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Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement facilitation, among others. Amend — Improve, correct or change a complaint or other pleading. Amicus Curiae - A friend of the court.

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One not a party to a case who volunteers, or is asked by the court, 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. An item-by-item, paragraph-by-paragraph response to points made in a complaint; part of the pleadings. Appeal - An application to a higher court for review of an order of conviction or of a civil judgment against a party. Appeal Bond - A sum of money posted by a person appealing a judicial decision appellant.

Appearance — 1 The formal proceeding by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court. Appellant - The party who takes an appeal from one court or jurisdiction to another.

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Appellee - The party against whom an appeal is taken. Sometimes called a respondent. In arbitration there is a hearing at which both parties have an opportunity to be heard. Arraignment - Appearance of the defendant in criminal court to be advised of rights and enter a plea to the charges. Arrest — The official taking of a person to answer criminal charges. This involves at least temporarily denying a person of liberty and may involve the use of force.

Arrest Warrant — An order by a judge that gives permission for a police officer to arrest a person for allegedly committing a crime. 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 a fugitive from justice in another state. Attempt — A person attempts to commit a crime when: 1 that person intended to commit the crime; and 2 began to do an act that constituted a substantial part of the crime, but failed to commit or complete the crime.

Attorney-at-Law — A licensed advocate or counsel authorized by the courts to prepare, manage and try cases in court, to prepare legal documents, or otherwise represent the interests of citizens.


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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. Return to top. By signing the form, the person posting the bond agrees to forfeit the bond if the defendant fails to appear in court as ordered. Bailiff - A court attendant who keeps order in the courtroom and has responsibility for the jury.

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. Federal 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.

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Bar — 1 Historically, the partition separating the general public from the space occupied by the judges, lawyers, and other participants in a trial. Bar Examination - A state examination taken by prospective lawyers, qualifying them to be admitted to the bar and licensed to practice law. Battery - A beating or other wrongful touching of a person.

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The threat to use force is an assault; actual use of force is a battery, which usually includes an assault. Bench - The seat occupied by the judge; more broadly, the court or judicial branch itself. Bench Trial - Trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts as well as the law. A bench warrant may be issued when a person fails to pay a fine, appear, or attend DWI School. Beneficiary - Someone named to receive property or benefits in a will, trust, insurance policy, or other such document. Bequeath - To give a gift to someone through a will. Best Evidence - Primary evidence; the best form of evidence available.

Best Evidence Rule — Rule requiring parties to proffer the original writing, recording, or photograph when attempting to prove the contents thereof. However, a duplicate is admissible in place of an original unless there is a genuine question about the authenticity of the original or it would be unfair under the circumstances of the case to admit the duplicate instead of the original. Also, an original is not required if it is lost or destroyed, if it cannot be obtained through a subpoena, if it is in the possession of the opposing party, and if the original is not closely related to a controlling issue in the case.

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 sufficiently conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind or the ordinary person.

Bind over - To hold a person for trial on bond bail or in jail. Bond supersedeas - The bond set by the court during the appeal procedure and posted with the Clerk of Court. It ensures payment to the winner at the trial court level if the appeal is unsuccessful. Bond surety - A certificate posted by a bonding company to the law enforcement agency to secure the appearance in court of a criminal defendant.

Booking - The process of photographing, fingerprinting and recording identifying data of a suspect after arrest. Breach - The breaking or violating of a law, right, or duty, either by the commission or omission of an act. Breach of Contract — Failure by one party to abide by the terms of a contract without lawful excuse. Brief - A written statement prepared by one side in a lawsuit to explain to the court its view of the facts of a case and the applicable law.

Burden of Proof - In the law of evidence, the necessity or duty of affirmatively proving a fact or facts in dispute on an issue raised between the parties in a lawsuit. The responsibility of proving a point or points: The level of the burden of proof for a type of case indicates the degree to which the point must be proven. Calendar - List of cases scheduled for hearing in court. Capital Crime - A crime possibly punishable by death.

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Caption - The heading on a legal document listing the parties, the court, the case number, and related information. Case Law - Law established by previous decisions of appellate courts. Cause - A lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice. Certified Cop y — A copy of a document with a certificate attesting to its accuracy and completeness by the officer who has custody of the original.

Denied - Stands for "certiorari denied"; a writ of certiorari is a discretionary method by which a superior court chooses the cases it wishes to hear. If an appellate court grants a writ of certiorari, it agrees to take the appeal. Usually refers to a request for the Supreme Court to review a decision of the Court of Appeals. Challenge - Term used in a jury trial for an attemp to exclude a potential juror. Challenge for Cause - Objection to the seating of a particular juror for a stated reason usually bias or prejudice for or against one of the parties in the lawsuit.

The judge has the discretion to deny the challenge. Distinguished from peremptory challenge, which they party can usually exercise as a matter of right. Change of Venue - Moving a lawsuit or criminal trial to another place for trial. Venue may be changed when a cases has received so much local publicity as to create a likelihood of bias in the jury pool.


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Charges multiple - A case with more than one count or offense listed on the court file. Charging Document - A citation, information, indictment or notice to appear, indicating that the named person committed a specific criminal offense or civil infraction. Chief Judge - Presiding or administrative judge in a court. Circumstantial Evidence - All evidence except eyewitness testimony. Evidence from which an inference must be drawn. Examples include documents, photographs, and physical evidence, such as fingerprints.

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Citation - A written notice to appear in court, usually to answer a violation of traffic law or other minor criminal laws. Civil Action - Non-criminal cases in which one private individual, business, or government sues another to protect, enforce, or redress private or civil rights. Civil Contempt — Contempt can be civil or criminal depending on the purpose the court seeks to achieve through its punishment.

Contempt is civil when the purpose of punishment is to coerce the defendant to perform an act previously ordered by the court, which the defendant has not done, such as paying child support. Compare with Criminal Contempt. Civil Procedure - The set of 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. Class Action - A lawsuit brought by one or more persons on behalf of a larger group. Clear and Convincing Evidence - Standard of proof commonly used in civil lawsuits and in regulatory agency appeals.

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. It may take the form of commutation or pardon. Closing Argument - The closing statement, by counsel, to the trier of facts after all parties have concluded their presentation of evidence. Collateral Estoppel — Rule that bars relitigation between the same parties of a particular issue or determinative fact when there is a prior judgment.

Commit - To send a person to prison, asylum, or reformatory by a court order.

follow It derives legal principles from the statements by judges in their written opinions, rather than from statutes enacted by legislative bodies. Commutation - The reduction of a sentence, as from death to life imprisonment. Co-Defendants - More than one person arrested and charged on the same criminal incident. See also contributory negligence. Compensatory Damages — Damages awarded to compensate the nonbreaching or injured party.

Due process prohibits the government from prosecuting a defendant who is not competent to stand trial.