LEGAL DICTIONARIES
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JURIST's browsable dictionary of basic U.S. legal terminology focuses on legal procedure. For more specific queries, search the Law.com dictionary:

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Abatement of action - A suit which has been quashed and ended.

Abstract of record - A short, abbreviated form of the case as found in the record.

Abstract of title - A chronological summary of all official records and recorded documents affecting the title to a parcel of real property.

Acceptance - The taking and receiving of anything in good faith with the intention of retaining it.

Accessory - A person who assists in the commission of a crime, either before or after the fact.

Accomplice - 1. A partner in a crime. 2. A person who knowingly and voluntarily participates with another in a criminal activity.

Accord - A satisfaction agreed upon between the parties in a lawsuit which bars subsequent actions on the claim.

Accord and satisfaction - A method of discharging a claim upon agreement by the parties to give and accept something in settlement of the claim.

Accused - The name for the defendant in a criminal case.

Acquittal - The legal certification of the innocence of a person who has been charged with a crime, setting the person free from a charge of guilty by a finding of not guilty.

Action in personam - An action against the person, founded on a personal liability. In contrast to action in rem, an action for the recovery of a specific object, usually an item of personal property such as an automobile.

Action in rem - Proceeding "against the thing" as compared to personal actions (in personam). Usually a proceeding where property is involved.

Accretion - The increase or accumulation of land by natural causes, as out of a lake or river.

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.

Administrative agencies - Agencies created by the legislative branch of government to administer laws pertaining to specific areas such as taxes, transportation, and labor.

Administrator - 1. One who administers the estate of a person who dies without a will. 2. A court official.

Admiralty law - Also, maritime law. That body of law relating to ships, shipping, marine commerce and navigation, transportation of persons or property by sea, etc.

Admissible evidence - Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.

Admission - A statement tending to establish the guilt or liability of the person making the statement.

Admonish- To advise or caution. For example the court may caution or admonish counsel for wrong practices.

Advance sheets - Paperback pamphlets published by law book publishers weekly or monthly which contain reporter cases, including correct volume number and page number. When there are sufficient cases, they are replaced by a bound volume.

Adversary proceeding - One having opposing parties such as a plaintiff and a defendant. Individual lawsuit(s) brought within a bankruptcy proceeding.

Adversary system - The system of trial practice in the United States and some other countries in which each of the opposing, or adversary, parties has the opportunity to present and establish opposing contentions before the court.

Adverse possession - Method of acquiring real property under certain conditions by possession for a statutory period.

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.

Aggravated assault - An attempt to cause serious bodily injury to another or purposely, knowingly or recklessly causing such injury, or an attempt to cause or purposely or knowingly cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon.

Aggravated battery - The unlawful use of force against another with unusual or serious consequences such as the use of a dangerous weapon.

agent - One who has authority to act for another.

Agreement -Mutual consent.

Aid and Abet - To actively, knowingly, or intentionally assist another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime.

alibi - A defense claim that the accused was somewhere else at the time a crime was committed.

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.

American Law Reports - A publication which reports cases from all United States jurisdictions by subject matter.

amicus curiae - A friend of the court; a nonparty who interposes, with the permission of the court, and volunteers information upon some matter before the court.

Ancillary - A proceeding which is auxiliary or subordinate to another proceeding. In probate, a proceeding in a state where a decedent owned property but was not domiciled.

Annotations - Remarks, notes, case summaries, or commentaries following statutes which describe interpretations of the statute.

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.

Antitrust acts - Federal and state statutes to protect trade and commerce from unlawful restraints, price discriminations, price fixing, and monopolies.

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.

Appendix - Supplementary materials added to the end of a document.

Appellant - The party appealing a decision or judgment.

Appellate court - A court having jurisdiction to hear appeals and review a trial court's procedure.

Appellee - 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."

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.

Attempt - An endeavor or effort to do an act or accomplish a crime, carries beyond preparation, but lacking execution.

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.

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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 - 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.

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Capital crime - A crime punishable by death.

Calendar - A list of cases scheduled for hearing in court.

Calling the docket - The public calling of the docket or list of causes at commencement of term of court, for setting a time for trial or entering orders.

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.

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.

Cease and desist order - An order of an administrative agency or court prohibiting a person or business from continuing a particular course of conduct.

Censure - An official reprimand or condemnation of an attorney.

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.

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.

Character evidence - The testimony of witnesses who know the general character and reputation of a person in the community in which he or she lives. It may be considered by the jury in a dual respect: (1) as substantive evidence upon the theory that a person of good character and reputation is less likely to commit a crime than one who does not have a good character and reputation, and (2) as corroborative evidence in support of a witness's testimony as bearing upon credibility.

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.

Chattel - An article of personal property.

Child - Offspring of parentage; progeny.

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.

Citators - A set of books which provides the subsequent history of reported decisions through a form of abbreviations or words.

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.

Clayton Act - A federal law which is an amendment to the Sherman Act dealing with antitrust regulations and unfair trade practices.

Clean air acts - Federal and state environmental statutes enacted to regulate and control air pollution.

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.

Code of Federal Regulations - An annual publication which contains the cumulative executive agency regulations.

Code of Professional Conduct - The rules of conduct that govern the legal profession.

Codicil - An amendment to a will.

Collate - To arrange in order; verify arrangement of pages before binding or fastening; put together.

Collective mark - Trademark or service mark used by members of a cooperative, an association, or other collective group or organization.

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 fault - A rule in admiralty law where each vessel involved in a collision is required to pay a share of the total damages in proportion to its percentage of fault.

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.

Competency - A witness's ability to observe, recall and recount under other what happened. Criminal defendants must also be competent to stand trial; they must understand the nature of the proceedings and have the ability to assist their lawyers.

Complainant - The party who complains or sues; one who applies to the court for legal redress.

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 jurisdiction - The jurisdiction of two or more courts, each authorized to deal with the same subject matter.

Concurrent sentences - Sentences for more than one crime that are to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other.

Condemnation - The legal process by which the government takes private land for public use, paying the owners a fair price.

Conditional release - A release from custody which imposes regulations on the activities and associations of the defendant. If a defendant fails to meet the conditions, the release is revoked.

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.

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.

Consideration - The price bargained for and paid for a promise, goods, or real estate.

Conspiracy - A combination of two or more persons formed for the purpose of committing by joint collaboration some unlawful act.

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.

Corpus delicti - The body (material substance) upon which a crime has been committee, e.g., the corpse of a murdered man or the charred remains of a house burned by an arsonist.

Corroborating evidence - Supplementary evidence that tends to strengthen or confirm the initial evidence.

Costs - An allowance for expenses in prosecuting or defending a suit. Ordinarily this does not include attorney fees.

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 of record - A court in which the proceedings are recorded, transcribed, and maintained as permanent records.

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.

Criminal insanity - Lack of mental capacity to do or abstain from doing a particular act; inability to distinguish right from wrong.

Criminal summons - An order commanding an accused to appear in court.

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.

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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 theBankruptcy 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.

Defunct - A corporation no longer operative; having ceased to exist.

Deliberation - The jury's decision-making process after hearing the evidence and closing arguments and being given the court's instructions.

Delinquency - The commission of an illegal act by a juvenile.

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.

Digest - An index or compilation of abstracts of reported cases into one, set forth under proper law topic headings or titles and usually in alphabetical arrangement.

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.

Disbarment - Form of discipline of a lawyer resulting in the loss (often permanently) of that lawyer's right to practice law.

Discharge - The name given to the bankruptcy court's formal discharge of a debtor's debts. In probate, the release of the estate's representative from fiduciary responsibility.

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.

Disposition - The order of a juvenile court determining what is to be done with a minor already adjudged to be within the court's jurisdiction. In criminal cases, the settlement of a case.

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.

Diversity of citizenship - The condition when the party on one side of a lawsuit is a citizen of one state and the other party is a citizen of another state; such cases are under the jurisdiction of federal courts.

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.

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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.

Embezzlement - The fraudulent appropriation by a person to his own use or benefit or property or money entrusted to him by another.

Eminent Domain - The power of the government to take private property for public use through condemnation.

En Banc - All the judges of a court sitting together. Appellate courts can consist of a dozen or more judges, but often they hear cases in panels of three judges. If a case is heard or reheard by the full court, it is heard en banc.

Encyclopedia - A book or series of books arranged alphabetically by topics containing information on areas of law, including citations to support the information.

Enjoin - To order a person to perform, or to abstain and desist from performing a specified act or course of conduct. See injunction.

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.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - A federal agency created to permit coordinated and environment effective governmental action to preserve the quality of the environment.

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.

Equitable action - An action which may be brought for the purpose of restraining the threatened infliction of wrongs or injuries, and the prevention of threatened illegal action.

Equity - Justice administered according to fairness; the spirit or habit of fairness in dealing with other persons.

Equity, courts of - Courts which administer a legal remedy according to the system of equity, as distinguished from courts of common law.

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.

Et al - An abbreviation of the Latin et alii, meaning "and others," ordinarily used in lieu of listing all names of persons involved in a proceeding.

Et seq - An abbreviation for the Latin et sequentes, meaning "and the following," ordinarily used in referring to a section of statutes.

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.

Exclusion of witnesses - An order of the court requiring all witnesses to remain outside the courtroom until each is called to testify, except the plaintiff or defendant. The witnesses are ordered not to discuss their testimony with each other and may be held in contempt if they violate the order.

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 contractu - Arising from a contract.

Ex delicto - Arising from a wrong, breach of 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.

Expert testimony - 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.

Ex post facto - After the fact, ordinarily used in reference to constitutional prohibition on ex post facto laws. For example, a person cannot be punished for conduct committed before a criminal law was enacted.

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.

Extraordinary writ - A writ, often issued by an appellate court, making available remedies not regularly within the powers of lower courts. They include writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition and quo warranto 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧
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Fair market value - The value for which a reasonable seller would sell an item of property and for which a reasonable buyer would buy it.

False arrest - Any unlawful physical restraint of another's personal liberty, whether or not carried out by a peace officer.

False pretenses - Representation of some fact or circumstance which is not true and is calculated to mislead, whereby a person obtains another's money or goods.

Family law - Those areas of the law pertaining to families, i.e., marriage, divorce, child custody, juvenile, paternity, etc.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - A federal agency which investigates all violations of federal laws.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - A federal agency which regulates interstate and foreign communications by wire and radio.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) - An agency which insures deposits in banking institutions in the event of financial failure.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service - An agency which provides mediators to assist in labor-management disputes.

Federal Register - A daily publication which contains federal administrative rules and regulations.

Fee simple absolute - The most complete, unlimited form of ownership of real property.

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.

Fifth Amendment - Among other rights, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that a person cannot be compelled to present self-incriminating testimony in a criminal proceeding.

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.

Fine - A sum of money paid as part of a penalty of conviction for a particular criminal offense.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - A federal agency which sets safety and quality standards for food, drugs, cosmetics, and household substances.

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.

Fourteenth Amendment - Among other matters, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without adequate due process.

Fourth Amendment - The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects every person against unreasonable search and seizure by government officials.

Fraud - A false representation of a matter of fact which is intended to deceive another.

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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.

Government Printing Office - The federal agency in charge of printing, binding, and selling of all government communications.

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.

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Habeas corpus - The name of a writ having for its object to bring a person before a court.

Harmless error - An error committed during a trial that was corrected or was not serious enough to affect the outcome of a trial and therefore was not sufficiently harmful (prejudicial) to be reversed on appeal.

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.

Hearing de novo - A full new hearing.

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.

Hypothetical question - An imaginary situation, incorporating facts previously admitted into evidence, upon which an expert witness is permitted to give an opinion as to a condition resulting from the situation.

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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.

Impanel - To seat a jury. When voir dire is finished and both sides have exercised their challenges, the jury is impanelled. The jurors are sworn in and the trial is ready to proceed.

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 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.

In loco parentis - "In the place of the parent"; refers to actions of a custodian, guardian or other person acting in the parent's place.

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.

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.

Inheritance tax - A state tax on property that an heir or beneficiary under a will receives from a deceased person's estate. The heir or beneficiary pays this tax.

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.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - The federal agency which administers the tax laws of the United States.

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.

Intestate - The status of a person who dies without leaving a will.

Intestate succession - A succession of property when the deceased has left no will, or when the will has been revoked.

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.

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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.

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.

Justiciable - Issues and claims capable of being properly examined in court.

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Key number system - A research aid developed by West Publishing Company which classifies digests of cases in to various law topics and subtopics which are given paragraph numbers called "Key Numbers." Each key number for a given topic helps the researcher quickly find all references to the legal matter being researched.

Kidnapping - The unlawful and carrying away of a human being by force and against his will.

Knowingly - With knowledge, willfully or intentionally with respect to a material element of an offense. 覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧
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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.

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.

Lis pendens - A pending suit.

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.

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Magistrate - 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.

Mandamus - A writ by which a court commands the performance of a particular act.

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).

Marshal - The executive officer of the federal court.

Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Directory- A publication of several volumes which contains names, addresses, specialties, and rating of United States lawyers; also includes digests of state and foreign statutory law.

Material evidence - Evidence which is relevant to the issues in a case.

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.

Mens rea - Literally in Latin, "guilty mind." The intent required to commit the crime. It is a prerequisite to conviction for a crime involving a moral wrong, but it is not a prerequisite to conviction for an act that is a crime only because a statute designates it to be a crime, e.g., overtime parking.

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.

Mutual assent - A meeting of the minds; agreement.

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National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) - A federal agency which prevents and remedies unfair labor practices by employers and labor organizations

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 Bill - This phrase, endorsed by a grand jury on the written indictment submitted to it for its approval, means that the evidence was found insufficient to indict.

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.

Nolo contendere - A Latin phrase meaning "I will not contest it." A plea in a criminal case which does not require the defendant to admit guilt, but the defendant does not contest the facts on which the charge is based. Some judges refuse to accept such pleas in criminal cases.

Non compos mentis - Not of sound mind; insane.

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.

Not guilty plea - Complete denial of guilt. In criminal cases, a necessary stage of the proceedings required to preserve all legal issues.

Not guilty by reason of insanity - The jury or the judge must determine that the defendant, because of mental disease or defect, could not form the intent required to commit the offense.

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.

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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.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) - A federal law designed to develop and promote occupational safety and health standards.

Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission - The agency established by OSHA to adjudicate enforcement actions under the Act.

Of counsel - A phrase commonly applied to counsel employed to assist in the preparation or management of the case, or its presentation on appeal, but who is not the principal attorney for the party.

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.

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Paperbound supplement - A temporary supplement to a book or books to update the serve.

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.

Parol evidence - Oral or verbal evidence; evidence given by word of mouth in court.

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.

Patent - A grant to an inventor of the right to exclude others for a limited time from make, using, or selling his invention in the United States.

Patent and Trademark Office - The federal agency which examines and issues patents and registers trademarks.

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.

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.

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.

Petit jury - The ordinary jury of twelve (or fewer) persons for the trial of a civil or criminal case. So called to distinguish it from the grand jury.

Petitioner - The person filing an action in a court of original jurisdiction. Also, the person who appeals the judgment of a lower court.

Plaintiff - A person who brings an action; the party who complains or sues in a civil action.

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.

Pocket parts - Supplements to law books in pamphlet form which are inserted in a pocket inside the back cover of the books to keep them current.

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.

Preinjunction - 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.

Preponderance of proof - Greater weight of the evidence, the common standard of evidence in civil cases.

Presentence 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.

Presumption of law - A rule of law that courts and judges shall draw a particular inference from a particular fact, or from particular evidence.

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.

Primary authority - Constitutions, codes, statutes, ordinances, and case law sources.

Private law - That law, such as a contract between two persons or a real estate transaction, which applies only to the persons who subject themselves to it.

Privilege - A benefit or advantage to certain persons beyond the advantages of other persons, i.e., an exemption, immunity, power, etc.

Pro se - For himself; in his own behalf. One who does not retain a lawyer and appears for himself in court.

Probable cause - A reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the basis for all lawful searches, seizures, and arrests.

Probate - Court proceeding by which a will is proved valid or invalid. Term used to mean all proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates such as the process by which assets are gathered; applied to pay debts, taxes, and expenses of administration; and distributed to those designated as beneficiaries in the will. Conducted in states courts.

Probate court - The court with authority to supervise estate administration.

Probate estate - Estate property that may be disposed of by a will.

Probation - An alternative to imprisonment allowing a person found guilty of an offense to stay in the community, usually under conditions and under the supervision of a probation officer. A violation of probation can lead to its revocation and to imprisonment.

Product liability - Legal responsibility of manufacturers and sellers to buyers, users, and bystanders for damages or injuries suffered because of defects in goods.

Promisee - An individual to whom a promise is made.

Promisor - An individual who makes a promise.

Promissory estoppel - A promise which estops the promisee from asserting or taking certain action.

Property tax - A tax levied on land and buildings (real estate) and on personal property.

Proprietor - Owner; person who has legal right or title to anything.

Prosecutor - A trial lawyer representing the government in a criminal case and the interests of the state in civil matters. In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding who and when to prosecute.

Proximate cause - 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.

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Quantum meruit - Expression means "as much as he deserves," and describes the extent of liability on a contract implied by law.

Quid pro quo - What for what; something for something; giving one valuable thin- for another.

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.

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Ratification - The confirmation or adoption of a previous act done either by the party himself or by another.

Ratio decidendi - The ground or reason of the decision in a case.

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.

Recidivism - The continued, habitual or compulsive commission of law violations after first having been convicted or prior offenses.

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 - portunity 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.

Res ipsa loquitur - Literally, " a thing that speaks for itself." In tort law, the doctrine which holds a defendant guilty of negligence without an actual showing that he or she was negligent. Its use is limited in theory to cases in which the cause of the plaintiff's injury was entirely under the control of the defendant, and the injury presumably could have been caused only by negligence.

Res judicata - A rule of civil law that once a matter has been litigated and final judgment has been rendered by the trial court, the matter cannot be relitigated by the parties in the same court, or any other trial court. A court will use res judicata to deny reconsideration of a matter.

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.

Respondeat superior - Literally, "a superior (or master) must answer." The doctrine which holds that employers are responsible for the acts and omissions of their employees and agents, when done within the scope of the employees' duties.

Respondent - The person against whom an appeal is taken.

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.

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.

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

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

Sealing - The closure of court records to inspection, except to the parties.

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.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)- A federal agency which monitors the securities industry.

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.

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.

Small Business Administration (SBA) - A federal agency which provides assistance of all kinds, 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.

Social Security - A system of federal old-age pensions for employed persons begun in 1935. A portion of the payment is deducted from the employee's salary and an equal portion is contributed by the employer.

Social Security Administration - The federal agency which administers the national social security program.

Social Security Tax - A payroll deduction based on gross wages paid; this amount is matched by the employer as required by the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA).

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.

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."

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

Stare decisis - The doctrine that, when a court has once laid down a principle of law applicable to a certain set of facts, it will adhere to that principle and apply it to future cases where the facts are substantially the same. This is a defining characteristic of the common law system followed in the U.S., Great Britain, and a few other nations.

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.

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 t is improper or was improperly obtained.

Surety Bond - A bond purchased at the expense of the estate to insure the executor's proper performance. Also referred to as "fidelity bond."

Suspension - A temporary loss of the right to practice law by an attorney.

Sustain - A court ruling upholding an objection or a motion.

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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.

Tax Court of the United States - A judicial body which hears cases concerning federal tax laws.

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).

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.

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Unconscionability - An absence of meaningful choice on the part of one of the parties to a contract, and contract terms which are unreasonably favorable to the other party.

Undue influence - Whatever destroys free will and causes a person to do something he would not do if left to himself.

Unfair labor practice - Actions by the employer which interfere with, restrain, coerce, or threaten employees with respect to their rights.

Unjust enrichment, doctrine of - The principle that one person should not be permitted to unjustly enrich himself at the expense of another, but should be required to make restitution for the property or benefit received.

Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.) - A uniform law governing commercial transactions. The U.C.C. has been adopted by all states except Louisiana.

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 Bankruptcy Court - The judicial body which hears matters pertaining to bankruptcy and reorganization.

United States Court of Appeals - Courts which hear appeals from federal district courts, bankruptcy courts, and tax courts.

United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces - Court which hears appeals from court marshal decisions .

United States Court of Claims - Court which hears actions against the U.S. Government.

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.

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Vacate - To set aside.

Venire - A writ summoning persons to court to act as jurors.

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.

Veterans' Administration (VA) - The federal agency which administers a system of benefits for veterans and their dependents.

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.

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Wage Earner's Plan - Also, Chapter 13. A chapter of the Bankruptcy Code which allows a debtor to file a wage earner's plan for payment of a percentage of his debts from future earnings.

Waiver - Intentionally given-up 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.

Words and Phrases Legally Defined - A set of books in dictionary form which lists judicial determinations of a word or phrase.

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.

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.

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Zoning Commission - Local agencies with jurisdiction to regulate use of properties within their geographic area.

Sources: U.S. Courts - District of Idaho; Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida; Utah State Courts