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.
Accomplice - 1. A partner in a crime. 2. A person who knowingly
and voluntarily participates with another in a criminal activity.
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
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.
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
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.
Agreement -Mutual consent.
Aid and Abet - To actively, knowingly, or intentionally assist
another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime.
Alien - A foreign-born person who has not qualified as a citizen
of the country.
Allegation - A statement of the issues in a written document
(a pleading) which a person is prepared to prove in court.
Alteration - Changing or making different.
Alternative dispute resolution - Settling a dispute without a
full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration,
and settlement, among others.
American Bar Association - A national association of lawyers
whose primary purpose is improvement of lawyers and the administration
American Law Reports - A publication which reports cases from
all United States jurisdictions by subject matter.
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,
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.
Appellate court - A court having jurisdiction to hear appeals
and review a trial court's procedure.
Appellee - (See respondent) The party against whom an appeal
Arbitration - The hearing of a dispute by an impartial third
person or persons (chosen by the parties), whose award the parties agree
Arbitrator - A private, disinterested person chosen by the parties
in arbitration to hear evidence concerning the dispute and to make an award
based on the evidence.
Arraignment - The hearing at which the accused is brought before
the court to plead to the criminal charge in the indictment. He may plead
"guilty," "not guilty," or where permitted "nolo
contendere." (See preliminary hearing.)
Arrest - To take into custody by legal authority.
Assault - Threat to inflict injury with an apparent ability to
do so. Also, any intentional display of force that would give the victim
reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm.
Assignment - The transfer to another person of any property,
real or personal.
Assumption of risk - A doctrine under which a person may not
recover for an injury received when he has voluntarily exposed himself
to a known danger.
At issue - The time in a lawsuit when the complaining party has
stated their claim and the other side has responded with a denial and the
matter is ready to be tried.
Attachment- Taking a person's property to satisfy a court-ordered
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.
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
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
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
Beneficiary - Someone named to receive property or benefits in
a will. In a trust, a person who is to receive benefits from the trust.
Bequeath - To give a gift to someone through a will.
Bequests - Gifts made in a will.
Best evidence - Primary evidence; the best evidence available.
Evidence short of this is "secondary." That is, an original letter
is "best evidence," and a photocopy is "secondary evidence."
Beyond a reasonable doubt - The standard in a criminal case requiring
that the jury be satisfied to a moral certainty that every element of a
crime has been proven by the prosecution. This standard of proof does not
require that the state establish absolute certainty by eliminating all
doubt, but it does require that the evidence be so conclusive that all
reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of the ordinary person.
Bill of particulars - A statement of the details of the charge
made against the defendant.
Bind over - To hold a person for trial on bond (bail) or in jail.
If the judicial official conducting a hearing finds probable cause to believe
the accused committed a crime, the official will bind over the accused,
normally by setting bail for the accused's appearance at trial. (This is
a state court procedure.)
Bond (See bail bond.) - A written agreement by which a person
insures he will pay a certain sum of money if he does not perform certain
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
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
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.