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Glossary of Legal Terms
Glossary of Legal Terms
To put an end to; to cancel out
Abatement of Action
A suit which has been set aside and ended.
To put off a court hearing until another time or place.
Comes from Latin meaning for the "purposes of the lawsuit." For example, a guardian ad litem is a person appointed by the court to protect the interests of a minor or legally incompetent person in a lawsuit.
Pertinent and proper to be considered in reaching a decision
A trial without a jury. A judge decides the case.
Burden of Proof
When one person in the case has to prove more than the other person.
A lawsuit. Or a complaint filed in criminal, traffic, or civil court.
This type of case involves private rights and remedies of citizens.
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.
The statement of a right to money or property.
Officer of the court who files pleadings, motions, judgments, etc., issues process, and keeps records of court proceedings.
Clerk of Court
County office that receives all original paperwork
1. Property that is pledged as security against a debt. 2. A person belonging to the same ancestry (a relation), but not in a direct line of descent.
Person who wants to start a court case against another person. In a civil case, the complainant is the Plaintiff.
Contempt of Court
Act of disrespect to the court; willful disregard of the court's authority.
Contempt (Of Court)
Disobeying a court order. Punishment can be a fine or jail.
Postponing a trial or hearing to a later date.
One or more lawyers who represent a client. Also, legal advice.
Each separate allegation (or statement) in a case.
Court that hears misdemeanor, traffic cases, municipal ordinance violations, etc.
A judge or group of judges whose job is to hear cases and carry out justice.
Courtroom personnel who attends court sessions and prepares record of court proceedings in conformance with statutes, policies, and the direction of a Judge; swears in witnesses and juries; maintains exhibits offered in evidence.
Court Date Notice
A written form used to bring the parties to court.
A decision made by a judicial officer that gives someone certain rights or tells someone to do something
Maintains a verbatim record of court events. What is recorded is called a Transcript.
The section of a courthouse in which the judge presides over the proceedings.
Money that the losing side must pay to the winning side to make up for losses or injuries. There are two kinds of damages: (1) "compensatory," meaning money to pay for the actual cost of an injury or loss; and (2) "punitive" or "exemplary", meaning an amount of money that's more than the actual damages. This is a punishment for willful or malicious acts.
A court's Judgment or decree that settles a dispute. (See also Decree, Judgment.)
A court decision. It can be (1) "interlocutory," which means it is not a final decision, or (2) "final," which means all issues of the case are settled
A person sued in a civil proceeding
In a civil case, the facts or arguments presented by the defendant to show why the plaintiff doesn't have a right to the relief asked for.
A judgment against a debtor for the unpaid balance of the debt if a foreclosure sale or a sale of repossessed personal property fails to yield the full amount of the debt due.
Demand for Discovery
Demand by one party in a case to another party to furnish material information on a case.
Starting a case all over again as if it had not been heard before. In Latin, novo means "new." (Trial de Novo)
Written or oral testimony given under oath in front of an authorized third person like a court reporter. Depositions take place outside of the court. They allow the parties to get a record of a person's testimony, or to get testimony from a witness that lives far away. They can help the lawyers prepare their court papers called "pleadings." (See also Discovery.)
Dismissed by a judge.
The gathering of information (facts, documents, or testimony) before a case goes to trial. Discovery is done in many ways, such as through depositions, interrogations, or requests for admissions. It can also be done through independent investigation or by talking with the other side's lawyer.
A motion to have evidence disclosed to the moving party
To terminate legal action involving outstanding charges against a defendant in a criminal case.
Dismissal with Prejudice
When a court dismisses a case and will not allow any other suit to be filed on the same claim in the future.
Dismissal without Prejudice
When a court dismisses a case, but will allow other suits to be filed on the same claim.
The final action of a case
A list of cases pending before the court.
Due Process of Law
The regular way that the law is administered through the courts. The U.S. Constitution says that everyone has to have a day in court, has the right to be represented by a lawyer, and the right to benefit from court procedures that are speedy, fair, and impartial.
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.
Any proof legally presented at trial through witnesses, records, and/or exhibits
Any paper or object offered in court that is marked for identification or evidence.
A court procedure with only one side. For emergencies only.
Ex Parte Proceeding
The legal procedure in which only one side is represented.
Testimony given in relation to some scientific, technical, or professional matter by experts, i.e., person qualified to speak authoritatively by reason of their special training, skill, or familiarity with the subject
Experts in medicine, forensics, etc., who testify at trial.
A person that acts for another person's benefit, like a trustee or guardian. It also means something that is based on a trust or confidence.
The Clerk’s office’s official recording of minutes and all documents signed by the judge
A court’s last action that settles the rights of the parties and disposes of the issues in controversy.
When a judicial officer or jury says something is a fact
A listing or book of the laws of the state of Florida.
Procedure by which mortgaged property is sold on default of the mortgagor in satisfaction or mortgage debt.
The sale of the mortgaged property, authorized by a court decree or a power-of-sale clause, to satisfy the debt.
Deceiving someone on purpose in a way that financially hurts others.
A legal process that allows part of a person's wages or property to be withheld for payment of a debt.
Refers to courts that have no limit on the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear.
A foundation or basis; points relied on
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. In Juvenile Dependency cases, once a guardian is appointed, dependency may be terminated.
Guardian Ad Litem
An adult appointed by a court who represents a minor child or legally incompetent person. (See also Ad Litem).
A formal court proceeding with the judge and opposing sides present, but no jury.
Record of testimony/evidence entered.
Statements by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question, but heard about it from someone else. Hearsay usually can't be used as evidence in court.
Liability for loss is shifted from one person held legally responsible to another.
An obligation to provide compensation (usually money) for a loss, hurt or damage.
Written questions asked by one party in a lawsuit for which the opposing party must answer them in writing.
An elected or appointed public official with authority to hear and decide cases in a court of law.
Rules and regulations that a particular judge has mandated or ordered that are necessary in order to appear before him or her or to have a matter considered.
A person who assists a judge in administrative matters related to the judge’s assignment. These duties include, but are not limited to, preparing the judicial docket, scheduling hearings, and handling the day to day correspondence between the judge and the public.
(1) The legal authority/power of a court to hear and decide a case. (2) The geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases. ( 3) the territory, subject matter, or persons over which lawful authority may be exercised by a court.
A group of citizens picked according to law and authorized to decide a case
A trial that is heard and decided by a jury.
Combination of rules and principles of conduct made known by legislative authority, derived from court decisions, and established by local custom.
An action between two or more persons in the courts of law, not a criminal matter.
A licensed professional authorized by the State to give legal advice and represent a client in legal proceedings.
To obtain money by legal process through seizure and/or sale of property.
Legal debts and obligations.
The right to keep a debtor's property from being sold or transferred until the debtor pays what he or she owes.
A party, or side involved in a lawsuit.
A case, controversy, or lawsuit.
A set of rules you have to follow to start a court case. Every county and court has different local rules.
A judicial officer with strictly limited jurisdiction with the authority given by statute or judicial mandate.
A person who assists a magistrate in administrative matters related to the magistrate’s assignment. These duties include, but are not limited to, preparing the judicial docket, scheduling hearings, and handling the day to day correspondence between the magistrate and the public.
Rules and regulations that a particular magistrate has mandated or ordered that are necessary in order to appear before him or her or to have a matter considered.
A judicial command or order proceeding from a court or judicial officer, directing the proper officer to enforce a judgment, sentence, or decree.
A process in which people that are having a dispute are helped by a neutral person to communicate so they can reach a settlement acceptable to both.
Oral or written request made by a party to an action before, during, or after a trial asking the judge to issue a ruling or order in that party's favor.
Ruling or order issued by the judge refusing the party's request.
Ruling or order issued by the judge approving the party's request.
Motion to Quash
A request to make something null or ineffective, such as to "quash a subpoena."
A person authorized to certify a person's signature, administer oaths, or certify that documents are authentic.
Written information or warning. For example, a notice to the other side that you will make a motion in court on a certain date.
Notice of Motion
A notice to the opposing party, that on a certain date a motion will be made in court. Also called a Notice of Hearing.
Nunc Pro Tunc
An entry made now for an act done previously and to have the effect as if it were done on a prior date.
A formal protest made by a party over testimony or evidence that the other side tries to introduce in court.
A ruling by the court upholding the act or omission of the opposing party.
A ruling by the court in favor of the party making the objection.
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 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.
(1) act of opposing or resisting. (2) confronting another.
Order to Show Cause
Court order that makes someone go to court to explain to the judge why he or she did not follow the rules
(1) Decision of a judicial officer; (2) a directive of the court
The court in which a matter must first be filed.
A person with legal skills, but who is not an attorney, and who works under the supervision of a lawyer or who is otherwise authorized by law to use those legal skills.
One of the sides of a case. The person who started the case is called the plaintiff or petitioner. The person being sued is called the defendant or respondent.
A court paper that asks the court to take action. For example, in juvenile cases, the Petition starts the court case. (Compare MOTION.)
A person who presents a petition to the court
A formal document in which a party to a legal proceeding sets forth or responds to allegations, claims, denials or defenses
The party who brings a civil suit in a court of law.
To put off or delay a court hearing.
Power of Attorney
Formal authorization of a person to act in the interest of another person.
A court decision in an earlier case that the court uses to decide similar or new cases.
Confidential communications to certain persons that are protected by law against any disclosure, including forced disclosure in legal proceedings. Communications between lawyer and client, physician and patient, psychotherapist and patient, priest, minister, or rabbi and penitent are typically privileged
The court with authority to deal with the estates of people who have died
Legal work done for free. From the Latin meaning "for the public good."
A written document that says a person promises to pay money to another
Any fact or evidence that leads to a judgment of the court.
Proof of Service
A form filed with the court that proves that court papers were properly delivered to someone.
Person who presents their own cases in court without lawyers (See also Pro Se.)
Person who presents their own cases in court without lawyers (See also Pro Per.)
To overthrow, to vacate, to annul or make void.
The Clerk’s office’s official recording of minutes and all documents signed by the judge.
The official papers that make up a court case.
If you are the person that answers the original Petition, you are the respondent. Even if you later file an action of your own in that case, you are still the respondent for as long as the case is open.
An action of a higher court in setting aside or revoking a lower court decision.
Rule of Court
An order made by a court having competent jurisdiction. Rules of court are either general or special; the former are the regulations by which the practice of the court is governed, the latter are special orders made in particular cases.
A financial punishment meant to make someone obey the law. For example, a judge can order someone to pay for not following court orders.
Clerk of the Court symbol of authenticity
The closure of court records to inspection, except to the parties.
Service of Process
The delivery of legal papers to the opposing party. The papers must be delivered by an adult aged 18 or older that is not involved in the case and that swears to the date and method of delivery to the recipient.
When both sides reach an agreement that solves the case before the judge or jury makes a decision.
Show Cause Order
An order issued by the court requiring a person to appear and show why some action should not be taken.
A signature bond sometimes secured by a mortgage or real property but usually unsecured.
Small Claims Court
A court that handles civil claims for $15,000 or less.
Standard of Proof
There are essentially three standards of proof applicable in most court proceedings. In criminal cases, the offense must be proven Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, the highest standard. In civil cases and neglect and dependency proceedings, the lowest standard applies by a mere Preponderance of the Evidence, (more likely than not). In some civil cases, and in juvenile proceedings such as a permanent termination of parental rights, an intermediate standard applies, proof by Clear and Convincing Evidence.
Statement of Fact
Any written or oral declaration of facts in a case.
A law passed by Congress or a state legislature
To agree to something.
(1) to delete or remove. (2) To dismiss an allegation before sentencing. (3) A serious violent felony prior conviction that is charged as a prior allegation, e.g. a second strike, or third strike.
An official order to go to court at a certain time. Subpoenas are commonly used to tell witnesses to come to court to testify in a trial. Only the party issuing a subpoena can release a witness from having to appear.
Subpoena Duces Tecum
Court process requiring a witness to produce requested documents or other materials, at a specific time/date.
To substitute one person for another in a legal claim.
To commence legal proceedings for recovery of a right.
When the judge decides a case without going to trial. The decision is based on the papers filed by both sides
(1) A notice to a defendant that he or she has been sued or charged with a crime and is required to appear in court. (2) A jury summons requires the person receiving it to report for possible jury duty.
To maintain, to affirm, to approve.
To put to oath and declare as truth.
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 (TRO)
A court order that says a person must not do certain things that are likely to cause harm that can't be fixed.
A will disposing of personal property. (See Will.)
Oral evidence at a trial or deposition.
A record of everything that is said in a hearing or trial.
A court process in which the issues of fact and law are heard and decided according to legal procedures so a judicial officer or jury can make a decision.
Trial, Court (Bench)
A trial where the jury is waived and the case is seen before the judge alone.
A legal device used to manage real or personal property, established by one person (the Grantor or Settler) for the benefit of another (the Beneficiary). A third person ( the Trustee) or the grantor manages the trust. In Traffic - Trust is an account into which bail is posted to insure appearance or compliance until the case is settled.
The person or institution that manages the property put in trust.
To render an act void; to set aside
A person called testify about what he or she saw, heard, or knows. 2. To sign your name to a document for the purpose of authenticity.
The space in the courtroom occupied by a witness while testifying.
Qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education to provide a scientific, technical or specialized opinion of the subject about which he or she is to testify. That knowledge must not be generally possessed by the average person.
A written document/order requiring the performance of a specified act, or giving authority and commission to have it done.
Writ of Execution
A court order that tells the sheriff to enforce a judgment.
Writ of Possession
A Court’s written order allowing the prevailing party in a lawsuit to take physical possession of the property at issue.