- O -
Oath - A solemn pledge made under a sense of responsibility in
attestation of the truth of a statement or in verification of a statement
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 occupational safety and health standards promote .
Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission - The agency
established by OSHA to adjudicate enforcement actions under the Act.
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
- P -
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
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
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. (See challenge for cause.)
Periodical - A publication which appears regularly but less often
Perjury - The criminal offense of making a false statement under
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
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. (See also recognizance.)
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. (See status offense.)
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. (See complainant.)
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
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. (See stare decisis
in Foreign Words Glossary.)
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. (See arraignment.)
Preponderance of the 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.
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.
(See prima facie in the Foreign Words Glossary.)
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.
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
Probate estate - Estate property that may be disposed of by a
will. (See estate.)
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
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.