- C -

 Capital crime -A crime punishable by death.

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

Canons of ethics -Standards of ethical conduct for attorneys.

Capacity -Having legal authority or mental ability. Being of sound mind.

Caption -Heading or introductory party of a pleading.

Case law -Law established by previous decisions of appellate courts, particularly the United States Supreme Court. (See stare decisis in Foreign Words Glossary.)

Cases -General term for an action, cause, suit, or controversy, at law or in equity; questions contested before a court of justice.

Cause - A lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice.

Cause of action -The fact or facts which give a person a right to relief in court.

Caveat -A warning; a note of caution.

Censure -An official reprimand or condemnation of an attorney. (See disbarment or suspension.)

Certificate of Title -Document issued by Registrar of Titles for real estate registered under the Torrens System, which is considered conclusive evidence of the present ownership and state of the title to the property described therein.

Certification -1. Written attestation. 2. Authorized declaration verifying that an instrument is a true and correct copy of the original.

Certiorari -A writ of review issued by a higher court to a lower court. A means of getting an appellate court to review a lower court's decision. If an appellate court grants a writ of certiorari, it agrees to take the appeal. (Sometimes referred to as "granting cert.")

Challenge -An objection, such as when an attorney objects at a hearing to the seating of a particular person on a civil or criminal jury.

Challenge for cause -A request from a party to a judge that a certain prospective juror not be allowed to be a member of a jury because of specified causes or reasons. (Also, see peremptory challenge.)

Chambers -A judge's private office. A hearing in chambers takes place in the judge's office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.

Change of venue -Moving a lawsuit or criminal trial to another place for trial. (See venue.)

Charge to the jury -The judge's instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of the case on trial.

Chief judge -Presiding or administrative judge in a court.

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. Most widely used are Chopart's Citations.

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 Aeronautics Board (CAB) -A commission which promotes and regulates the civil air transport industry in the U.S. and between the U.S. and foreign countries.

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.

Civil Service Commission -A federal agency which regulates the hiring of government employees.

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 -The rules of conduct that govern the legal profession Responsibility .

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.

Complainant -The party who complains or sues; one who applies to the court for legal redress. (See also plaintiff.)

Complaint -1. The legal document that usually begins a civil lawsuit. It states the facts and identifies the action the court is asked to take. 2. Formal written charge that a person has committed a criminal offense.

Conciliation -A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps lower tensions, improve communications, and explore possible solutions. Conciliation is similar to mediation, but is may be less formal.

Concurrent sentences -Sentences for more than one crime that are to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other. (See also cumulative or consecutive sentences.)

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

Conformed copy -An exact copy of a document on which has been written things that could not or were not copied, i.e., a written signature is replaced on the conformed copy with a notation that it was signed by the parties.

Consecutive sentences -Successive sentences, one beginning at the expiration of another, imposed against a person convicted of two or more violations. (See also cumulative or concurrent sentences.)

Consent -Agreement; voluntary acceptance of the wish of another.

Conservatorship -Legal right given to a person to manage the property and financial affairs of a person deemed incapable of doing that for himself or herself. (See also guardianship.)

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

Constitution -The fundamental law of a nation or state which establishes the character and basic principles of the government.

Constitutional law -Law set forth in the Constitution of the United States and the state constitutions.

Consumer bankruptcy -A proceeding under the Bankruptcy Code filed by an individual (or husband and wife) who is not in business.

Contempt of court -Willful disobedience of a judge's command or of an official court order.

Continuance -Postponement of a legal proceeding to a later date.

Contract -An agreement between two or more persons which creates an obligation to do or not to do a particular thing. A legally enforceable agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing.

Contributory negligence -The rule of law under which an act or omission of plaintiff is a contributing cause of injury and a bar to recovery.

Conveyance -Instrument transferring title of land for one person or group of persons to another.

Conviction -A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.

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

Counsel -A legal adviser; a term used to refer to lawyers in a case.

Counterclaim -A claim made by the defendant in a civil lawsuit against the plaintiff. In essence, a counter lawsuit within a lawsuit.

Court -A body in government to which the administration of justice is delegated.

Court-appointed attorney -Attorney appointed by the court to represent a defendant, usually with respect to criminal charges and without the defendant having to pay for the representation.

Court costs -The expenses of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, other than the attorney fees. An amount of money may be awarded to the successful party (and may be recoverable from the losing party) as reimbursement for court costs.

Court of original jurisdiction -A court where a matter is initiated and heard in the first instance; a trial court.

Court reporter A person who transcribes by shorthand or stenographically takes down testimony during court proceedings, a deposition, or other trial-related proceeding.

Court rules-Regulations governing practice and procedure in the various courts.

Creditor -A person to whom a debt is owed by another.

Crime -An act in violation of the penal laws of a state or the United States. A positive or negative act in violation of penal law.

Criminal justice system- The network of courts and tribunals which deal with criminal law and its enforcement.

Cross-claim- A pleading which asserts a claim arising out of the same subject action as the original complaint against a co-party, i.e., one co-defendant cross claims against another co-defendant for contribution for any damages assessed against him.

Cross-examination- The questioning of a witness produced by the other side.

Cumulative sentences-Sentences for two or more crimes to run consecutively, rather than concurrently.

Custody- Detaining of a person by lawful process or authority to assure his or her appearance to any hearing; the jailing or imprisonment of a person convicted of a crime.

Back to Top


- D -

Damages - Money awarded by a court to a person injured by the unlawful actor negligence of another person.

Debtor - One who owes a debt to another; a person filing for relief under 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.

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. (See censure or suspension.)

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. (See with prejudice and without prejudice.)

Dissent To disagree. - An appellate court opinion setting forth the minority view and outlining the disagreement of one or more judges with the decision of the majority.

Dissolution - The termination; process of dissolving or winding up something.

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.

Back to Top