Litigation Terms

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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.

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.

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A statement of the issues in a written document (a pleading) which a person is prepared to prove in court.

Appeal: A proceeding brought to a higher court to review a lower court decision.

Arbitration: The hearing of a dispute by an impartial third person or persons (chosen by the parties), whose award the parties agree to accept.

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.

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.

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 warrant: An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person.

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.

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

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.

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.

Class action: A lawsuit brought by one or more persons on behalf of a larger group.

Decree: An order of the court. A final decree is one that fully and finally disposes of the litigation.

Defendant: The person defending or denying a suit.

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.

Dismissal: The termination of a lawsuit.

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

Docket control: A system for keeping track of deadlines and court dates for both litigation and non-litigation matters.

Equal Protection of the Law: The guarantee in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that all persons be treated equally by the law.

Exclusionary Rule: The rule preventing illegally obtained evidence to be used in any trial.

Family Law: Those areas of the law pertaining to families, i.e., marriage, divorce, child custody, juvenile, paternity, etc.

Foreclosure: A court proceeding upon default in a mortgage to vest title in the mortgagee.

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A legal proceeding in which a debtor's money, in the possession of another (called the garnishee) is applied to the debts of the debtor, such as when an employer garnishes a debtor's wages.

Hearing: A formal proceeding (generally less formal than a trial) with definite issues of law or of fact to be heard. Hearings are used extensively by legislative and administrative agencies.

Hearsay: Statements by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. Hearsay is usually not admissible as evidence in court.

Immigration: The entry of foreign persons into a country to live permanently.

Immunity: Grant by the court, which assures someone will not face prosecution in return for providing criminal evidence.

Inadmissible: That which, under the rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or received as evidence.

Joint and Several Liability: A legal doctrine that makes each of the parties who are responsible for an injury, liable for all the damages awarded in a lawsuit if the other parties responsible cannot pay.

Lawsuit: An action or proceeding in a civil court; term used for a suit or action between two private parties in a court of law.

Litigant: A party to a lawsuit.

Litigation: A lawsuit; a legal action, including all proceedings therein.

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A criminal offense lesser than a felony and generally punishable by fine or by imprisonment other than in a penitentiary.

Motion: An application made to a court or judge which requests a ruling or order in favor of the applicant.

Negotiation: The process of submission and consideration of offers until an acceptable offer is made and accepted.

Oath: A solemn pledge made under a sense of responsibility in attestation of the truth of a statement or in verification of a statement made.

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.

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 error.

Pardon: An act of grace from governing power which mitigates punishment and restores rights and privileges forfeited on account of the offense.

Perjury: The criminal offense of making a false statement under oath.

Product Liability: Legal responsibility of manufacturers and sellers to buyers, users, and bystanders for damages or injuries suffered because of defects in goods.

Quash: To vacate or void a summons, subpoena, etc.

Redress: To set right; to remedy; to compensate; to remove the causes of a grievance.

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To send a dispute back to the court where it was originally heard. Usually it is an appellate court that remands a case for proceedings in the trial court consistent with the appellate court's ruling.

Resolution: The formal adoption of a motion.

Revoke: To cancel or nullify a legal document.

Search Warrant: A written order issued by a judge that directs a law enforcement officer to search a specific area for a particular piece of evidence.

Settlement: An agreement between the parties disposing of a lawsuit.

The legal right to bring a lawsuit. Only a person with something at stake has standing to bring a lawsuit.

Tort: A private or civil wrong or injury for which the court provides a remedy through an action for damages.

Trial: A judicial examination of issues between parties to an action.

Unfair Labor Practice: Actions by the employer which interfere with, restrain, coerce, or threaten employees with respect to their rights.

Verdict: A conclusion, as to fact or law, that forms the basis for the court's judgment.

Warrant: Most commonly, a court order authorizing law enforcement officers to make an arrest or conduct a search. An application seeking a warrant must be accompanied by an affidavit which establishes probable cause by detailing the facts upon which the request is based.

With Prejudice: A declaration which dismisses all rights. A judgment barring the right to bring or maintain an action on the same claim or cause.

Without Prejudice: A declaration that no rights or privileges of the party concerned are waived or lost. In a dismissal these words maintain the right to bring a subsequent suit on the same claim.

Witness: One who personally sees or perceives a thing; one who testifies as to what he has seen, heard, or otherwise observed.

Worker's Compensation: A state agency which handles claims of workers injured on their jobs.

Writ: A judicial order directing a person to do something.

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