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Glossary of Legal Terms
Absentee -- One who is absent from his usual place of residence or domicile.
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 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 -- A Latin term meaning 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.
Adjudication withheld -- A manner of disposition in which the court does not pronounce a formal judgment of conviction.
Administrator -- 1. A person appointed by the court to manage the assets and liabilities of a decedent. 2. A court official.
Admissible evidence -- Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.
Admonish -- To advise or caution. For example, the court may caution or admonish counsel for wrong practices.
Adversary Preliminary Hearing -- A proceeding before a judge in which evidence is presented so the court can determine whether there is sufficient cause to hold the accused for trial. (See Rule 3.131 (b), Florida Rules of Criminal Procedures.)
Adversary system -- The trial method used in the U.S. and some other countries. This system is based on the belief that truth can best be determined by giving opposing parties full opportunity to present and establish their evidence, and to test by cross-examination the evidence presented by their adversaries. All this is done under the established rules of procedure before an impartial judge and/or jury.
Affiant -- A person who makes and signs an affidavit.
Affidavit -- A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the party making it in the presence of a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths. For example, in criminal cases, affidavits often are 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 often are used to support motions for summary judgment.
Affidavit of defense -- A plea in absentia in infraction and misdemeanor cases.
Affidavit of insolvency -- A detailed form signed by the defendant, under oath, attesting to his/her indigency (inability to pay for private legal counsel).
Affirmative defense -- Without denying the charge, the defendant raises circumstances such as insanity, self-defense, or entrapment to avoid civil or criminal responsibility.
Affirmed -- In the practice of appellate courts, the word means the decision of the trial court is correct.
Aid and abet -- To actively, knowingly, or intentionally assist another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime.
Allegation -- A statement of the issues in a written document (a pleading) which a person is prepared to prove in court. For example, an indictment contains allegations of crimes committed by the defendant.
Alternative dispute resolution -- Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement, among others.
Amicus curiae -- A friend of the court. One not a party to a case who volunteers to offer information on a point of law or some other aspect of the case to assist the court in deciding a matter before it.
Answer -- The defendant’s response to the plaintiff’s allegations as stated in a complaint. An item-by-item, paragraph-by-paragraph response to points made in a complaint; part of the pleadings.
Appeal -- 1. Resort to a superior (i.e. appellate court) to review the decision of an inferior (i.e. trial) court or administrative agency. 2. 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 he/she is representing the defendant.
Appellate court -- A court having jurisdiction to hear appeals and review a trial court’s procedure.
Appellee -- The party against whom an appeal is taken. Sometimes called a respondent.
Arbitration -- A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party and agree to abide by his/her decision. In arbitration there is a hearing at which both parties have an opportunity to be heard.
Arraignment -- Appearance of the defendant in court to enter his/her plea to the charges.
Arrest -- To take into custody by legal authority.
Assault -- Threat to inflict injury with an apparent ability to do so. Also, any intentional display of force that would give the victim reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm.
Asylum state -- The state holding the fugitive.
At issue -- The time in a lawsuit when the complaining party has stated his/her claim and the other side has responded with a denial and the matter is ready to be tried.
Attachment -- Taking a person’s property to satisfy a court-ordered debt.
Attorney-at-law -- An advocate, counsel, or official agent employed in preparing, managing, and trying cases in the court.
Attorney-in-fact -- A private person (not necessarily a lawyer) authorized by another to act in his/her place, either for some particular purpose, as to do a specified act, or for the transaction of business in general, not of legal character. This authority is conferred by an instrument in writing, called a letter of attorney, or, more commonly, a power of attorney.
Attorney of record -- The attorney retained or assigned to represent a client.
Bail - Cash or surety posted to procure the release of a defendant by insuring his/her future attendance in 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 a 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. This standard of proof does not require that the state establish absolute certainty by eliminating all doubt, but it does require that the evidence be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind or the ordinary person.
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 accused’s appearance at trial.
Bond (supersedeas) - The bond set by the court during the appeal procedure and posted with the Clerk of Court.
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 - In the law of evidence, the necessity or duty of affirmatively providing a fact or facts in dispute on an issue raised between the parties in a lawsuit. The responsibility of proving a point or points; standard of proof indicates the degree to which the point must be proven. 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.
Capital Crime - A crime punishable by death.
C-4 motion - Motion to dismiss on grounds that there is no prima facie case of guilt (FRCP 3.190 §(4)) .
Calendar - List of cases scheduled for hearing in court.
Capias (instanter) - Issuance of the arrest order with court direction to bring the named person before the court immediately, with no bond.
Capias - A writ to the sheriff or other authorized agent to arrest the named person (nationwide).
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 - A warning; a note of caution. A formal notice or warning given by an interested party to a court, judge, or ministerial officer against the performance of certain acts within his power and jurisdiction.
Caveator - One who files a caveat.
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 court's 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.
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 judge’s private office. A hearing in chambers takes place in the judge’s office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.
Change of venue - Moving a lawsuit or criminal trial to another place for trial.
Charge to the jury - The judge’s 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, Florida Statutes 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 in a court.
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 - Noncriminal cases in which one private individual or business sues another to protect, enforce, or redress private or civil rights.
Civil Infraction - A non-criminal traffic violation that is not punishable by incarceration and for which there is no right to a trial by jury or a right to court-appointed counsel as defined under Rule 6.040, Florida Rules of Traffic Court.
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.
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 Court - An officer appointed by the court or elected to oversee the administrative, non-judicial activities of the court.
Closing Argument - The closing statement, by counsel, to the trier of facts after all parties have concluded their presentation of evidence.
Codicil (kod’i-sil) - A supplement or an addition to a will; it may explain, modify, add to, subtract from, qualify, alter, restrain or revoke provisions in existing will.
Commit - 1. To send a person to prison, mental health facility, or reformatory by a court order. 2. To perpetrate, as a crime, to perform as an act, to entrust, to pledge.
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 defendant’s 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 also contributory negligence.
Complainant - The party who complains or sues; one who applies to the court for legal redress. Also called the plaintiff.
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.
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 court’s authority.
Continuance - Deferring a trial or hearing to a later date.
Contract - An agreement between two or more persons, which creates an obligation to do or not to do a particular thing. Its essentials are competent parties, subject matter, a legal consideration, mutuality of agreement, and mutuality of obligations.
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 defendant's 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 Administrator - An officer appointed by the court or elected to oversee the administrative, non-judicial activities of the court.
Court Date Notice - A written form (usually mailed) that is used to bring the required person to court.
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 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 reporter - A person who transcribes by shorthand or stenographically takes down testimony during court proceedings or at a trial related proceedings such as depositions.
Criminal Traffic Offense - A traffic violation that may subject a defendant upon conviction to incarceration within the jurisdiction of a court to which these rules apply as defined under Rule 6.040, Florida Rules of Traffic Court.
Cross-Claim - A claim by codefendants or co-plaintiffs 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.
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.
D-6 - A court report to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles of a person’s failure to appear in court, leading to suspension of the driver’s license.
Damages - Money awarded by a court to a person injured by the unlawful act or negligence of another person.
DD 214 - Military Discharge Form issued by the government upon discharge from military service.
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.
De novo - A trial de novo is a new trial of a case.
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.
Deed - A conveyance of realty; a writing signed by grantor, whereby title to realty is transferred from one to another. A written instrument, signed and delivered, by which one person conveys land, tenements, or hereditaments to another.
Defamation - That which tends to injure a person’s 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.
Deferred payment - The court’s granting additional time to pay a fine.
Demand for discovery - Demand by the defense attorney to the State Attorney to furnish material information on a case.
Demanding state - The state seeking return of a fugitive.
Demurrer - A legal attack on a document as to sufficiency.
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 Statutes - 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 proceeding before a judge of juvenile court to determine whether a juvenile is to be detained, continue to be detained, or released while juvenile proceedings are pending in his/her case.
Directed verdict - Now called judgment as a matter of law. An instruction by the judge to the jury to return a specific verdict.
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.
Disbarment - Form of discipline of a lawyer resulting in the loss (often permanently) of that lawyer’s 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.
Disclaim - To refuse a gift made in a will.
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.
Disposition - The parting with, alienation of, or giving up property. In criminal procedure, the sentencing or other final settlement of a criminal case.
Disposition/Receipt Card - Written report of the judge’s action in a case.
Disposition report to DHSMV - A report to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles on the court adjudication in a traffic case.
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.
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.
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 card or case history - The computer printout of chronological activity in a case.
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
DR 219 - Property Transfer Form used to notify Florida State Department of Revenue of property transactions resulting in tax liabilities being incurred.
Driver Improvement School - A possible disposition for traffic law violators. Attendance at a driver improvement school can be either required or elective. All driver improvement schools are operated by a non-profit or governmental agency and must be approved by the Traffic Court Review Committee.
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, the right to remain silent, the right to a speedy public trial, the right to an impartial jury and the right to confront and secure witnesses.
Elements of a Crime - Specific factors that define a crime which 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.
Eminent Domain - The power of the government to take private property for public use through condemnation.
Empanelled - Selection of citizens by judicial officers to complete a jury of peers. When voir dire is finished and both sides have used the challenges, the jury is complete or empanelled. The juries are then sworn.
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.
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 person's 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 person's 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 person's death. In addition to federal estate taxes, many states have their own estate taxes.
Estoppel - A person's own act, or acceptance of facts, which preclude his or her later making claims to the contrary.
Estreature - Civil aspect of a bond forfeiture.
Et al - All others.
Evidence - Testimony or exhibits received by the court at any stage of court proceedings.
Evidence sheet - A list of all the items entered as evidence in a trial or hearing.
Exceptions - Declarations by either side in a civil or criminal case reserving the right to appeal a judge's 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.
Execution - Carrying out some act or course of conduct to its completion. Execution is a process in action to carry into effect the directions in a decree or judgement.
Executor - A personal representative, named in a will, who administers an estate.
Exempt Property - In bankruptcy proceedings, this refers to certain property protection by law from the reach of creditors.
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.
Exhibits - Any paper or object offered in court that is marked for identification or evidence.
Exonerate - Removal of a charge, responsibility or duty.
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.
Family Allowance - A small amount of money set aside from the estate of the deceased. Its purpose is to provide for the surviving family members during the administration of the estate.
Felony - A crime more serious than a misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of possible incarceration in a state prison facility.
Fiduciary - A person having a legal relationship of trust and confidence to another and having a duty to act primarily for the other's benefit: i.e., a guardian, trustee or executor.
File - To place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of court 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.
Foreclosure - A termination of all rights of the mortgagor or his grantee in the property covered by the mortgage. Procedure by which mortgaged property is sold on default of mortgagor in satisfaction of mortgage debt.
Fraud - Intentional deception to deprive another person of property or to injure that person in some way.
Fugitive - One who flees; used in criminal law the implication of a flight, evasion, or escape from arrest, prosecution, or imprisonment.
Garnishment - A legal proceeding in which a debtor's money, in the possession of another (called the garnishee) is applied to the debts of the debtor, such as when an employer garnishes a debtor's wages.
General Jurisdiction - Refers to courts that have no limit on the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear.
Good 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 18 and not less than 15 persons, with at least 12 concurring before an indictment may be returned.
Grantee - One who receives.
Grantor - One who gives.
Guardian - 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.
Guardianship - 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. (See also conservatorship.
Guilty Plea - A plea by the defendant in a criminal or traffic prosecution admitting the commission of an offense with which he/she is charged or a lesser included offense.
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 - A proceeding in which arguments, witnesses, or evidence are heard by a judicial officer or administrative body.
Hearing Proceedings - A record of the testimony and evidence entered.
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.
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.
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 judge's office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Indigent - Needy or impoverished. A defendant who can demonstrate his/her indigence to the court may be assigned a court-appointed attorney at public expense.
Inheritance Tax - A state tax on property that an heir or beneficiary under a will receives from a deceased person's 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.
Insolvency - The condition of a person who is insolvent; inability to pay one's debts; lack of means to pay one's debts.
Instructions - Judge's 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.
Interrogatories - Written questions asked by one party in a lawsuit for which the opposing party must provide written answers.
Interlocutory - Provisional; not final. An interlocutory order or an interlocutory appeal concerns only a part of the issues raised in a lawsuit.
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 giver's life.
Inter Vivos Trust - Another name for living trust.
Intestacy Laws - See descent and distribution statutes.
Intestate Succession - The process by which the property of a person who has died without a will passes on to others according to the state's descent and distribution statutes. If someone dies without a will, and the court uses the state's intestate succession laws, an heir who receives some of the deceased' s property is an intestate heir.
Intestate - Dying without having a will.
Invoke the rule - Separation and exclusion of witnesses from the courtroom.
Involuntary placement - A patient may be retained by a receiving facility or involuntarily placed in a treatment facility upon the recommendation of the administrator of a receiving facility and after adherence to the notice and hearing procedures proved in Florida Statute 394.4599.
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.
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 defendant's 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 judge's 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.
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 Commissioner - The court officer responsible for choosing the panel of persons to serve as potential jurors for a particular court term.
Juror disqualified - Juror excused from a trial.
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.
Justifiable - Issues and claims capable of being properly examined in court.
Juvenile - A child under 18 years of age.
Kangaroo court - Term descriptive of a sham legal proceeding in which a person's rights are totally disregarded and in which the result is a foregone conclusion because of the bias of the court or other tribunal.
Kentucky rule - In the allocation of dividends by trustees as between income and principal, all dividends whether paid in cash or stock are regarded as income though in most jurisdictions accepting this rule a dividend paid in the stock of the issuing corporation is considered principal and brings about an adjustment in the basis of such stock in the portfolio.
Kissing the book - The ceremony of touching the lips to a copy of the Bible, used in administering oaths. It is the external symbol of the witness' acknowledgement of the obligation of the oath.
Knowingly and willfully - This phrase, in reference to violation of a statute, means consciously and intentionally.
Lapsed Gift - A gift made in a will to a person who has died prior to the will-maker's 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 one's 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 - Formal document issued by probate court appointing one an administrator of an estate.
Letters Testamentary - The formal instrument of authority and appointment given to an executor by the proper court, empowering him to enter upon the discharge of his office as executor. It corresponds to letters of administration granted to an administrator.
Levy - A seizure. The obtaining of money by legal process through seizure and sale of property; the raising of money for which an execution has been issued.
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 person's property as security for a debt. A lien does not convey ownership of the property, but gives the lienholder a right to have his or her debt satisfied out of the proceeds of the property if the debt is not otherwise paid.
Limited Jurisdiction - Refers to courts that are limited in the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. For example, traffic violations generally are heard by limited jurisdiction courts.
Lis Pendens - A pending suit. Jurisdiction, power, or control which 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.
Magistrate - Judicial officer exercising some of the functions of a judge. It also refers in a general way to a judge.
Malfeasance - Evil doing, ill conduct; the commission of some act which 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.
Mandamus - A writ issued by a court ordering a public official to perform an act.
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.
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 court's refusal to consider a case because the issue involved has been resolved prior to the court's decision, leaving nothing that would be affected by the court's decision.
Mortgage - A mortgage is an interest in land created by a written instrument providing security for the performance of a duty or the payment of a debt.
Mortgagee - He that takes or receives a mortgage.
Mortgagor - One who, having all or some part of title to property, by written instrument pledges that property for some particular purpose such as security for a debt. That party to a mortgage who gives legal title or a lien to the mortgagee to secure the mortgage loan.
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 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.
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.
No-Contest Clause - Language in a will that provides that a person who makes a legal challenge to the will's 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 - Document which states no formal charge will be filed by the State Attorney.
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 State Attorney declines to prosecute but may still initiate prosecution within one year.
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.
Notice to Appear - As defined under Rule 3.125 (a), Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, a written order issued by a law enforcement officer in lieu of physical arrest requiring a person accused of violating the law to appear in a designated court or governmental office at a specified date and time.
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.
Oath of indigence and order appointing counsel - A document signed by the defendant under oath before the judge, stating he or she is without funds to retain an attorney. The judge may then declare the defendant insolvent and sign an order appointing counsel.
Oaths - Sworn attestations required in court, 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.
Offender Based Transaction System (OBTS) - Automated criminal system designed to electronically transmit disposition information to be included in the computerized criminal history (CCH) file which is housed at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Official Records - means each instrument that the clerk of the circuit court is required or authorized to record in the series of books called "Official Records" as provided for in s. 28.222.
On a Person's 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 judge's 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 ''of the court.''
Oral Argument - An opportunity for lawyers to summarize their positions before the court and also to answer the judges' questions.
Order - A written or oral command from a court directing or forbidding an action.
Overrule - A judge's decision not to allow an objection. Also, a decision by a higher court finding that a lower court decision was in error.
PAD - Prosecutor's alternative division: Settlement without Prosecution.
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.
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.
Peremptory challenge - A challenge that may be used to reject a certain number of prospective jurors without giving a reason.
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 person's title is an executor. If there is no valid will, that person's 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.
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.
Plaintiff - The person who files the complaint in a civil lawsuit. Also called the complainant.
Plat - a map of a town, section, or subdivision showing the location and boundaries of individual parcels of land subdivided into lots, with streets, alleys, easements, etc., usually drawn to a scale.
Plea - Defendant's answer to the charge - guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere. In a criminal proceeding, it is the defendant's declaration in open court that he or she is guilty or not guilty. The defendant's answer to the charges made in the indictment or information.
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.
Point information - Penalty points imposed by the Department of Highway Safety and 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.
Post Conviction Relief Motion - A motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence, pursuant to Rule 3.850, Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Pour-Over Will - A will that leaves some or all estate assets to a trust established before the will-maker's death.
Power of Attorney - Formal authorization of a person to act in the interests of another person.
Pre-injunction - Court order requiring action or forbidding action until a decision can be made whether to issue a permanent injunction. If differs from a temporary restraining order.
Pre-sentence investigation - A background investigation of the defendant by the Department of Corrections, returnable to the sentencing judge on or before a certain date.
Pre-trial 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.
Pre-trial intervention - A county program to aid certain qualifying defendants by diverting them from court proceedings upon successful completion of the program.
Pre-trial release (PTR) - Release by sheriff's personnel after arrest and before any court appearance, setting a court appearance date.
Precedent - A previously decided case that guides the decision of future cases.
Preliminary hearing - Another term for arraignment.
Preponderance of the evidence - Greater weight of the evidence; the common standard of proof in civil cases.
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.
Prima facie - On the face of it - factually
Probate - The court-supervised process by which a will is determined to be the will-maker's final statement regarding how the will maker wants his/her property distributed. It also confirms the appointment of the personal representative of the estate. Probate also means 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 Court - The court with authority to supervise estate administration.
Pro bono publico - For the public good. Lawyers representing clients without a fee are said to be working pro bono publico.
Pro se - In one's own behalf.
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.
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.
Putative - commonly accepted or supposed; assumed to exist or to have existed.
Quash - To vacate or void a summons, subpoena, etc.
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; that state of minds of jurors in which they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction as to the truth of the charge.
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. Thus, 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 and prudent (wise) 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.
Redress - To set right; to remedy; to compensate; to remove the causes of a grievance.
Re-Direct Examination - Opportunity to present rebuttal evidence after one's evidence has been subjected to cross-examination.
Referee - A person to whom the court refers a pending case to take testimony, hear the parties, and report back to the court. A referee is an officer with judicial powers who serves as an arm of the court.
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 court's 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.
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.
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 another's property, from his or her person or immediate presence and against his or her will, by means of force or fear.
Rules of Evidence - Standards governing whether evidence in a civil or criminal case is admissible.
Scoresheet - Uniform guidelines for sentencing using points system mandated by the Legislature.
Seal - The symbol of authenticity.
Sealing of Records - Case filed is sealed and thereafter such records cannot be examined except by order of the court.
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 maker's 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.
Sentence Report - A document containing background material on a convicted person. It is prepared to guide the judge in the imposition of a sentence. Sometimes called a pre-sentence investigation.
Sequester - To separate. Sometimes juries are separated from outside influences during their deliberations. For example, this may occur during a highly publicized trial.
Sequestration of witnesses - Keeping all witnesses (except plaintiff and defendant) out of the courtroom except for their time on the stand, and cautioning them not to discuss their testimony with other witnesses. Also called separation of witnesses. This prevents a witness from being influenced by the testimony of a prior witness.
Service - The delivery of a legal document, such as a complaint, summons, or subpoena, notifying a person of a lawsuit or other legal action taken against him/her by an officially authorized person in accordance with the formal requirements of the applicable laws.
Settlement - An agreement between the parties disposing of a lawsuit.
Settlor - The person who sets up a trust. Also called the grantor.
Show cause order - Court order requiring a person to appear and show why some action should not be taken.
Sidebar - A conference between the judge and lawyers, usually in the courtroom, out of earshot of the jury and spectators.
Slander - False and defamatory spoken words tending to harm another's reputation, business or means of livelihood. Slander is spoken defamation; libel is published.
Small Claims Court - A court that handles civil claims for small amounts of money. People often represent themselves rather than hire an attorney.
Sovereign immunity - The doctrine that the government, state or federal, is immune to lawsuit unless it gives its consent.
Specific performance - A remedy requiring a person who has breached a contract to perform specifically what he or she has agreed to do. Specific performance is ordered when damages would be inadequate compensation.
Speedy trial - A rule of law wherein the defendant must be brought to trial within 180 days (effective Jan. 1, 1994).
Spendthrift Trust - A trust set up for the benefit of someone who the grantor believes would be incapable of managing his/her own financial affairs.
Standing - The legal right to bring a lawsuit. Only a person with something at stake has standing to bring a lawsuit.
Stare decisis - The doctrine that courts will follow principles of law laid down in previous cases. Similar to precedent.
Statement of particulars - A detailed statement of the offense charged, sufficient to enable the defendant to properly prepare his/her defense.
Status Offenders - Youths charged with the status of being beyond the control of their legal guardian or are habitually disobedient, truant from school, or having committed other acts that would not be a crime if committed by an adult. They are not delinquents (in that they have committed no crime), but rather are persons in need of supervision, minors in need of supervision, or children in need of supervision, depending on the state in which they live. Status offenders are placed under the supervision of the juvenile court.
Statute of limitations - The time within which a plaintiff must begin a lawsuit (in civil cases) or a prosecutor must bring charges (in criminal cases.) There are different statutes of limitations at both the federal and state levels for different kinds of lawsuits or crimes.
Statutory Construction - Process by which a court seeks to interpret the meaning and scope of legislation.
Statutory Law - Law enacted by the legislative branch of government, as distinguished from case law or common law.
Stay - A court order halting a judicial proceeding.
Stipulation - An agreement by attorneys on both sides of a civil or criminal case about some aspect of the case; e.g. to extend the time to answer, to adjourn the trial date, or to admit certain facts at the trial.
Strike - Highlighting in the record of a case, evidence that has been improperly offered and will not be relied upon.
Sua Sponte - A Latin phrase which means on one's own behalf; voluntary, without prompting or suggestion.
Subpoena - Command to a person to appear and testify in a specific proceeding.
Subpoena Duces Tecum - A court order commanding a witness to bring certain documents or records to court.
Summary judgment - A decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case, and one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Summary Reporting System (SRS) - Florida State Courts System uniform case reporting system, pursuant to Section 25.075 (1), Florida Statutes.
Summons - A document signed by a deputy clerk ordering a person to appear before the court.
Support Trust - A trust that instructs the trustee to spend only as much income and principal (the assets held in the trust) as needed for the beneficiary's support.
Suppress - To forbid the use of evidence at a trial because it is improper or was improperly obtained. See also exclusionary rule.
Surety Bond - A bond purchased at the expense of the estate to insure the executor's proper performance. Often called a fidelity bond.
Survivorship - Another name for joint tenancy.
Sustain - A court ruling upholding an objection or a motion.
Sworn complaint affidavit - A sworn, witnessed complaint filed with the Clerk of the Court.
Tangible Personal Property Memorandum (TPPM) - 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 judge's order forbidding certain actions until a full hearing can be held. Usually of short duration. Often referred to as a TRO.
Testamentary Capacity - The legal ability to make a will.
Testamentary Trust - A trust set up by a will.
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.
Third-Party Claim - An action by the defendant that 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 settlor) 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.
Unlawful detainer - A detention of real estate without the consent of the owner or other person entitled to its possession.
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.
Usury - Charging a higher interest rate or higher fees than the law allows.
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.
Voir dire - Examination of a jury panel by an attorney for the defendant or plaintiff, the judge, and the prosecution.
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.
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.
Withhold adjudication - The judge withholds a judgment of guilt.
Will - A legal declaration that disposes of a person's property when that person dies.
Without Prejudice - A claim or cause dismissed without prejudice may be the subject of a new lawsuit.
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.
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-maker's intended last will and testament.
Writ - A judicial order directing a person to do something.
Writ of attachment - A writ of the court ordering the sheriff to seize or hold a person or property and bring same 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 of the court ordering that a defendant be brought before the court to testify.
Writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum - A writ of the court ordering that a prisoner be brought before the court to testify.
Writ of mandamus - A writ to compel performance of one's responsibilities as set forth by law.
Written plea of not guilty - A defendant's plea in writing to the court. In the felony court, this plea may only be filed by counsel.
Xenodochium - In the civil and old English law, an inn allowed by public license, for the entertainment of strangers, and other guests. Also, a hospital; a place where sick and infirm persons were taken care of.
Xylon - A punishment among the Greeks answering to stocks.
Yeven - Given; dated
Yielding and paying - In conveyancing. the initial words of that clause in leases in which the rent to be paid by the lessee is mentioned and reserved.
Zetetic - Proceeding by inquiry
Zone Theory - Within which injuries to employees are compensable under work men's compensation acts, is the place of employment and the area thereabouts, including the means of ingress thereto and egress therefrom under the control of the employer.