached by the court and placed in the court record.
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.
Justice administered according to fairness; the spirit or habit of fairness in dealing with other persons.
The process by which a deceased person’s property goes to the state if no heir can be found.
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.
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.
A person’s property.
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.
An impediment that prevents a person from asserting or doing something contrary to his own previous assertion or act.
Of or relating to moral action and conduct; professionally right; conforming to professional standards.
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.
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.
The rule preventing illegally obtained evidence to be used in any trial.
To complete; to sign; to carry out according to its terms.
A personal representative, named in a will, who administers an estate.
All the property of a debtor which is not attachable under the Bankruptcy Code or the state statute.
A document or other item introduced as evidence during a trial or hearing.
Removal of a charge, responsibility, or duty.
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.
The process by which the record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed.
The surrender of an accused criminal by one state to the jurisdiction of another.
Money awarded by a court to a person injured by the unlawful actor negligence of another person.
One who owes a debt to another; a person filing for relief under the Bankruptcy Code.
The opinion of the court in concluding a case at law.
A statutory remedy for judicial determination of a controversy where plaintiff is in doubt about his legal rights.
An order of the court. A final decree is one that fully and finally disposes of the litigation. (See interlocutory.)
That which tends to injure a person’s reputation. (See libel and slander.)
Failure of the defendant to appear and answer the summons and complaint.
A judgment entered against a party who fails to appear in court or respond to the charges.
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.
Incomplete; defective; not sufficient in quantity or force.
A pleading filed by the defendant that the complaint as filed is not sufficient to require an answer.
One who derives existence and support from another.
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.
Proof of facts by witnesses who saw acts done or heard words spoken.
The first questioning of witnesses by the party on whose behalf they are called.
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.
To refuse a gift made in a will.
The name given pretrial devices for obtaining facts and information about the case.
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.
The termination; process of dissolving or winding up something.
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.
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.
A system for keeping track of deadlines and court dates for both litigation and non-litigation matters.
The place where a person has his permanent home to which he intends to return.
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.
A crime punishable by death.
Canons of ethics
Standards of ethical conduct for attorneys.
Having legal authority or mental ability. Being of sound mind.
Heading or introductory party of a pleading.
Law established by previous decisions of appellate courts, particularly the United States Supreme Court. (See stare decisis in Foreign Words Glossary.)
General term for an action, cause, suit, or controversy, at law or in equity; questions contested before a court of justice.
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.
A warning; a note of caution.
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.
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.”)
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.)
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.
Presiding or administrative judge in a court.
Arranged in the order in which events happened; according to date.
All evidence except eyewitness testimony. One example is physical evidence, such as fingerprints, from which an inference can be drawn.
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.
Relating to private rights and remedies sought by civil actions as contrasted with criminal proceedings.
An action brought to enforce or protect private rights.
Law based on a series of written codes or laws.
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.
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.
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.
The closing statement, by counsel, to the trier of facts after all parties have concluded their presentation of evidence.
An amendment to a will.
To send a person to prison, asylum, or reformatory by a court order.
Also case law. Law established by subject matter heard in earlier cases.
The reduction of a sentence, as from death to life imprisonment.
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.
The party who complains or sues; one who applies to the court for legal redress. (See also plaintiff.)
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.
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.)
The legal process by which the government takes private land for public use, paying the owners a fair price. (See eminent domain.)
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.
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.)
Agreement; voluntary acceptance of the wish of another.
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.)
The price bargained for and paid for a promise, goods, or real estate.
The fundamental law of a nation or state which establishes the character and basic principles of the government.
Law set forth in the Constitution of the United States and the state constitutions.
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.
Postponement of a legal proceeding to a later date.
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.
The rule of law under which an act or omission of plaintiff is a contributing cause of injury and a bar to recovery.
Instrument transferring title of land for one person or group of persons to another.
A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.
Supplementary evidence that tends to strengthen or confirm the initial evidence.
A legal adviser; a term used to refer to lawyers in a case.
A claim made by the defendant in a civil lawsuit against the plaintiff. In essence, a counter lawsuit within a lawsuit.
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.
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.
A person who transcribes by shorthand or stenographically takes down testimony during court proceedings, a deposition, or other trial-related proceeding.
Regulations governing practice and procedure in the various courts.
A person to whom a debt is owed by another.
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.
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.
The questioning of a witness produced by the other side.
Sentences for two or more crimes to run consecutively, rather than concurrently.
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.