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Glossary


Scoresheet
Uniform guidelines for sentencing using points system mandated by the Legislature.
Seal
The Clerk of Court symbol of authenticity.
Search warrant
A written order issued by a judge that directs a law enforcement officer to search a specific area for a specific piece of evidence.
Second appearance
The County Court appearance after initial proceedings in which the state files an information or the defendant is discharged.
Secured debt
In bankruptcy proceedings, a debt is secured if the debtor gave the creditor a right to repossess the property or goods used as collateral.
Secured signature bond
A signature bond secured by mortgage or real property.
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 U.S. 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.
Self defense
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.
Sentence
The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime. A concurrent sentence means that two or more sentences would run at the same time. A consecutive sentence means that two or more sentences would run one after another.
Sentence report
A document containing background material on a convicted person. It is prepared to guide the judge in the imposition of a sentence. Sometimes called a presentence investigation.
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 called separation of witnesses. This prevents a witness from being influenced by the testimony of a prior witness.
Service
The delivery of a legal document, such as a complaint, summons, or subpoena, notifying a person of a lawsuit or other legal action taken against him/her by an officially authorized person in accordance with the formal requirements of the applicable laws.
Settlement
An agreement between the parties disposing of a lawsuit.
Settlor
The person who sets up a trust. Also called the grantor.
Show cause order
Court order requiring a person to appear and show why some action should not be taken.
Sidebar
A conference between the judge and lawyers, usually in the courtroom, out of earshot of the jury and spectators.
Slander
False and defamatory spoken words tending to harm another’s reputation, business or means of livelihood. Slander is spoken defamation; libel is published.
Small claims court
A court that handles civil claims for small amounts of money. People often represent themselves rather than hire an attorney.
Sovereign immunity
The doctrine that the government, state or federal, is immune to lawsuit unless it gives 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.
Speedy trial
A rule of law wherein the defendant must be brought to trial within 180 days (effective Jan. 1, 1994).
Spendthrift trust
A trust set up for the benefit of someone who the grantor believes would be incapable of managing his/her own financial affairs.
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 courts will follow principles of law laid down in previous cases. Similar to precedent.
Statement of particulars
A detailed statement of the offense charged, sufficient to enable the defendant to properly prepare his/her defense.
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. They are not delinquents (in that they have committed no crime), but rather are persons in need of supervision, minors in need of supervision, or children in need of supervision, depending on the state in which they live. Status offenders are placed under the supervision of the juvenile court.
Statute of limitations
The time within which a plaintiff must begin a lawsuit (in civil cases) or a prosecutor must being charges (in criminal cases.) There are different statutes of limitations at both the federal and state levels for different kinds of lawsuits or crimes.
Statutory construction
Process by which a court seeks to interpret the meaning and scope of legislation.
Statutory law
Law enacted by the legislative branch of government, as distinguished from case law or common law.
Stay
A court order halting a judicial proceeding.
Stipulation
An agreement by attorneys on both sides of a civil or criminal case about some aspect of the case; e.g. to extend the time to answer, to adjourn the trial date, or to admit certain facts at the trial.
Strike
Highlighting in the record of a case, evidence that has been improperly offered and will not be relied upon.
Sua sponte
A Latin phrase which means on one’s own behalf; voluntary, without prompting or suggestion.
Subpoena
Command to a person to appear and testify in a specific proceeding.
Subpoena duces tecum
A court order commanding a witness to bring certain documents or records to court.
Summary judgment
A decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case, and one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Summons
A document signed by a deputy clerk ordering a person to appear before the court. 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 it is improper or was improperly obtained. See also exclusionary rule.
Surety Bond
A bond purchased at the expense of the estate to insure the executor’s proper performance. Often called a fidelity bond.
Survivorship
Another name for joint tenancy.
Sustain
A court ruling upholding an objection or a motion.
Sworn complaint affidavit
A sworn, witnessed complaint filed with the Clerk of the Court.