Legal Glossary


Affidavit: A written statement made under oath.

Arbitration: Both parties agree to appoint a third party to make a binding decision on the case.


Bench Trial: Any case that a judge alone decides without a jury present.

Brief: A document presented to the court by an attorney that addresses legal points and arguments

Business Records: A form of documentary evidence that includes but is not limited to billing ledgers, chart notes, memoranda and reports and any other documents that are kept while the business is open.


Civil Law: Civil law includes any form of law developed by a governmental group such as legislative and congressional bodies. It involves statutes, limitations, ordinances and regulation.

Claim: a demand for something believed to be due

Claimant: The person perusing the claim, also known as a plaintiff.

Closing Argument: The summary and ending statement made by both defense and prosecution.

Counter Claim: The debtor, or defendant, sues the plaintiff for injuries or damages.

Court of Appeals: A court established with the goal of affirming or overturning an appeal made by the defendant. Any party may appeal to a court of appeals for a final decision.

Cross Examination: When a witness for the defense is questioned by the prosecution, or vice versa.


Decree: An order issued by a court of law

Defamation: Malicious and false statements that injure a person’s reputation and character.

Defendant: The party which is called in by the plaintiff and held liable for damages.

Demand Letter: A letter requesting compensation for injuries or damage, which may also include the threat of legal action.

Deposition: Process of examination of a witness, expert or party by an attorney. Deposition is always performed while the witness, expert or party is under oath.

Docket: Agenda prepared by a clerk of the court.


Evidence: Testimony, both written and spoken, as well as any material object can be used in court to prove a fact to the jury.


Federal Courts: Courts under the jurisdiction of the federal government.


General Damages: Compensation for damages that include but are not limited to pain and suffering and/or disability.

Guardian: A party given lawful consent to act and care for another party in court. This includes anyone that is given consent to manage and/or direct the rights, property or accounts of another.


Hearing: A judge or administrative officer makes a determination after hearing both the defense and prosecution.

Hung Jury: A jury which is unable to come to a verdict, leading to a mistrial.


Indemnify: A party gives another party security for the reimbursement of payments, in the case that the party anticipates losses.

Injunction: The court issues an order prohibiting a person to perform an action of some kind.

Impeachment: During cross-examination, impeachment is used to discredit the testimony of a witness, either by demonstrating that the witness’s story is incomplete or that it goes against prior statements made by said witness.


Judgment: The judge issues a final judgment on the case, putting an end to the lawsuit.

Jury: A group of six to twelve people that makes the final decision in a court case. A jury is temporarily invested with the power to indict a person for a crime made against another party.


Lawsuit: The product of a complaint against another person or entity which is filed with a court of law.

Liability: Responsibility for damages to a person/persons or property after an incident occurs and it is brought to the court’s attention.

Lien: A lien is a document filed with a house deed and/or other property to secure the payment of a debt. Any property with a lien attached cannot be sold by the owner until the lien is removed and the debt is paid.

Litigation: The process by which the plaintiff files a lawsuit, and the defense forms an argument against it.


Mediation: A third party arbitrates informally between two separate parties that are involved in a dispute in order to reach an agreement or find common ground.

Mistrial: A trial cannot be judged and must be terminated. This can occur due to a hung jury or an error by the court which is has drastically affected the outcome of the trial.

Motion: A written request to a court that asks for resolution regarding a specific issue.


Negligence: A court or attorney can rule on negligence if the party shows a complete failure to exercise ordinary caution in his or her actions.


Objection: An attorney for the defense or prosecution may state an objection to call to the court’s attention a procedure or evidence that is against the rules of the court.

Order: A demand made by the judge.


Party:  A person or entity that appears before a court of law, either prosecution or defense.

Power of Attorney: A letter authorizing a party in the court to act as a proxy for another.

Proximate Cause: A cause that leads up to an event or result, often brought up in court as a form of negligence.


Release: The relinquishment of a claim, demand or right.

Rules of Evidence: The rules of a court which explain how evidence can be used and under what circumstances they can be admitted into a court of law.


Settlement: The ultimate resolution of a claim, settled by both parties involved.

Small Claims Court: A court that allows two parties to settle a case without the need for attorneys to be present. A Small Claims Court is limited to claims at $2,500 or below.

Special Damages: Expenditures made by a party due to an injury or loss. This includes but is not limited to past and future losses due to missed work and other out-of-pocket expenses that were required to participate in the court of law.

Subpoena: A written document requesting that a person appear at court to provide testimony.

Summons: A notice released by the court to the defendant(s) that a lawsuit will begin and that they are to appear in court to answer to the complaint. This must occur within a set period of time or the court will rule without them.


Testimony: A statement, either verbal or in writing, which is made under oath by a witness, defendant or plaintiff.

Trial: Two parties settle their complaints in a court of law, both providing express consent to agree to the final judgment either by a jury or judge.


Verdict: The final ruling provided by a jury to the judge and the courtroom.


Waiver: A voluntary surrendering of a right or claim in a court of law

Witness: A witness is a person with information specific to a civil or criminal case that is called in by the court to provide testimony.

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