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Glossary


Absentia
Absent; proceedings without the defendant present.
Abstract of Title
A chronological summary of all official records and recorded documents affecting the title to a parcel of real property.
Accomplice
1. A partner in a crime. 2. A person who knowingly and voluntarily participates with another in a criminal activity.
Acknowledgment
1. A statement of acceptance of responsibility. 2. The short declaration at the end of a legal paper showing that the paper was duly executed and acknowledged.
Acquit, Acquittal
A finding of not guilty by a judge or jury.
Action
Case, cause, suit, or controversy disputed or contested before a court of justice.
Ad litem
For the purpose of the lawsuit. For example, a guardian “ad litem” is a person appointed by the court to protect the interests of a minor or legally incompetent person in a lawsuit.
Additur
An increase by a judge in the amount of damages awarded by a jury.
Adjudication
Judgment rendered by the court after a determination of the issues.
Administrator
1. One who administers the estate of a person who dies without a will. 2. A court official.
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.
Adversary system
The trial method used in the U.S. and some other countries. This system is based on the belief that truth can best be determined by giving opposing parties full opportunity to present and establish their evidence, and to test by cross-examination the evidence presented by their adversaries. All this is done under the established rules of procedure before an impartial judge and/or jury.
Affiant
A person who makes and signs an affidavit.
Affidavit
A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the party making it, before a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths. For example, in criminal cases affidavits are often used by police officers seeking to convince courts to grant a warrant to make an arrest or a search. In civil cases, affidavits of witnesses are often used to support motions for summary judgment.
Affidavit of defense
A plea in absentia in infraction and misdemeanor cases.
Affidavit of insolvency
A detailed form signed by the defendant, under oath, attesting to his/her indigency (inability to pay for private legal counsel)
Affirmative defense
Without denying the charge, the defendant raises circumstances such as insanity, self-defense or entrapment to avoid civil or criminal responsibility.
Affirmed
In the practice of appellate courts, the word means that the decision of the trial court is correct.
Aid and Abet
To actively, knowingly or intentionally assist another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime.
Allegation
A statement of the issues in a written document (a pleading) which a person is prepared to prove in court. For example, an indictment contains allegations of crimes against the defendant.
Alternative dispute resolution
Settling a dispute without full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement, among others.
Amicus curiae
A friend of the court. One not a party to a case who volunteers to offer information on a point of law or some other aspect of the case to assist the court in deciding a matter before it.
Answer
The defendant’s response to the plaintiff’s allegations as stated in a complaint. An item-by-item, paragraph-by-paragraph response to points made in a complaint; part of the pleadings.
Appeal
An application for review of an order of conviction.
Appearance
1. The formal proceeding by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court. 2. A written notification to the plaintiff by an attorney stating that he/she is representing the defendant.
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. Sometimes called a respondent.
Arbitration
A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party and agree to abide by his/her decision. In arbitration there is a hearing at which both parties have an opportunity to be heard.
Arraignment
Appearance of the defendant in court to enter his/her plea to the charges.
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.
Asylum state
The state holding the fugitive.
At issue
The time in a lawsuit when the complaining party has stated his/her 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.
Attorney - at - law
An advocate, counsel, or official agent employed in preparing, managing, and trying cases in the court.
Attorney - in - fact
A private person (who is not necessarily a lawyer) authorized by another to act in his/her place, either for some particular purpose, as to do a specified 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 a power of attorney.
Attorney of record
The attorney retained or assigned to represent a client.