This glossary is intended to provide the reader with generally accepted definitions of common legal terms. The Clerk of Courts does not guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information contained on this page. For matters pertaining to legal rights, interested parties should refer to the printed version of the appropriate official document or consult an attorney.
Terms beginning with:A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W -
Terms Beginning With A
Abatement - A suspension of court proceedings.
Abeyance - A temporary suspension or cessation. Example: A lawsuit or motion is kept in abeyance during settlement negotiations.
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.
Administration of estates - The management and settlement of the estate of an intestate, or testator who has no executor, performed under the supervision of a court, by a person duly qualified and legally appointed, and usually involving the collection of assets, payment of debts and claims against the estate, payment of estate taxes, and distribution of the remainder of the estate to those entitled.
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.
Adoption - The legal process by which a child or adult, who is not related by blood, may be brought into a family and given the rights and privileges of a natural child and heir.
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 of 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 decision of the trial court is correct.
Agent - One authorized by a party to act on that party's behalf.
Aid and abet - To actively, knowingly or intentionally assist another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime.
A/K/A - Also known as
Alias - 1. The second attempt of service of summons or other process. 2. A description of a person, especially a criminal defendant, that results from adding to his real name other names by which he is known.
Alimony- A payment of support provided by one spouse to another. Also know as spousal support.
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.
Amendment - Alteration of a law, resolution, or document.
Amicus curiae - A friend of the court. A non-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.
Ancillary Administration - Administration of an estate other than where the decedent was domiciled, taken in any foreign state or country where assets are locally situated, and is merely for the purpose of collecting assets and paying debts there.
Annulment - A legal decree that states that a marriage was never valid. Has the legal effect of wiping out a marriage as though it never existed.
Answer - The defendantís response to the plaintiffís 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 courtís procedure.
Appellee - The party against whom an appeal is taken. Sometimes called a respondent.
Arraignment - Appearance of the defendant in court to enter his/her plea to the charges.
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.
Arrest - To take into custody by legal authority.
A/S/O - As subrogee of.
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.
Assignment - The act of transferring an interest in property or a some right. The person with the right being transferred is called the assignor, and the person receiving the right is called the assignee.
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 personís property to satisfy a court-ordered debt.
Attestation of will - The act of witnessing the performance of statutory requirements to valid execute a will.
Attorney - A person with special education and training in the field of law who is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar and licensed to practice law in Florida. An attorney is the only person who is allowed to give you legal advice. An attorney may file your case and represent you in court, or just advise you of your rights before you file your own case. In addition to advising you of your rights, an attorney may tell you what to expect and help prepare you for court. Legal assistance is often available for those who are unable to hire a private attorney. You may consult the yellow pages of the telephone directory for a listing of legal aid or lawyer referral services in your area, or ask your local clerk of court what services are available in your area.
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 a written instrument called a power of attorney.
Attorney of record - The attorney retained or assigned to represent a client.
Terms Beginning With B
Bail - Cash or surety posted to procure the release of a defendant by insuring his/her future attendance court, and compelling him/her to remain in the jurisdiction of the court.
Bail bond - An obligation signed by the accused to secure his/her presence at the trial. This obligation means that the accused may lose money by not properly appearing for the trial. Often referred to simply as bond.
Bailiff - A court attendant who keeps order in the courtroom and has custody of 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. 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.
Bar - 1. Historically, the partition separating the general public from the space occupied by the judges, lawyers, and other participants in a trial. 2. More commonly, the term means the whole body of lawyers.
Bar examination - A state examination taken by prospective lawyers in order to be admitted and licensed to practice law.
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 - The seat occupied by the judge. More broadly, the court itself.
Bench trial - Trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts.
Bench warrant - Warrant of arrest ordered and signed by a judge (statewide warrant).
Beneficiary - Someone named to receive property or benefits in a will. In a trust, a person who is to receive benefits from the trust.
Bequeath - To give a gift to someone through a will.
Bequests - Gifts made in a will.
Best evidence - Primary evidence; the best evidence available. Evidence short of this is "secondary." That is, an original letter is "best evidence," and a photocopy is "secondary evidence."
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.
Bill of particulars - A statement of the details of the charge made against the defendant.
Bind over - To hold a person for trial on bond (bail) or in jail. If the judicial official conducting a hearing finds probable cause to believe the accused committed a crime, the official will bind over the accused, normally by setting bail for the accusedís appearance at trial.
Bona fide - In or with good faith, honesty, openly and sincerely, without deceit or fraud.
Bond (supersedeas) - The bond set by the court during the appeal procedure and posted with the Clerk of Court; the bond posted by a party against whom a judgment has been entered, when the party seeks to prevent the enforcement of that judgment.
Bond (surety) - A certificate posted by a bonding company to the sheriff for release of the defendant.
Bond amounts - Cash or surety to be posted for release on bail.
Booking - The process of photographing, fingerprinting and recording identifying data of a suspect. This process follows the arrest.
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 - The necessity or duty of affirmatively providing a fact or facts in dispute on an issue raised between the parties in a lawsuit. For example, in a civil case the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff, who must establish his/her case by such standards of proof as a preponderance of evidence or clear and convincing evidence.
Terms Beginning With C
Capital crime - A crime punishable by death.
C-4 motion - Motion to dismiss on grounds that there is no prima facie case of guilty (FRCP 3.190(C)(4)).
Calendar - List of cases scheduled for hearing in court.
Capias - - Literally, "that you take." Several writs and processes commanding the sheriff to take the person of the defendant are known by the name capias, e.g., capias ad respondendum, capias ad computandum, and capias ad satisfaciendum. A capias is also known as a bench warrant, which is used in situations where the person has appeared in court previously but failed to comply with certain court orders, i.e., failure to appear and failure to pay financial obligations. An instanter capias is an arrest order to bring the person before the court immediately, with no bond.
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, particularly the Supreme Court.
Cause - A lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice.
Caveat - 1. A warning; a note of caution. 2. If a person is apprehensive that a will may be admitted to probate, or an estate will be administered without that person's knowledge, he/she may file a caveat with the court. When a probate proceeding is opened, the court will notify that person of the opening.
Certified copy - A court document that is authenticated, signed and sealed by the clerk or deputy clerk.
Certiorari - A means of getting an appellate court to review a lower courtís decision. The loser of a case will often ask the appellate court to issue a writ of certiorari, which orders the lower court to convey the record of the case to the appellate court and to certify it as accurate and complete. If an appellate court grants a writ of certiorari, it agrees to take the appeal. This is often referred to as "granting cert."
Challenge - Term used in a jury trial when attempting 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. This differs from peremptory challenge.
Chambers - A judgeís private office. A hearing in chambers takes place in the judgeís office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.
Chancery - Equity court. Opposite of common law court with rules of civil procedure. Equity and law courts have merged at the procedural level, but equity substantive jurisprudence remains viable.
Change of venue - Moving a lawsuit or criminal trial to another place for trial.
Charge to the jury - The judgeís instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of the case on trial.
Charges (multiple) - A case with more than one count or offense listed on the court file.
Charging document - A citation, information, indictment, 923.01 or notice to appear, indicating that the named person committed a specific criminal offense or civil infraction.
Chief Judge - Presiding or administrative judge.
Child custody - Refers to the legal arrangements for whom a child will live with and how important decisions about a child will be made. There is legal custody (also known as shared parental responsibility, relating to how the decisions about the child will be made, and physical custody (also known as primary physical residency), relating to where the child will live on a regular basis. Generally, the parent with whom the child does not live will be awarded a schedule of visitation. The standard for custody is best interests of the child.
Child Support - A legal responsibility that both parents have to provide adequate financial support for the children until each reaches the age of emancipation or another age upon which the parties/court agree.
Child Support Guidelines- Each state has child support guidelines that must be followed in awarding child support. The guidelines are typically a formula based on number of children and combined parental income. There are limited circumstances in which the court can award child support higher or lower than the guidelines recommend.
Circumstantial evidence - All evidence except eyewitness testimony. One example is physical evidence, such as fingerprints, from which an inference can be drawn.
Citation - The summons handed to the defendant indicating the offense committed.
Civil action- Non-criminal cases in which one private individual or business sues another to protect, enforce, or redress private or civil rights.
Civil cover sheet - A document filed in a civil case, along with the initial pleadings, showing the case type and style and the attorney for the plaintiff, bar number, address, and phone number.
Civil procedure - The 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.
Claims - Liabilities of the decedent, whether arising in contract, tort, or otherwise, and funeral expenses. The term does not include expenses of administration or estate, inheritance, succession, or other death taxes.
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 cases. 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.
Clerk of courts - A constitutionally elected office in Florida, which has as a primary function the maintaining of court records.
Closing argument - The closing statement, by counsel, to the trier of facts after all parties have concluded their presentation of evidence.
Codicil - A supplement or an amendment to an existing will.
Commit - To send a person to prison, asylum, or reformatory by a court order.
Common law - The legal system that originated in England and is now in use in the United States. It is based on judicial decisions rather than legislative action.
Community control - A form of probation restricting the defendantís movements to an extreme degree.
Commutation - The reduction of a sentence, as from death to life imprisonment.
Companion cases or codefendants - More than one person arrested on the same criminal incident.
Comparative negligence - A legal doctrine by which acts of the opposing parties are compared to determine the liability of each party to the other, making each liable only for his/her percentage of fault. See contributory negligence.
Complaint - 1. The legal document that usually begins a civil lawsuit. It states the alleged facts and identifies the action the court is asked to take. 2. Formal written charge that a person has committed a criminal offense.
Complainant - The party who complains or sues; one who applies to the court for legal redress. Also called the plaintiff.
Conciliation - A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps lower tensions, improve communications, and explore possible solutions. Conciliation is similar to mediation, but it may be less formal.
Concurrent sentences - Sentences for more than one crime that are to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other.
Condemnation - The legal process by which the government takes private land for a public use, paying the owners a fair price as determined by the court.
Conflict attorney - One of a pool of attorneys appointed on rotation when a codefendant has the Public Defender.
Consecutive sentences - Successive sentences, one beginning at the expiration of another, imposed against a person convicted of two or more violations.
Conservatorship - Legal right given to a person to manage the property and financial affairs of a person deemed incapable of doing that for himself/herself. (See also guardianship. Conservators have somewhat less responsibility than guardians.)
Contempt of court - An act of disrespect to the court, willful disregard of the courtís authority.
Continuance - Deferring a trial or hearing to a later date.
Contract - A legally enforceable agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing.
Contributory negligence - A legal doctrine that says, if the plaintiff in a civil action for negligence also was negligent, he/she cannot recover damages from the defendant for the defendantís negligence. Most jurisdictions have abandoned the doctrine of contributory negligence in favor of comparative negligence.
Conviction - A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.
Corpus delicti - Body of the crime. The objective proof that a crime has been committed. It sometimes refers to the body of the victim of a homicide or to the charred shell of a burned house, but the term has a broader meaning. For the state to introduce a confession or to convict the accused, it must prove a corpus delicti, that is, the occurrence of a specific injury or loss and a criminal act as the source of that particular injury or loss.
Corroborating evidence - Supplementary evidence that tends to strengthen or confirm the initial evidence.
Counsel - Legal adviser; a term used to refer to lawyers in a case.
Counterclaim - A claim made by the defendant in a civil lawsuit against the plaintiff. In essence, a counter lawsuit within a lawsuit.
Court - Government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Judges sometimes use "court" to refer to themselves in the third person, as in "the court has read the brief."
Court administrator - An officer appointed by the court to oversee the administrative, non-judicial activities of the court.
Court costs - The expenses of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, other than the attorneys. fees. An amount of money may be awarded to the successful party (and may be recoverable from the losing party) as reimbursement for court cost.
Court date notice - A written form (usually mailed) that is used to bring the required person to court.
Court recorder - A deputy clerk who maintains the verbatim record of court proceedings on tape.
Court registry - An account established in the Clerk's Office to hold and disburse monies posted pursuant to statute.
Court reporter - A privately employed court person who maintains the verbatim record of court proceedings.
Creditor - An individual or entity to which an estate may be indebted.
Cross-claim - A claim by codefendants or coplaintiffs against each other and not against persons on the opposite side of the lawsuit.
Cross-examination - The questioning of a witness produced by the other side.
Cumulative sentences - Sentences for two or more crimes to run consecutively, rather than concurrently.
Curator - A person appointed by the court to take charge of the estate of a decedent until letters are issued.
Custody - Detaining of a person by lawful process or authority to assure his/her appearance to any hearing; the jailing or imprisonment of a person convicted of a crime.
Terms Beginning With D
D-6 - A court report to the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles of a personís failure to appear in court, leading to suspension of the driverís license.
Damages - Money awarded by a court to a person injured by the unlawful act or negligence of another person.
D/B/A - Doing business as.
Decedent - The person who has died.
Decision - The judgment reached or given by a court of law.
Decree - An order of the court. A final decree is one that fully and finally disposes of the litigation. An interlocutory decree is a preliminary order that often disposes of only part of a lawsuit.
Declaratory judgment - A judgment of the court that explains what the existing law is or expresses the opinion of the court without the need for enforcement.
Defamation - That which tends to injure a personís reputation. Libel is published defamation, whereas slander is spoken.
Default - A failure to respond to a lawsuit within the specified time.
Default judgment - A judgment entered against a party who fails to appear in court or respond to the charges.
Defendant - In a civil case, the person being sued. In a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.
Delinquency - A juvenile case charging a child with a misdemeanor or felony.
Demand for discovery - Demand by the defense attorney to the State Attorney to furnish material information on a case.
Demurrer - A legal attack on a document as to sufficiency.
De novo - A trial de novo is a new trial of a case.
Dependency - A juvenile case involving a child who has been abandoned, abused, or neglected.
Deposition - An oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to administer oaths. Such statements are taken to examine potential witnesses, to obtain discovery, to be used later in trial. Testimony of a witness other than in open court.
Descent and distribution - State laws that provide for the distribution of estate property of a person who dies without a will. Same as intestacy laws.
Detention hearing - A juvenile hearing that is held within 24 hours of arrest to determine probable cause.
Devise - 1. A testamentary disposition of real or personal property. 2. To dispose of real or personal property by a will. The term includes "gift", "give", "bequeath", "bequest", and "legacy".
Devisee - A person designated in a will to receive a devise.
Direct file - A phrase that denotes the action taken by the state attorney to file adult charges against a juvenile. Certain statutory criteria must be met.
Direct evidence - Proof of facts by witnesses who saw acts done or heard words spoken.
Direct examination - The first questioning of witnesses by the party on whose behalf they are called.
Directed verdict - Now called judgment as a matter of law. An instruction by the judge to the jury to return a specific verdict.
Disbarment - Form of discipline of a lawyer resulting in the loss (often permanently) of that lawyerís right to practice law. It differs from censure (an official reprimand or condemnation) and from suspension (a temporary loss of the right to practice law.)
Discharge of bond - A court order to release a bond.
Disclaimer - The rejection, refusal, or renunciation of a claim, power, or property.
Discovery - Pretrial device used by both parties to obtain facts about the case to prepare for trial. Includes depositions, interrogatories, requests for admission, etc.
Dismissal - Termination of a lawsuit. A dismissal without prejudice allows a lawsuit to be brought before the court again at a later time. In contrast, a dismissal with prejudice prevents the lawsuit from being brought before a court in the future.
Dissent - To disagree. An appellate court opinion setting forth the minority view and outlining the disagreement of one or more judges with the decision of the majority.
Disposition - The sentencing or other final settlement of a case.
Diversion - The process of removing some minor criminal, traffic or juvenile cases from the full judicial process, on the condition that the accused undergo some sort of rehabilitation or make restitution for damages.
DJJ - The Department of Juvenile Justice.
DOC - The Department of Corrections - state prison facility.
Docket - A list of cases to be heard by a court or a log containing brief entries of court proceedings.
Docket sounding - The proceeding in which a judge assigns trial dates or takes pleas.
Domicile - The place where a person has his/her permanent legal home. A person may have several residences, but only one domicile.
Double jeopardy - Putting a person on trial more than once for the same crime. It is forbidden by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Due process of law - The right of all persons to receive the guarantees and safeguards of the law and the judicial process. It includes such constitutional requirements as adequate notices, assistance of counsel, and the rights to remain silent, to a speedy and public trial, to an impartial jury and to confront and secure witnesses.
Terms Beginning With E
Ejectment- A lawsuit brought to remove a party who is occupying real property. This is not the same as an unlawful detainer (eviction) suit against a non-paying or unsatisfactory tenant. Example: George Grabby lives on land he claims he has inherited from his uncle, but Frank Farmer sues for ejectment claiming that he is entitled to the property through his parents.
Elective share- A widow's statutory prescribed share.
Elements of a crime- Specific factors that define a crime the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. The elements that must be proven are (1) that a crime has actually occurred, (2) that the accused intended the crime to happen, and (3) a timely relationship between the first two factors.
Emancipation - When a minor has achieved independence from his or her parents, often by having a court enter a judgment of emancipation, getting married before reaching age 18, or by becoming fully self-supporting.
Eminent domain- The power of the government to take private property for public use through condemnation.
En banc- All the judges of a court sitting together. Appellate courts can consist of a dozen or more judges, but often they hear cases in panels of three judges. If a case is heard or reheard by the full court, it is heard en banc.
Enjoining- An order by the court telling a person to stop performing a specific act.
Entrapment- A defense to criminal charges alleging that agents of the government induced a person to commit a crime he/she otherwise would not have committed.
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. Court decisions have established that this guarantee requires that courts be open to all persons on the same conditions, with like rules of evidence and modes of procedure; that persons be subject to no restrictions in the acquisition of property, the enjoyment of personal liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which do not generally affect others; that persons are liable to no other or greater burdens than such are laid upon others, and that no different or greater punishment is enforced against them for a violation of the laws.
Equitable Distribution - The fair, but not necessarily equal, division between former spouses of property acquired during the marriage.
Equity- Generally, justice or fairness. Historically, equity refers to a separate body of law developed in England in reaction to the inability of the common-law courts, in their strict adherence to rigid writs and forms of action, to consider or provide a remedy for every injury. The king therefore established the court of chancery to do justice between parties in cases were the common law would give inadequate redress. The principle of this system of law is that equity will find a way to achieve a lawful result when legal procedure is inadequate. Equity and law courts are now merged in most jurisdictions.
Escheat- The process by which a deceased personís property goes to the state if no heir can be found.
Escrow- Money or a written instrument such as a deed that, by agreement between two parties, is held by a neutral third party (held in escrow) until all conditions of the agreement are met.
Estate- An estate consists of personal property (car, household items, and other tangible items), real property and intangible property, such as stock certificates and bank accounts, owned in the individual name of a person at the time of the personís death. It does not include life insurance proceeds unless the estate was made the beneficiary) or other assets that pass outside the estate (like a joint tenancy asset.)
Estate tax- Generally, a tax on the privilege of transferring property to others after a personís death. In addition to federal estate taxes, many states have their own estate taxes.
Estoppel- A personís own act, or acceptance of facts, which preclude his or her later making claims to the contrary.
Estreature- Literally, the taking out of a forfeited bond from other court records for the purpose of prosecution in another court. In common law England, a defendant could be tried before the court of common pleas, but if he fled and proceedings were instituted to forfeit his bond, the file would be "estreated" to the court of exchequer (a revenue court). Similarly, in Florida, when a criminal defendant fails to appear, forfeiture proceedings begin in the criminal case but are later pursued in a circuit civil case. However, because there are no longer any exchequer courts in the United States, the word "estreature" has largely been replaced by the word "forfeiture".
Et al- All others.
Eviction- The act of kicking out someone from real property by legal action. Most frequently consists of ousting a tenant who has breached the terms of a lease or rental agreement by not paying rent, or a tenant who has stayed after the term of the lease has expired or only had a month-to-month tenancy.
Evidence- Testimony or exhibits received by the court at any stage of court proceedings.
Exceptions- Declarations by either side in a civil or criminal case reserving the right to appeal a judgeís ruling upon a motion. Also, in regulatory cases, objections by either side to points made by the other side or to rulings by the agency or one of its hearing officers.
Execute- To complete the legal requirements (such as signing before witnesses) that make a will valid. Also, to execute a judgment or decree means to put the final judgment of the court into effect.
Executor- A personal representative, named in a will, who administers an estate.
Exempt property- 1. In bankruptcy proceedings, this refers to certain property protection by law from the reach of creditors. 2. In probation proceedings, this refers to estate property not subject to probate.
Ex parte- On behalf of only one party, without notice to any other party. For example, a request for a search warrant is an ex parte proceeding, since the person subject to the search is not notified of the proceeding and is not present at the hearing.
Ex parte proceeding- The legal procedure in which only one side is represented. It differs from the adversary system or adversary proceeding.
Ex post facto- After the fact. The Constitution prohibits the enactment of ex post facto laws. These are laws that permit conviction and punishment for a lawful act performed before the law was changed and the act made illegal.
Exclusionary rule- The rule preventing illegally obtained evidence to be used in any trial.
Execution -A writ to put in force the sentence that the law has given, addressed to the sheriff/marshal, commanding him either to give the plaintiff possession of lands; to enforce the delivery of goods that were the subject of the action; to levy the debt or damages and costs recovered for the plaintiff; or to levy costs for the defendant.
Exemplified copy- Also know as an apostille, which is a French word meaning certification. It is commonly used to refer to the legalization of a document for international use under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention, Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization by a consular officer of Foreign Public Documents. With this certification, the document is entitled to recognition in the country of intended use, and no legalization by the embassy or consulate of the foreign country where the document is to be used is required. In other words, when a document is to be used in a foreign country, it may be necessary to authenticate the notarization or certification. Foreign countries often require documents to be authenticated before the documents will be accepted in the foreign jurisdiction. An "authentication" certifies the signature and the position of the official who has executed, issued or certified a copy of a document. The sole function of the apostille is to certify the authenticity of the signature on the document; the capacity in which the person signing the document acted; and the identity of any stamp or seal affixed to the document.
Exhibits- Any paper or object offered in court that is marked for identification or evidence.
Exonerate- Removal of a charge, responsibility or duty.
Expunction/Expungement- Official and formal erasure of a record or partial contents of a record.
Extenuating circumstances- Circumstances which render a crime less aggravated, heinous, or reprehensible than it would otherwise be.
Extradition- Surrender by one state to another of a person accused or convicted of an offense outside its own territory and within territorial jurisdiction of the other, with the other state which is competent to try him/her, demanding his/her surrender.
Extraordinary writs- Orders commanding a person or entity to perform or to refrain from performing a particular act. These writs, which bear names as ancient as their common-law origins, have been considered indispensable to our legal system, and the Constitution specifically authorizes their issuance in a proper case without the necessity of having to proceed initially to trial. They are by nature "extraordinary", and for that reason are not available as an alternative to the usual trial and appeal. Both by their historical development and by current judicial decisions, the writs are made available only in a narrow class of exceptional cases. They include prohibition, quo warrant, mandamus, and habeas corpus.
Terms Beginning With F
Felony- A crime more serious than a misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of possible incarceration in a state prison facility.
Fee simple - The greatest possible estate in land, wherein the owner has the right to use it, exclusively possess it, commit waste upon it, dispose of it by deed or will, and take its fruits. A fee simple represents absolute ownership of land, and therefore the owner may do whatever he or she chooses with the land. If an owner of a fee simple dies intestate, the land will descend to the heirs.
F/D/B/A- Formerly doing business as.
Fictitious name- The name of a business given by the owner when the business is not incorporated.
Fiduciary- A person having a legal relationship of trust and confidence to another and having a duty to act primarily for the otherís benefit: i.e., a guardian, trustee or executor.
File- To place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of court/court administrator to enter into the files or records of a case.
Filed in open court- Court documents entered into the file in court.
Finding- Formal conclusion by a judge or regulatory agency on issues of fact. Also, a conclusion by a jury regarding a fact.
First appearance- The initial appearance of an arrested person before a judge to determine whether or not there is probable cause for his/her arrest. Generally, the person comes before a judge within hours of the arrest. Also called initial appearance.
F/K/A- Formerly known as.
Foreign guardian- A guardian appointed in another state or country.
Foreign judgment- A recorded judgment from another county or state, recorded in the county in which a party wishes to enforce that judgment.
Forfeiture- The loss of property or a privilege due to breaking a law.
Fraud- Intentional deception to deprive another person of property or to injure that person in some way.
Freehold - Any interest in real property which is a life estate or of uncertain or undetermined duration (having no stated end), as distinguished from a leasehold which may have declining value toward the end of a long-term lease (such as the 99-year variety).
F/U/B/O- For the use and benefit of.
Fugitive- A person who flees from one state to another to avoid prosecution.
Terms Beginning With G
Garnishment - A legal proceeding in which a debtorís money, in the possession of another (called the garnishee), is applied to the debts of the debtor, such as when an employer garnishes a debtorís wages.
General jurisdiction- Refers to courts that have no limit on the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear.
General magistrate- A judicial officer appointed by the court to hear cases and enter recommended orders, which, when approved by the court, become the decision of the court. Similar to a hearing officer.
Good/Gain time- A reduction in sentenced time in prison as a reward for good behavior. It usually is one-third to one-half off the maximum sentence.
Grand jury- A jury of inquiry of not more than 21 and not less than 15 persons, with at least 12 concurring before an indictment may be returned.
Grantor- The person who sets up a trust.
Guardian- 1. A person appointed by will or by law to assume responsibility for incompetent adults or minor children. If a parent dies, this will usually be the other parent. If both die, it probably will be a close relative. 2. Legal right given to a person to be responsible for the food, housing, health care, and other necessities of a person deemed incapable of providing these necessities for himself/herself. A guardian also may be given responsibility for the person's financial affairs, and thus perform additionally as a conservator.
Terms Beginning With H
Habeas corpus - A writ used as a means to bring a person before the court to determine whether he/she is being detained unlawfully.
Harmless error- An error committed during a trial that was corrected or was not serious enough to affect the outcome of a trial and therefore was not sufficiently harmful (prejudicial) to be reversed on appeal.
Hearing- Proceeding before a judge, in chambers or in court, at which testimony and evidence can be offered.
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.
Heirs- Individuals entitled by law to inherit from another.
Homestead- Property that is set aside for the benefit of specific family members, and which cannot be transferred by the decedent to a third party. As long as the homestead does not exceed in area or value the limits fixed by law, in most states it is exempt from forced sale for collection of a debt.
Hostile witness- A witness whose testimony is not favorable to the party who calls him/her as a witness. A hostile witness may be asked leading questions and may be cross-examined by the party who calls him/her to the stand.
Hung jury- Jury unable to reach a verdict.
Terms Beginning With I
Immunity - Grant by the court, which assures someone will not face prosecution in return for providing criminal evidence.
Impeachment of a witness- An attack on the credibility (believability) of a witness, through evidence introduced for that purpose.
Implied consent- Requirement to take a chemical test when arrested for driving under the influence.
Inadmissible- That which, under the rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or received as evidence.
In camera- In chambers, or in private. A hearing in camera takes place in the judgeís office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.
Incapacitated person- A person who has been judicially determined to lack the capacity to manage at least some of the property or to meet at least some of the essential health and safety requirements of such person.
Incarcerate- To confine in jail.
In custody arraignments (jail cases)- Arrests and filed cases going to court in which there has not been a release on bond or by other means.
Independent executor- A special kind of executor, permitted by the laws of certain states, who performs the duties of an executor without intervention by the court.
Indeterminate sentence- A sentence of imprisonment to a specified minimum and maximum period of time, specifically authorized by statute, subject to termination by a parole board or other authorized agency after the prisoner has served the minimum term.
Indictment- A formal charging document issued by a grand jury to the court, that the named person committed a specific offense.
Indigent- A party who is financially unable to pay case filing fees.
In forma pauperis- In the manner of a pauper. Permission given to a person to sue without payment of court fees on claim of indigence or poverty.
Information- A formal charging document issued by the State Attorney, that the named person committed a specific offense.
Infraction- A violation of law not punishable by imprisonment. Minor traffic offenses generally are considered infractions.
Inheritance tax- A state tax on property that an heir or beneficiary under a will receives from a deceased personís estate. The heir or beneficiary pays this tax.
Initial appearance- In criminal law, the hearing at which a judge determines whether there is sufficient evidence against a person charged with a crime to hold him/her for trial. The Constitution bans secret accusations, so initial appearances are public unless the defendant asks otherwise; the accused must be present, though he/she usually does not offer evidence. Also called first appearance.
Initial proceedings- The first court appearance of a defendant on a charge.
Injunction- Writ or order by a court prohibiting a specific action from being carried out by a person or group. A preliminary injunction is granted provisionally, until a full hearing can be held to determine if it should be made permanent.
Instructions- Judgeís explanation to the jury before it begins deliberations of the questions it must answer and the applicable law governing the case. Also called charge to the jury.
Intangible assets- Nonphysical items such as stock certificates, bonds, bank accounts, and pension benefits that have value and must be taken into account in estate planning.
Interlocutory order- An order that does not decide the case, but only settles some issue relating to the case.
Interpleader- A form of action originally developed under equity jurisprudence. It allows a plaintiff to initiate a lawsuit to compel two or more other parties to litigate a dispute. An interpleader action originates when the plaintiff holds property on behalf of another, but does not know to whom the property should be transferred. It is often used to resolve disputes arising under insurance contracts.
Interrogatories- Written questions asked by one party in a lawsuit for which the opposing party must provide written answers.
Intervention- An action by which a third person who may be affected by a lawsuit is permitted to become a party to the suit. Differs from the process of becoming an amicus curiae.
Inter vivos gift- A gift made during the giverís life.
Inter vivos trust- Another name for living trust.
Intestate- Dying without having a will.
Inventory- A detailed list of articles of property, with estimated values, that constitute an estate.
Invoke the rule- Separation and exclusion of witnesses from the courtroom.
Irreconcilable differences- Broad basis for a claim of divorce to include reasons for marital discord and make irrelevant questions of fault by the parties
Irrevocable trust- A trust that, once set up, the grantor may not revoke.
Issue- 1. The disputed point in a disagreement between parties in a lawsuit. 2. To send out officially, as in to issue an order.
Terms Beginning With J
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.
Joint tenancy- A form of legal co-ownership of property (also known as survivorship). At the death of one co-owner, the surviving co-owner becomes sole owner of the property. Tenancy by the entirety is a special form of joint tenancy between a husband and wife.
Judge- An elected or appointed public official with authority to hear and decide cases in a court of law. A judge pro tem is a temporary judge.
Judgment- The first disposition of a lawsuit. Default judgment is a judgment rendered because of the defendantís failure to answer or appear. Summary Judgment is a judgment given on the basis of pleadings, affidavits, and exhibits presented for the record without any need for a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case and one party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Consent judgment occurs when the provisions and terms of the judgment are agreed on by the parties and submitted to the court for its sanction and approval.
Judgment and sentence- The official document of a judgeís disposition of a case sentencing a defendant to DOC or jail custody.
Judicial review- The authority of a court to review the official actions of other branches of government. Also, the authority to declare unconstitutional the actions of other branches.
Jurat- Certificate of officer or person whom writing was sworn before. In common term is employed to designate certificate of competent administering office that writing was sworn to by person who signed it.
Jurisdiction- 1. The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case. Concurrent jurisdiction exists when two courts have simultaneous responsibility for the same case. 2. The geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases.
Jurisprudence- The study of law and the structure of the legal system.
Juror disqualified- Juror excused from a trial.
Jury- Persons selected according to law and sworn to inquire into and declare a verdict on matters of fact. A petit jury is an ordinary or trial jury, composed of six to 12 persons, which hears either civil or criminal cases.
Jury polled- Each individual juror is asked to affirm his or her verdict in open court at the conclusion of a trial.
Jury selection list- A panel from which jurors, who will hear the case, are drawn.
Jury trial -A trial in which the jury judges the facts and the judge rules on the law.
Justiciable- Issues and claims capable of being properly examined in court.
Juvenile- A child under 18 years of age.
Terms Beginning With K
Kangaroo court -- Term descriptive of a sham legal proceeding in which a personís rights are totally disregarded and in which the result is a foregone conclusion because of the bias of the court or other tribunal.
Knowingly and willfully-- This phrase, in reference to violation of a statute, means consciously and intentionally.
Terms Beginning With L
Lapsed gift - A gift made in a will to a person who has died prior to the will-makerís death.
Larceny- Obtaining property by fraud or deceit.
Law- The combination of those rules and principles of conduct promulgated by legislative authority, derived from court decisions and established by local custom.
Law clerks- Persons trained in the law who assist judges in researching legal opinions.
Leading question- A question that suggests the answer desired of the witness. A party generally may not ask oneís own witness leading questions. Leading questions may be asked only of hostile witnesses and on cross-examination.
Legal aid- Professional legal services available usually to persons or organizations unable to afford such services.
Leniency- Recommendation for a sentence less than the maximum allowed.
Lesser-included offense- Any lesser offense included in the statute under the original charge.
Letters of administration- Legal document issued by a court that shows an administratorís legal right to take control of assets in the deceased personís name.
Letters of guardianship- Legal document issued by a court to places the ward's property in the care of an officer of the court.
Letters testamentary- Legal document issued by a court that shows an executorís legal right to take control of assets in the deceased personís name.
Levy Ė 1.To gather or exact money. 2. To take or seize on execution; to collect by execution.
Liable- Legally responsible.
Libel- Published words or pictures that falsely and maliciously defame a person. Libel is published defamation; slander is spoken.
Lien- A legal claim against another personís property as security for a debt. A lien does not convey ownership of the property, but gives the lien holder a right to have his or her debt satisfied out of the proceeds of the property if the debt is not otherwise paid.
Limine- A motion requesting that the court not allow certain evidence that might prejudice the jury.
Limited jurisdiction- Refers to courts that are limited in the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. For example, limited jurisdiction courts generally hear traffic violations.
Lis pendens- A pending suit. Jurisdiction, power, or control that courts acquire over property in a suit pending action and until final judgment. Notice of Lis Pendens: A notice filed on public records for the purpose of warning all persons that the title to certain property is in litigation, and that they are in danger of being bound by an adverse judgment. The notice is for the purpose of preserving rights pending litigation.
Litigant- A party to a lawsuit. Litigation refers to a case, controversy, or lawsuit.
Living trust- A trust set up and in effect during the lifetime of the grantor. Also called inter vivos trust.
Terms Beginning With M
Malfeasance- Evil doing, ill conduct; the commission of some act that is positively prohibited by law.
Malicious prosecution- An action instituted with intention of injuring the defendant and without probable cause, and which terminates in favor of the person prosecuted.
Mandate- The official decree by a court of appeal.
Manslaughter- The unlawful killing of another without intent to kill; either voluntary (upon a sudden impulse); or involuntary (during the commission of an unlawful act not ordinarily expected to result in great bodily harm.)
Mediation- A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps them agree on a settlement.
Memorialized- In writing.
Mens rea- The "guilty mind" necessary to establish criminal responsibility.
Minor- A person under the age of 18 years, whose disabilities have not been removed by marriage or otherwise.
Miranda warning- Requirement that police tell a suspect in their custody of his/her constitutional rights before they question him/her. So named as a result of the Miranda v. Arizona ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Misdemeanor- An offense punishable by not more than one year in county jail and $1,000 fine.
Mistrial- An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again from the selection of the jury.
Mitigating circumstances- Those which do not constitute a justification or excuse for an offense but which may be considered as reasons for reducing the degree of blame.
Mittimus- The name of an order in writing, issuing from a court and directing the sheriff or other officer to convey a person to a prison, asylum, or reformatory, and directing the jailer or other appropriate official to receive and safely keep the person until his or her fate shall be determined by due course of law.
Moot- A moot case or a moot point is one not subject to a judicial determination because it involves an abstract question or a pretended controversy that has not yet actually arisen or has already passed. Mootness usually refers to a courtís refusal to consider a case because the issue involved has been resolved prior to the courtís decision, leaving nothing that would be affected by the courtís decision.
Motion- Oral or written request made by a party to an action before, during, or after a trial, upon which a court issues a ruling or order.
Motion in limine- Motion for order against admission or prejudicial statements or questions.
Motion for postconviction relief- A motion filed after disposition under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.800 (motion to correct/modify sentence); 3.850 (motion to correct sentence/vacate conviction); 3.851 (motion to correct sentence/vacate conviction in death penalty cases); 3.852 (capital postconviction public records production); or 3.853 (DNA testing).
Motion to mitigate sentence- A motion to reduce the sentence.
Motion to seal/expunge- A motion to close records to public inspection.
Motion to suppress- A motion to prevent admission of evidence in a case.
Murder- The unlawful killing of a human being with deliberate intent to kill. Murder in the first degree is characterized by premeditation; murder in the second degree is characterized by a sudden and instantaneous intent to kill or to cause injury without caring whether the injury kills or not.
Terms Beginning With N
Ne exeat republica- Also known by its shortened form of "ne exeat", is or was a chancery writ in common law countries, a writ in equity, issued under a court's equitable jurisdiction. The writ's name comes from the Latin phrase for 'let him not exit the republic'. No longer widely used in many jurisdictions, the aim of the writ is to prevent the removal of a party or of disputed property from a court's jurisdiction. In the US it is still provided for in the Internal Revenue Code and is also used in child custody cases to refer to a parent's right to control the child's place of residence.
Negligence- Failure to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances.
Next friend- One acting without formal appointment as guardian for the benefit of an infant, a person of unsound mind not judicially declared incompetent, or other person under some disability.
N/K/A- Now known as.
No contest clause- Language in a will that provides that a person who makes a legal challenge to the willís validity will be disinherited.
No fault proceedings- A civil case in which parties may resolve their dispute without a formal finding of error or fault.
No information- Also referred to as ďno actionĒ. The voluntary termination of proceedings by the State Attorney. The document filed by the State that advises a person who has been arrested that no formal charges (via an information or indictment) will be filed. Purchase v. State, 866 So. 2nd 208 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004).
No probable cause- Insufficient grounds to hold the person who was arrested.
No true bill- A finding by a grand jury that there is no probable cause to decide that a crime has been committed.
Nolle prosequi- The dismissal of a pending information or indictment. Genden v. Fuller, 648 So. 2d 1183, 1183 n.1 (Fla. 1994); Allied Fidelity Ins. Co. v. State for Use and Benefit of Dade County, 408 So. 2d 756 n.1 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982). The formal entry on the record by the State that there will be no further prosecution of either the entire case, some of the counts, or some of the defendants. Babun v. State, 576 So. 2d 377 n.1 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991).
Nolo contendere- A person neither admits nor denies the charges, letting them stand as is.
Non-jury trial- A case tried by a judge.
Notice- Formal notification to the party that has been sued in a civil case of the fact that the lawsuit has been filed. Also, any form of notification of a legal proceeding.
Nuncupative will- An oral (unwritten) will.
Nunc pro tunc- An entry made now for an act done previously and to have the effect as if it were done on a prior date.
Terms Beginning With O
Oath- Sworn attestation, usually administered by the in-court clerk.
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.
On a personís 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.
Ore tenus motion- An oral motion before the court.
Opinion- A judgeís 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 Ďíof the court.íí
Oral argument- An opportunity for lawyers to summarize their positions before the court and also to answer the judgesí questions.
Order- A written or oral command from a court directing or forbidding an action.
Order to show cause- An order directing a party to appear and show why some action should not be taken against him/her.
Overrule- A judgeís decision not to allow an objection. Also, a decision by a higher court finding that a lower court decision was in error.
Terms Beginning With P
Parens patriae - The doctrine under which the court protects the interests of a juvenile.
Parole- The supervised conditional release of a prisoner before the expiration of his/her sentence. If the parolee observes the conditions, he/she need not serve the rest of his/her term.
Partition- A judicial separation of the respective interests in land of joint owners or tenants in common.
Party- A person, business, or government agency actively involved in the prosecution or defense of a legal proceeding.
Patent- A government grant giving an inventor the exclusive right to make or sell his/her invention for a term of years.
Perjury- The criminal offense of making a false statement under oath.
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 injunction.
Personal property- Tangible physical property (such as cars, clothing, furniture and jewelry) and intangible personal property. This does not include real property such as land or rights in land.
Personal recognizance- In criminal proceedings, the pretrial release of a defendant without bail upon his/her promise to return to court. See also own recognizance.
Personal representative- The person who administers an estate. If named in a will, that personís title is an executor. If there is no valid will, that personís 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. Typical status offenses are habitual truancy. Violating a curfew, or running away from home. These are not crimes, but they might be enough to place a child under supervision. In different states, status offenders might be called children in need of supervision or minors in need of supervision.
Per stirpes- To distribute a share to a descendent of a deceased beneficiary.
Petition- A written request to the court for an order.
Petitioner- The person filing an action in a court of original jurisdiction. Also, the person who appeals the judgment of a lower court. The opposing party is called the respondent.
Pick up order- A court order directing the sheriff or other law enforcement officer to "pick up" a minor child from the person who currently has possession of the child and to deliver the child to a person who has a pre-existing right to physical possession of the child. This generally means that the person with the pre-existing right has a court order awarding legal custody, or is a birth parent of a child born out of wedlock and no court order has addressed any other person's parental rights.
Plaintiff- The person who files the complaint in a civil lawsuit. Also called the complainant.
Plea- In a criminal proceeding, in open court, a defendant's answer to the charge - guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere.
Plea-bargaining or plea negotiating- The process through which an accused person and a prosecutor negotiate a mutually satisfactory disposition of a case. Usually it is a legal transaction in which a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for some form of leniency. It often involves a guilty plea to lesser charges or a guilty plea to some of the charges if other charges are dropped. Such bargains are not binding on the court.
Plea negotiation- Negotiations arrived at by the state and the defense for a fair disposition of the case and requiring approval by the court.
Pleadings- The written statements of fact and law filed by the parties to a lawsuit.
Pluries- The third or further attempts at service of process.
Points- Penalty imposed by the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles after conviction in traffic court.
Polling the jury- The act, after a jury verdict has been announced, of asking jurors individually whether they agree with the verdict.
Pour-over will- A will that leaves some or all estate assets to a trust established before the will-makerís death.
Power of attorney- Formal authorization of a person to act in the interests of another person. A power of attorney can be limited, general, or durable. Limited and general powers of attorney terminate if/when a person becomes incapacitated, whereas a durable power of attorney remains effective even if the person becomes incapacitated.
Praecipe- A writ commanding the Clerk of Court to issue a subpoena or summons.
Precedent- A previously decided case that guides the decision of future cases.
Preemptory challenge- A challenge that may be used to reject a certain number of prospective jurors without giving a reason.
Pre-injunction- 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.
Prejudice- When a final order is "with prejudice", the case may not be refiled. When a final order is "without prejudice", the case may be refiled.
Preliminary hearing- Another term for arraignment.
Preneed guardian- A person named in a written declaration to serve as guardian in the event of the incapacity of the declarant.
Preponderance of the evidence- Greater weight of the evidence; the common standard of proof in civil cases.
Presentence investigation- A background investigation of the defendant by the Department of Corrections, returnable to the sentencing judge on or before a certain date.
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 criminal activity.
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- A meeting between the judge and the lawyers involved in a lawsuit to narrow the issues in the suit, agree on what will be presented at the trial, and make a final effort to settle the case without a trial.
Pretrial intervention- A county program to aid certain qualifying defendants by diverting them from court proceedings upon successful completion of the program.
Pretrial release (PTR)- Release by sheriffís personnel after arrest and before any court appearance, setting a court appearance date.
Prima facie- On the face of it - factually
Probate- 1. The court-supervised process by which a will is determined to be the will-makerís final statement regarding how the will maker wants his/her property distributed. It also confirms the appointment of the personal representative of the estate. 2. The process by which assets are gathered; applied to pay debts, taxes, and the expenses of administration; and distribution to those designated as beneficiaries in the will.
Probate estate- Estate property that may be disposed of by a will.
Probable cause- Reasonable belief that a crime was committed and that the named person committed the crime.
Probation- Suspension of sentence with or without adjudication and placing the defendant under supervision of the Department of Corrections for a specified period of time and possible conditions.
Pro bono publico- For the public good. Lawyers representing clients without a fee are said to be working pro bono publico.
Progress docket- The computer printout of chronological activity in a case.
Pro hac vice- A Latin phrase, meaning literally "for this one particular occasion." The phrase usually refers to an out-of-state lawyer who has been granted special permission to participate in a particular case, even though the lawyer is not licensed to practice in the state where the case is being tried.
Pro se- In oneís own behalf.
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 act that caused an event to occur. A person generally is liable only if an injury was proximately caused by his/her action or by his/her failure to act when he/she had a duty to act.
Public defender- A court-appointed attorney for those defendants who are declared indigent.
Terms Beginning With Q
Quash - To vacate or void a summons, subpoena, etc.
Qui tam- Short for "qui tam pro domino rege quam pro seipse", meaning "he who as much for the king as himself." Action by a private individual with knowledge of a fraud on the government to sue for damages.
Quid pro quo- The giving of one valuable thing for another.
Quiet title action- Removing a cloud from title by court action.
Quit claim- Giving up one's claim or title. A quitclaim deed transfers the owner's interest to a buyer but does not guarantee that there are no other claims against the property.
Terms Beginning With R
Real property - Land, buildings, and other improvements affixed to the land.
Reasonable doubt- An accused person is entitled to acquittal if, in the minds of the jury, his/her guilt has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Reasonable person- A phrase used to denote a hypothetical person who exercises qualities of attention, knowledge, intelligence, and judgment that society requires of its members for the protection of their own interest and the interests of others. For example, the test of negligence is based on either a failure to do something that a reasonable person, guided by considerations that ordinarily regulate conduct, would do, or on the doing of something that a reasonable person would not do.
Rebut- Evidence disproving other evidence previously given or reestablishing the credibility of challenged evidence.
Recall order- Court order recalling a warrant or capias.
Record- All the documents and evidence plus transcripts of oral proceedings in a case.
Recusal- A judge excusing himself/herself from a case.
Redemption- To purchase back; to regain possession by payment of a stipulated price; to repurchase.
Redress- To set right; to remedy; to compensate; to remove the causes of a grievance.
Redirect examination- Opportunity to present rebuttal evidence after oneís evidence has been subjected to cross-examination.
Rehearing- Another hearing of a civil or criminal case by the same court in which the case was originally heard.
Rejoinder- Opportunity for the side that opened the case to offer limited response to evidence presented during the rebuttal by the opposing side.
Release on own recognizance (ROR)- Release of a prisoner by a judge with no bond requirement.
Remand- 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 courtís ruling.
Remedy- Legal or judicial means by which a right or privilege is enforced or the violation of a right or privilege is prevented, redressed, or compensated.
Remission- Release from a debt, penalty, or obligation.
Remittitur- The reduction by a judge of the damages awarded by a jury.
Removal- The transfer of a state case to federal court for trial; in civil cases, because the parties are from different states; in criminal and some civil cases, because there is a significant possibility that there could not be a fair trial in state court.
Rendition- Transfer of a fugitive from the asylum state to the demanding state.
Replevin- An action for the recovery of a possession that has been wrongfully taken.
Reply- The response by a party to charges raised in a pleading by the other party.
Rescind- To cancel, revoke, terminate.
Respondent- The person against whom an appeal is taken. See petitioner.
Rest- A party is said to rest or rest its case when it has presented all the evidence it intends to offer.
Retainer- Act of the client in employing the attorney or counsel, and also denotes the fee which the client pays when he/she retains the attorney to act for him/her.
Restitution- Act giving the equivalent for any loss, damage or injury.
Return- A report to a judge by police on the implementation of an arrest or search warrant. Also, a report to a judge in reply to a subpoena, civil or criminal.
Reverse- An action of a higher court in setting aside or revoking a lower court decision.
Reversible error- A procedural error during a trial or hearing sufficiently harmful to justify reversing the judgment of a lower court.
Revocable trust- A trust that the grantor may change or revoke.
Revoke- To cancel or nullify a legal document.
Robbery- Felonious taking of anotherís property, from his or her person or immediate presence and against his or her will, by means of force or fear.
Rule nisi- Nisi itself simply means "unless". The word nisi is usually attached to the words "rule", "order", "judgment", etc., to indicate that the adjudication referred to is one that will stand as valid UNLESS the party affected by it appears and shows cause against it, or takes some other appropriate step to avoid it. So, when a rule nisi is finally confirmed, for the defendant's failure to show cause against it, it is said to be made absolute.
Rules of evidence- Standards governing whether evidence in civil or criminal case is admissible.
Terms Beginning With S
Satisfaction- The document prepared, filed and recorded when a judgment debtor pays a judgment in full.
Scoresheet- Uniform guidelines for sentencing using points system mandated by the Legislature.
Seal- The Clerk of Court symbol of authenticity.
Sealing- The sealing of a court record limits public access to a particular document, file, or case type, and is effectuated through court order.
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-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.
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 makerís death.
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.
Separation- When spouses no longer cohabitate.
Sequester- To separate. Sometimes juries are separated from outside influences during their deliberations in a highly publicized trial. Witnesses can also be sequestered except for their time on the stand, to prevent influence by the testimony of prior witnesses.
Sequestration- The act of removing, separating or seizing anything from the possession of its owner; the taking possession of property under process of law for the benefit of creditors or the state.
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.
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 anotherís 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.
State Attorney's Office- The office that determines whether to file criminal charges.
Statement of claim- A right to payment filed by a creditor against a decedent's estate.
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.
Style of the case- Refers to the case heading, put at the top of all pleadings filed in the case; usually includes the court in which the case is filed, the name of the parties, and the case number.
Sua sponte- A Latin phrase which means on oneís 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.
Subrogation- The substitution of one person in the place of another regarding a lawful claim, so that the person substituted (subrogee) assumes the rights of the other (subrogor), in return for paying the other's expenses which the other claims against a third party. A subrogee is usually the insurance company which has insured the party whose expenses were paid. Thus, the subrogee insurance company may file a lawsuit against a party that caused the damages to its insured which the subrogee paid.
Sui juris- Of full age and capacity.
Summary administration- Administration used if assets are under $75,000 or the decedent has been dead for more than 2 years.
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 beneficiaryís 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 executorís 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.
Terms Beginning With T
T/A- Trading as.
Tangible personal property memorandum- A legal document that is referred to in a will and used to guide the distribution of tangible personal property.
Temporary relief- Any form of action by a court granting one of the parties an order to protect its interest pending further action by the court.
Temporary restraining order- A judgeís order forbidding certain actions until a full hearing can be held. Usually of short duration. Often referred to as a TRO.
Tenant - One that pays rent to use or occupy land, a building, or other property owned by another.
Termination of parental rights- This is the process, voluntary or involuntary, of taking away the parental rights of a parent. Once the parental rights of both parents of a child have been severed, the child will become available for adoption by another family.
Testamentary capacity- The legal ability to make a will.
Testamentary trust- A trust set up by a will.
Testate- Having left a will at death.
Testator- Person who makes a will (female: testatrix)
Testimony- The evidence given by a witness under oath. It does not include evidence from documents and other physical evidence.
Third party- A person, business or government agency not actively involved in a legal proceeding, agreement, or transaction. A third party claim brings a third party into a lawsuit.
Time served- Actual number of days served in jail.
Title- Legal ownership of property, usually real property or automobiles.
Tort- An injury or wrong committed on the person or property of another. A tort is an infringement on the rights of an individual, but not founded in a contract. The most common tort action is a suit for damages sustained in an automobile accident.
Transcript- A written, word-for-word record of what was said, either in a proceeding such as a trial or during some other conversation, as in a transcript of a hearing or oral deposition.
Transfer cases- Cases going from one court or one jurisdiction to another.
Traverse- A formal denial of allegations.
True bill- A finding by a grand jury that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal charge.
True copy -An exact copy of a written instrument.
Trust- A legal device used to manage real or personal property, established by one person (the grantor or settler) for the benefit of another (the beneficiary). A third person (the trustee) or the grantor manages the trust.
Trust agreement or declaration- The legal document that sets up a living trust. Testamentary trusts are set up in a will.
Trustee- The person or institution that manages the property put in trust.
Terms Beginning With U
Unlawful detainer - The act of retaining possession of property without legal right. The suit to reclaim possession is called eviction. Example: Terry Tenant refuses to leave his leased aparatement upon the expiration of the lease. Larry Landlord wants to evict Terry for not paying the rent or for endangering the safety of the other tenants or Larry's property.
Unsecured- In bankruptcy proceedings, for the purpose of filing a claim, a claim is unsecured if there is no collateral, or to the extent the value of collateral is less than the amount of the debt.
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) - A declaration must be filed under this act, if there are minor children involved. It is a uniform act drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1997. The UCCJEA has been adopted by 46 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The UCCJEA vests exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over child custody in the courts of the child's home state, which is defined as the state where the child has lived with a parent for six consecutive months prior to the commencement of the proceeding (or since birth, for children younger than six months). If the child has not lived in any state for at least six months, then a court that has "significant connections" with the child may assume child-custody jurisdiction. If more than one state has "significant connections" with the child, the courts of those states must communicate and determine which state has the most significant connections to the child. The UCCJEA replaced the previous Uniform Act the "Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act" and added a uniform procedure to register and enforce child-custody orders across state lines.
Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)- A uniform act adopted by every U.S. state, last revised in 2001, to address the widespread problem of nonpayment of child support obligations, and to limit the jurisdiction that could establish and modify child support orders. Whenever more than one state is involved in the establishing, enforcing or modifying a child or spousal support order, the Act is implemented to determine the jurisdiction and power of the courts in the different states. The Act also establishes which state's law will be applied in proceedings under the Act, an important factor as support laws vary greatly among the states. The Act establishes rules requiring every state to defer to child support orders entered by the courts of the child's home state. The place where the order was originally entered holds continuing exclusive jurisdiction, and only the law of that state can be applied to requests to modify the order of child support, unless the original tribunal loses jurisdiction under the Act. The Act also provides various direct interstate enforcement mechanisms, like allowing a caretaker parent to have an order mailed to the employer of the obligated parent, which will require that employer to withhold pay for the benefit of the child, and permitting the caretaker parent to have an order mailed to an out-of-state court to get the other state to enforce the order.
Uniform Reciprocal Establishment of Support Act (URESA) - concerns interstate cooperation in the collection of spousal and child support. It lays out the procedure for enforcement in cases in which the person who owes alimony or child support is in one state and the person to whom the support is owed is in another state. The original Act was first passed in 1950, and its most recent amendments included improved machinery for finding the person owing support; guidelines for the conduct of the trial in the responding state; guidelines for cases where paternity is in question or where there has been interference with visitation rights; and simplified procedures for registering and enforcing out-of-state support orders.
Usury- Charging a higher interest rate or higher fees than the law allows.
Terms Beginning With V
Vacate - To set aside. To vacate a judgment is to set aside that judgment.
Venire- A writ summoning persons to court to act as jurors, also refers to the people summoned for jury duty.
Venue- The proper geographical area (county, city, or district) in which a court with jurisdiction over the subject matter may hear a case.
Verdict- The findings of a judge or jury at the end of the trial.
Vexatious Suit- A lawsuit is one that is instituted maliciously, without probable cause, and which causes damage to the defendant. See Fla. Stat 68.093(2001) (Florida Vexatious Litigant Law).
Vicarious Liability- When a person is liable for the negligent acts of another, even though the person is not directly responsible for the injury.
Visitation - The right of a non-custodial parent to visit and spend time with the children. Generally, the parties agree to, or the court orders, a schedule of dates stating times each parent may see each child.
Voir dire- Examination of a jury panel by the judge, defense counsel and the state attorney.
Terms Beginning With W
Waiver - A form signed before a judge in which a defendant voluntarily submits to pickup by a foreign jurisdiction waiving his/her rights as guaranteed under the Constitution.
Waiver of immunity- A means authorized by statute by which a witness, before testifying or producing evidence, may relinquish the right to refuse to testify against himself or herself, thereby making it possible for his or her testimony to be used against him or her in future proceedings.
Ward- A person who is under a guardian's charge or protection.
Warrant- Most commonly, a court order authorizing law enforcement officers to make an arrest or conduct a search. An affidavit seeking a warrant must establish probable cause by detailing the facts upon which the request is based. A warrant or .arrest warrant. is used in situations where the person has not appeared in court yet; the court orders the arrest of the defendant to bring the person before the court and to confer jurisdiction on the court over the person.
Warranty- An express warranty is an assertion or promise concerning goods or services. An implied warranty is a guarantee imposed by law in a sale.
Warranty deed- A deed that provides that the person granting the deed agrees to defend the title from claims of others. In general, the seller is representing that he/she fully owns the property and will stand behind this promise.
Withhold adjudication- The judge withholds a judgment of guilt.
Will- A legal declaration that disposes of a personís property when that person dies.
With prejudice- Applied to orders of judgment dismissing a case, meaning that the plaintiff is forever barred from bringing a lawsuit on the same claim or cause.
Without prejudice- A claim or cause dismissed without prejudice may be the subject of a new lawsuit.
Witness- A person who testifies to what he/she has seen, heard, or otherwise experienced. Also, a person who observes the signing of a will and is competent to testify that it is the will-makerís intended last will and testament.
Writ- A judicial order directing a person to do something.
Writ of attachment- A ordering the sheriff to seize or hold a person or property and bring it before the court.
Writ of certiorari- An order by the appellate court used when the court has the discretion on whether or not to hear an appeal.
Writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum- A writ ordering that a defendant be brought before the court to testify.
Writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum- A writ ordering that a prisoner be brought before the court to testify.
Writ of mandamus- A writ to compel performance of oneís responsibilities as set forth by law.
Writ of ne exeat- A writ that forbids the person to whom it is addressed to leave the country, state, or jurisdiction of the court.
Writ of prohibition- A writ is issued by a superior court, directing the judge and parties of a suit in an inferior court not to prosecute the suit.
Writ of quo warranto- A writ to prevent a continued exercise of an authority unlawfully asserted.
Written plea of not guilty- A defendantís plea in writing to the court. In the felony court, this plea may only be filed by counsel.