Legal Dictionary

NOTE: I am not a lawyer, just someone who is making sense of the law for people who don’t understand it. Do not use this as legal advice.

AKA – “Also known as”, used to list aliases or another name or another spelling of a name

Abrogation – Removal of a prior ruling with a new rule

Absentee owner – An individual or entity who does not occupy or manage a property

Accelerated Rehabilitation – aka AR, a program that gives someone charged with a crime or motor vehicle violation for the first time a second chance by placing them probation for a few years, where they’re dismissed if they complete it satisfactorily

Acceptable Use Policy – A contract clarification of the defined use of a good or service

Accommodation – aka “accommodation endorsement”, a legal obligation entered as a favor without consideration

Accord and satisfaction – A backup contract in the case of at least one of the parties not performing (i.e., collateral for a loan)

Accredited Investor – aka “sophisticated investor”, a financially regulated status (in some countries) that gives access to complex and higher-risk investments like venture capital, hedge funds, and angel investments

Acknowledgment – A clerk or attorney’s signature certifying that the person filing the document has sworn that the contents are true, and/or that the document is signed by his or her free act and deed

Acquiescence – Consent inferred from silence

Action – aka Case or Lawsuit, a civil judicial proceeding where one party sues another for a wrong done, or to protect a right or to prevent a wrong

Act of God – risks that couldn’t have been prevented by foresight or caution

Actus reus – Latin for “guilty act”, the state of mind of someone when a person does something, contrast to intent

Adjournment – Postponing a court session until another time or place

Adjudication – A decision or sentence a judge imposed

Adjudicatory Hearing – Juvenile court proceeding to determine whether the allegations made in a petition are true and whether the child/youth should be subject to orders of the court

Adult Court Transfer – Transferring juveniles who are at least 14 years old to regular criminal dockets in Geographical Area or Judicial District courts, or the transfer from a Juvenile Detention Center to the State Department of Corrections

Adult Probation – A legal status, applied to people 16 years of age and older, who have been convicted of a crime and placed under the supervision of a probation officer for a time period set by the court

Affirm – Declare something to be true under the penalty of perjury, for a person who will not take an oath

Affidavit – A written statement made under oath in the presence of an authorized person

Age of majority – aka “age of consent”, an indicated legal age where someone is considered fully capable of making their own decisions

Agent – aka “attorney-in-fact”, a person authorized to make specific decisions on behalf of someone else

Agent of record – An individual or entity who has a duly executed contractual agreement with an insurance policy owner, who is responsible for purchasing, servicing, and maintaining insurance coverage with that designated insured

Alcohol Education Program – A pre-trial program for first time offenders charged with driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol

Aleatory Contract – a specific type of contract where the parties involved do not have to perform a particular action until a specific triggering event occurs

Alimony – Money a court requires one spouse to pay the other for support before and/or after the divorce is granted, and they can’t get it in the future if they don’t ask for alimony at the final hearing

Allege – Asserting, declaring, or stating something is true in a case, made in a pleading

Allocution – A court’s inquiry for whether there’s any legal reason why they shouldn’t impose a sentence

Allowance – A contract arrangement where a party pays the other party at various times before the final payment

Alternate Juror – A juror selected as a substitute in case another juror must leave the jury panel

Alternative Detention Program – Programs operated by service providers under the Office of Alternative Sanctions used to detain juveniles instead of in a Juvenile Detention Center

Alternative Dispute Resolution – aka ADR, any method used to resolve disputes other than traditional trial proceedings, such as mediation, and ADR programs speed up the disposition of civil cases

Alternative Incarceration Center – aka AIC, a community-based program that monitors, supervises and services people who would otherwise be incarcerated

Alternative Sanctions – Criminal punishment that’s less restrictive than incarceration

Ambiguity – A situation where a legal term or sentence has at least 2 meanings

Amendment – A binding modification to a contract or law

Amicus Curiae Brief – A Latin term meaning “friend of the court”, an Amicus Curiae brief is filed by someone who is not a party to a case but has an interest in its outcome, the court usually has to give permission for someone to file one

Annulment – A court order declaring a marriage is invalid

Answer – A court document, or pleading, in a civil case, where the defendant responds to the plaintiff’s complaint

Ante Litem Motam – Latin for “before suit brought”, spoken discussion before a lawsuit is engaged

Anticipatory Breach – A breach of contract in the future, where the intent is clear that one party will not perform

Appeal – Asking a higher court to review the decision or sentence of a trial court because the lower court made an error

Appeal Bond – Money paid to the court while taking an appeal to cover costs and damages to the other party, if the appeal is not successful

Appearance – The official court form filed with the court clerk which tells the court that you’re representing yourself in a lawsuit or criminal case or that an attorney is representing you, all court notices and calendars will be mailed to the address listed on the form, the defendant is submitting to the court’s jurisdiction in a civil case when they file an appearance

Appellant – The party appealing a decision or judgment to a higher court

Appellate Court – A higher court that has taken a lower court’s decision, which typically means it will change the prior ruling

Appellee – The party an appeal is taken against

Arbiter – aka Arbitrator, a referee selected to decide a controversy

Arbitration – Submitting a case or dispute to designated parties for a decision instead of using a judge

Arraign – Bringing an entity charged with a crime to answer the charge made against them

Arraignment – The first court appearance of a person accused of a crime, where they are advised of their rights by a judge and may respond to the criminal charges by entering a plea, usually happens the morning after a person is arrested

Arrest – When a person is taken into custody by a police officer and charged with a crime

Arrearages – Money for alimony and/or child support, which is overdue and unpaid

Arrest Warrant – A court order directing law enforcement to seize and detain a person so they can appear in court

As Is – A contractual statement that an item is sold as it currently is, without any implied warranty

Asset – Anything owned by an entity that has monetary value

Asset Blocking – aka Asset Freezing, preventing an entity access to assets as part of an investigation

Asset Confiscation – aka Asset Seizure, taking an entity’s assets as part of an investigation

Asset Flight – Illegally moving assets from one jurisdiction to another to avoid confiscation or penalties

Asset Mingling – Combining legal and illegal assets to make asset matches more complicated

Asset Protection – Reorganizing how assets are held to make them less vulnerable against a claim

Assignment – A contract and property law concept where an assignor transfers rights or obligations to an assignee

Assignment List – A printed list of cases to be presented to the court for hearing

Assistant Attorney General – An attorney who represents a state agency in civil cases

Assumption of Risk – A common law defense that bars or reduces recovery to an injured party if they knew of the consequences of an action and deliberately chose to assume the risk

Assured clear distance ahead – aka ACDA, the distance ahead of any terrestrial locomotive device (e.g., auomobile) that affords them to bring the device to a halt

Attachment – A lien on property or assets to hold it to pay or satisfy any final judgment

Attorney of Record – Attorney whose name appears in the permanent records or files of a case

Attractive Nuisance – A hazardous object or condition that’s likely to attract children who can’t rightly judge risks

Automatic Renewal Clause – A contract clause which automatically renews that contract for another term

Automatic Orders – Court orders that take effect when a divorce or custody case is started

Bail Commissioner – A state-appointed person who may set the amount of bond for persons detained at a police station prior to arraignment in court, and who recommends to the court the amount of bond that should be set for the defendant on each criminal case

Bar – Refers to a group of attorneys

Battle of the Forms – A dispute arising from multiple organizations making agreements where their standard form contracts have conflicts

Bearer Form – A contract that can engage a transfer to a bearer without requiring further written instructions

Bearer Negotiable Instruments – Monetary “legal instruments” that pass title upon delivery

Bearer Share – Legal instruments that give ownership to a corporation to “Bearer” (i.e., whoever owns the document)

Benami Account – An account held on behalf of others, typically to disguise one’s true identity or the recipient of the funds

Bench Warrant – Court papers issued by the judge, “from the bench,” for the arrest of a person

Beneficial Interest – The right a party has which has arisen from a contract they’re not a party to

Beneficiary – A party entitled to receive something, can be a third-party beneficiary for the purpose of filing suit

Best Interest of the Child – The standard a judge uses to decide custody and visitation issues

Bill of Lading – A legal document held by a carrier as receipt of cargo, includes details about the cargo itself and its destination

Bind – A legal state of obligation to do or not do something, often refers to contracts and can be a “binder” or “binding”

Blacklist – An internal list of screened names used to identify illicit actors

Blockade – Deploying military resources to prevent moving goods or people between jurisdictions

Bona fide – Latin for “in good faith”, the absence of fraud or deception, contrast to mala fide

Bona vacantia – Latin for “in good absence”, unowned property, in UK common law that property vests in the Crown

Bond – aka Bail, money or property given to the court for the temporary release of a defendant, to ensure the defendant will return to court, with two different types:

  • Non-financial bonds (non-surety where the defendant’s signature alone guarantees the amount of bond and the defendant is not required to post any property or retain the services of a professional bail bondsperson as collateral)
  • Promise to appear (Surety bond where the court requires cash, real estate or a professional bail bondperson’s signature as collateral before releasing the defendant back into the community, as well as possibly letting the defendant to post ten percent of the bond in cash to secure his or her release)

Bond Forfeiture – aka “calling the Bond”, If the defendant fails to appear in court as scheduled, the judge may order the bond forfeited (paid to the state) and the defendant rearrested

Bond Review – A hearing for a judge to decide if the defendant’s bond amount needs to be changed

Bondsman – A surety; one who has put up cash or property as collateral before a defendant may be released, often as a debt-based business transaction

Bonus Clause – A contract clarification that gives a bonus for over-performing (e.g., finishing a job early), contrast to penalty clause

Boycott – Withdrawing from business or social engagement with an entity as a sign of protest

Breach of Contract – A violation of a contract that denies the plaintiff the main benefit of the contract

Brief – A written document prepared by a lawyer or party on each side of a dispute and filed with the court in support of their arguments

Buyout Clause – aka “release clause”, a contract clause where an entity wishing to purchase an employee’s services must pay a fee to the current employer

Calendar – A list of court cases scheduled for a specific date and time; the civil and family court docket

Calendar Call – The calling of cases scheduled for the day, usually done at the beginning of each court day

Capacity – The legal ability for an individual or entity to have rights and responsibilities

Capias Mittimus – A civil arrest warrant used to get a person physically into court to respond to a specific case or claim

Capital Felony – A criminal offense where the death penalty may be imposed

Cardholder – person authorized to use a financial transaction card

Case – A lawsuit or action in a court

Case Conference – A meeting scheduled by the court to review the case

Case File – The court file containing papers submitted in a case

Case Flow Coordinator – A person who keeps track of your case and supervises the scheduling of hearings and trials

Cash-Intensive Business – A business where customers usually pay with cash, typically more popular for money laundering

Casus Belli – An action used to justify a war, typically sets a precedent to allow the other nation to strike

Caveat – Latin for “beware”, a condition that prohibits a statute from complete execution without discretion

Central Transportation Unit – Persons in the Division of Juvenile Detention Services who provide safe and secure transportation services for juveniles detained at Juvenile Detention Centers, Alternative Detention Program and Girls’ Detention Program

Certify – To testify in writing; to make known or establish as a fact

Certiorari – A writ by a court that quashes an inferior court’s ruling

Challenge – Rejecting a potential juror

Charge – Formal accusation of a crime

Charge to Jury – In trial practice, an address delivered by the court to the jury at the close of the case instructing the jury as to what principles of law they are to apply in reaching a decision

Charter – A party’s grant of authority or rights to another

Child migration – aka “children on the move”, the legal action of moving children aged 3-18 within or across political borders, with or without their parents/guardians, with or without legal travel documents, to another country or region

Civil/Criminal Chattels – All property except real property; personal property that can include jewelry, clothing, furniture, and appliances

Child – Any person under 16 years old

Child Services – A government bureau that oversees internal cases beyond the purview of legal proceedings

Child Support – Money paid by a parent to help meet a child’s financial needs child

Children in Placement – aka CIP, a voluntary program in Juvenile Court, which monitors neglect cases

Chip Smith Charge – An instruction to deadlocked jurors in civil and criminal cases, urging those jurors who disagree with the majority vote to reexamine the majority views in an effort to reach a unanimous verdict

Choice of Law Clause – A contract clause that indicates that a particular region’s laws will apply in the case of any dispute

Civil Action – A lawsuit other than a criminal case usually filed in a Judicial District courthouse, includes family actions (divorces, child support, etc) and small claims cases, though these are both separately designated

Claim – In civil cases, the statement of relief desired

Class Action Suit – A civil case that involves many plaintiffs (a class) against a common defendant

Classification and Program Officer – aka CPO, a person who provides classification, program, counseling and recreational services to detained juveniles, may attend certain court hearings in Juvenile Matters and provide reports

Clause – A condition or term in a contract

Coercion – aka “duress”, a situation where a person performs an act due to violence, threat, or other pressure

Collateral – An asset given by someone acquiring a loan which will be taken in lieu of a loan if the debt is not paid

Collateral Contract – A contract formed through at least one party wanting to maintain a primary contract but not wanting to amend it

Collateral Warranty – A warranty that extends to specified third parties who would not otherwise be entitled to a warranty

Collection Account – An arrangement where an immigrant will deposit many small currency amounts into one account where they reside, then the collected sum is transferred to an account in their home country without documentation

Commission – A form of variable-pay remuneration based on a measurement, such as sales

Commission Rogatoire – aka Letters Rogatory, a written request by a central authority of one country to the central authority of another country for legal assistance to furnish evidence

Common Law – Laws that develop through case decisions by judges that aren’t created by legislative bodies

Community Service – Work that convicted defendants are required to perform to repay the community for the harm caused to the community by the crime

Community Services Coordinator – The person who refers a defendant to community service work and supervises the defendant’s completion of that work

Community Service Labor Program – aka CSLP, a community service program for persons charged with drug offenses and where the criminal case is dismissed upon successful completion of the community service sentence

Comparative Negligence – A statutory method of assigning fault by determining a percentage of fault, then assessing damages for each party, contrast to contributory negligence

Complaint – A legal document that tells the court what you want, and is served with a summons on the defendant to begin the case

Compliance – A legal state or action of following rules, laws, policy, specifications, or understood norms

Complete Contract – A hypothetical contract that outlines all the rights and responsibilities of everyone in all possible situations, to apply to everyday life uses default rules and mandatory rules

Complex Litigation – A specialized docket designed for complex civil cases, where one judge hears the case from beginning to end and which often include multiple parties, large amounts of money, lengthy trial, or complex legal issues

Condemned Property – A building or property that local (usually municipal) authorities have closed, seized, or placed restrictions on for various reasons including public safety or public health

Condition – A component of a contract that’s necessary for a party fulfilling it, contrast to warranty

Condition Precedent – A contractual state of things or event required for something else to occur, contrast to condition subsequent

Condition Subsequent – A contractual state of things or event that causes something to end, contrast to condition precedent

Conditional Discharge – A disposition, in criminal cases, where the defendant must satisfy certain court-ordered conditions instead of a prison term

Confidentiality – Keeping information out of public or unauthorized view

Confiscation – aka Forfeiture, permanently depriving assets through a court order

Consent – A person making a reasoned, deliberate decision that follows another’s recommendation

Consideration – Giving or promising something another party promised, typically to bind a contract

Consolidation of Goods – An entity groups or mixes restricted items with non-restricted items and doesn’t declare them in shipping documentation

Constitutional convention – Informal and uncodified tradition followed by the institutions of a state

Contempt of Court – A finding that someone disobeyed a court order, but can also mean disrupting court by being loud or disrespectful in court

Contingent Contract – An agreement which states how certain conditions will result in specific outcomes, typically not considered final because they’re based on conditions or events occurring

Continuance – Adjourning or postponing a court case to another day

Continuance Date – Date when a case will next be heard in court

Contract – A legally enforceable agreement between two or more persons or parties, typically arises from a solicitation

Contract Price – The price for engaging in a contract

Contributory negligence – A common law method of assigning fault, where the plaintiff’s failure to exercise reasonable care means they can in no way receive compensation for damages, contrast to comparative negligence

Control Effectiveness – aka Mitigation Measures or Quality of Risk Management, the measure of the quality of controls used to mitigate inherent business risks

Contumacy – Disobedience of honoring a Summons to appear in a court of law

Conviction – To be found guilty of committing a crime

Corporation – A legally defined Entity that is treated as a living being for legal reasons

Costs – Expenses in prosecuting or defending a case in court, usually doesn’t include attorney’s fees

Count – The different parts of a complaint, which could each be a basis or grounds for the lawsuit

Counter Claim – A claim by the defendant in a civil action that the defendant is entitled to damages or other relief from the plaintiff

Counterparty – A legal entity, unincorporated entity, or collection of entities on the other side of a transaction or dispute

Court-Appointed Attorney – An attorney who is asked by the court (judge) to either represent a party to the case, or to serve in some other capacity that the case requires

Court Clerk – The person who maintains the official court record of your case, with their office receiving all court papers and assigning hearing dates

Court Interpreter – The person who translates court hearings from English to another language, provided at state expense in all criminal cases and in cases enforcing child support orders if requested, no interpreter is available for divorce or any other civil case

Court Monitor – The person who prepares a written record of the court hearing for a fee, if requested, from audiotapes made during the hearing

Court Reporter – The person who records everything said during the court hearing on a stenograph machine and prepares a written record for a fee, if requested

Court Services Officer – A person who assists the judge and oversees cases as they go through the court

Court Trial – Trial by a judge, rather than by a jury

Covenant – A verbal or written promise

Cover – A remedy available to a buyer who has received an anticipatory breach, which includes the payment of the extra costs of finding an alternative for the expected goods

Crime – Any action performed in violation of a statute

Crime Victim Compensation Program – Awards money to crime victims and their families for medical, mental health, dental, funeral expenses, lost wages and loss of support

Criminal Proceeds – Any property gained through a crime

Cross Border – A situation that involves two jurisdictions or countries

Cross Claims – A situation where both parties in a civil dispute must pay claims, tends to lead to a set-off

Cross-Examination – Questioning by a party or the attorney of an adverse party or a witness

Custodian – An entity responsible to maintain assets

Custody – Ownership or authority over an entity or asset, implicit for parents and some property depending on the law

Custody Affidavit – A sworn statement containing facts about a child involved in a case, including full name of the child, date of birth, current and past residences and other information as may be required by law

Damages – Money a party receives as compensation for the plaintiff or prosecutor

Damnum sine injuria – Latin for “damages without injuries”, where no legal remedy exists because there were no legal damages

Day Incarceration Center – aka DIC, a community-based program that provides services, supervises, and monitors clients every day during daytime hours who would otherwise be incarcerated

Debt – A duty owed by a party to another party

Debt Validation – A consumer’s right to challenge a debt and receive written verification of debt from a debt collector

Declaration – An unsworn statement of facts made by a party to the transaction, or by one who has an interest in the facts recounted

De facto – Latin for “by fact”, rules that are factual irrespective of law or culture, contrast to de jure

De jure – Latin for “by law”, laws that are written down, contrast to de facto

Deed – A legal instrument that transfers an interest, right, or property between entities that must be signed, attested, delivered, and sometimes sealed

Default – To fail to respond or answer to the plaintiff’s claims by filing the required court document; usually an Appearance or an Answer

Default Rules – Rules in the hypothetical complete contract that can be amended, contrast to mandatory rules

Defendant – The person who is given court papers (aka Respondent) in civil cases, or the person who is arrested and charged with a crime in criminal cases

Delegation – A process in contract and international law where a delegator transfers responsibilities to a delegate, similar to an agent

Delinquent – Failing to pay an amount of money when due in civil or family cases, or a child who violated a law, local ordinance, or an order of the Superior Court in juvenile cases

Dépeçage – A conflict of laws where different issues in a single case are governed by laws of different jurisdictions

Dependent – Someone whose capacity for decision-making person regarded as unable to take care of their personal affairs is at least partially entrusted to a Guardian, typically children but also includes elderly and disabled

Deposition – A word-for-word account (Transcript) made of the testimony of a witness taken, under oath in a courtroom or outside a courtroom (usually in a lawyer’s office) in response to another party’s questions

Derivative – A contract that derives its value from an entity’s underlying performance

Detention Hearing or Detention Release Hearing – A hearing on the first business day after a juvenile is admitted to juvenile detention concerning the legality and appropriateness of their continued detention, which must be reviewed at least every fifteen days

Dictum – Statement of law made by the judge in the course of the decision but not necessary to the decision itself

Discovery – A formal request by one party in a lawsuit to disclose information or facts known by other parties or witnesses

Dismissal – A judge’s decision to end the case

Dismissal Without Prejudice – A judges decision to end the case which permits the plaintiff or prosecutor to renew the case later, while dismissal “with prejudice” by contrast prevents the complainant or prosecutor to bring or maintain the same claim or action again

Dispose – Ending a legal case or a judicial proceeding

Disposition – How a case is settled or resolved

Dissolution – aka Divorce, the legal end of a marriage

Diversionary Programs – Community based programs that are used to keep eligible, convicted criminal offenders out of prison

Docket – A list of cases scheduled to be heard in court on a specific day or week

Docket Number – A unique number the court clerk assigns to a case, which must be used on all future papers filed in that case, with each docket number starting with two letters to indicate the type of case:

  • CI = criminal infraction
  • CR = criminal case
  • CV = civil case
  • FA = family case
  • MI = motor vehicle infraction
  • MV= motor vehicle case
  • SC = small claims

Domicile – The permanent home of a person, and is only 1 residence even if they have several

Donatio mortis causa – Latin for “gift because of death”, a gift given in expectation of the donor’s imminent death

Drop Dead Date – The final date of a contract or court order before stated consequences happen

Drug Court – A Special Session of the Superior Court that is responsible for hearing cases involving charges of drug offenses

Dual Control – A principle where at least two employees must complete an internal control task

Dual-Use Goods – Products or technology that can be used for either military or civilian purposes

Due Diligence – The amount of investigation or care a reasonable person or entity is expected to take before engaging in a contract

Dunning – The process of methodically communicating with customers to ensure the collection of debts

Duty – An action someone is responsible to do or not do

Duty of Care – In tort law, a legal obligation imposed on an individual to adhere to a standard of care

Dying Declaration – A statement a person makes when they are near death, tends to have more weight in legal proceedings than typical statements

Education Program – A program for family violence offenders that, if granted and successfully completed, results in dismissal of criminal charges

Ejectment – A legal case filed against someone who is a holdover tenant (someone who remains after the expiration of a lease)

Electronic Monitoring – An electronic system that provides the Probation Officer or Bail Commissioner a report about whether the offender has left home during the time when the offender was required to remain at his or her home, often uses a GPS ankle bracelet

Emancipated Minor – A person under the age of majority who is granted most rights and legal privileges of an adult

Emancipation – The release of custody for an entity, typically applies to minors but historically applied to slavery

Embargo – An official government action that bans trade with another country, sometimes involves a specific commodity

Embezzlement – Unlawfully using or taking an entity’s funds for personal use

Emergency – An urgent, unexpected, and usually dangerous situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life, property, or environment and requires immediate action

Eminent Domain – The legal process where private property is taken for public use without the consent of the owner

End-User Certificate – A shipping document that indicates a buyer is the final recipient of a product and doesn’t intend to transfer it to another party

Endorsement – A material change to an insurance policy

Entity – aka party, a named person or corporation

Escalation Clause – A contract clause that allows for changing the agreed-upon price if a specific factor outside the control of both parties changes the situation

Escrow – A condition where a third party is holding onto an asset until both parties can finalize a contract

Essentiala Negotii – Latin for “essential aspects/terms”, the bare minimum requirements for a contract to be effective and legally binding

Estate – The combined assets and liability of a named person

Evasion – When an individual or entity intentionally avoids honoring a statute or order, can be external or internal

Eviction – Legally forcing a tenant out of rented property

Evidence – Testimony, documents or objects presented at a trial to prove a fact

Ex Parte – Done for, or at the request of, one side in a case only, without prior notice to the other side

Exchange Office – An entity that transfers or swaps out currency

Exclusion Clause – A contract term that tries to limit parties’ rights, can make a contract unenforceable

Execution Suspended – A prison sentence that is suspended in whole or in part provided certain conditions of probation or conditional discharge are met by the defendant

Executory Contract – A contract that hasn’t been fully performed or executed

Expectation Damages – Damages that are recoverable from a breach of contract

Express – Explicit communication (e.g., “I, John Smith, defrauded Mark Jones”), contrast to implied

External Risk – A risk produced by a non-human source and beyond human control

Extinguishment – Destruction in contract law of a right or contract

Extradition – Surrendering a person in one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction

Extraterritorial Jurisdiction – A government’s authority beyond its own territory

Factum probandum – Latin for “facts to prove”, with the burden of proof typically on the prosecution

Facilitation – Actions taken by one person to help another person in an activity

Failure to Appear – Failing to file an Appearance form in a civil case, and failing to come to court for a scheduled hearing in a criminal case

Family Relations Counselor – A Family Services Office worker who Mediates disagreements and negotiates agreements in custody, visitation and divorce cases, and may interview each parent and the children in a family at a judge’s request to evaluate the situation and write a report for the judge

Family Support Magistrate – A person who decides cases involving child support and paternity who can also enforce court orders about paternity, child support, and alimony

Family Violence Education Program – A program for family violence offenders that if successfully completed, results in the dismissal of criminal charges

Family Violence Victim Advocate – A person who works with domestic violence victims to determine their needs and inform them of their rights and resources available to them

Family With Service Needs – aka FWSN, a family that includes a child who (a) runs away without just cause (b) is beyond the control of his/her parents/guardian (c) has engaged in indecent or immoral conduct, and/or (d) is a truant or continuously defiant of school rules and regulations

Felony – Any criminal offense where a person may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than of one year

Felony Murder – A murder a person commits while they were also committing a felony

Filing – Giving the court clerk legal papers which become part of the case file

Finality – A situation where a dispute has had a resolution, and no further appeal or collateral proceedings can disturb that resolution

Financial Affidavit – A sworn statement of income, expenses, property (called assets in accounting) and debts (called liabilities in accounting)

Finding – The court’s or jury’s decision on issues of fact

Firm offer – an offer that will remain open for a certain period or event that changes the situation and can’t be revoked otherwise

Force majeure – French for “overwhelming force”, a common contract clause that releases liability and responsibility of both parties if an unlikely event happens

Foreclosure – A court order ending the legal ownership of property

Foreman – An elected member of a jury who delivers the verdict to the court

Forum Selection Clause – A contract clause which indicates what forum a contract dispute must be resolved (e.g., mediation, arbitration, litigation)

Fraud – Falsely representing matters of fact, can be intrinsic (core misstatements about the issue at hand) or extrinsic (subtly destroying the means to acquire facts)

Freedom of Contract – The right of individuals and entities to bargain freely among themselves about contracts without government interference

Freeze – Preventing or restricting use or transfer of assets

Front Company – a business established and controlled by another organization

Frustration of purpose – A defense in contract law where an unforeseen event has undermined a party’s main reason for entering into a contract, which materially changes the performance of the contract

Fundamental breach – A breach of contract treated as worse than “Breach of Contract” that automatically discharges the entire contract

Garnishment – A court order to collect money or property (e.g., a garnishment may be issued to an employer to pay part of an employee’s wages to someone else to pay a debt or judgment)

Gentleman’s Agreement – A non-binding agreement based on convention, implication, or mutually-beneficial etiquette, requires the honor or integrity of all parties to be enforced

Geographical Area – aka GA, the court location where motor vehicle and most criminal cases are heard

Good faith – aka “bona fides”, qualities or attributes that indicate honesty, sincerity, or conviction regarding the truth or falsity of a proposition

Grandfathered – A legal situation which is no longer possible to begin or initiate, but where existing arrangements are still valid

Grantor – A party who transfers ownership of assets

Greylist – A list of suspicious or high-risk entities, contrast to “blacklist”

Grievance – A complaint filed against an attorney or judge, claiming an ethics violation

Ground – Reasoning based on laws to justify relief

Guardian – A person who has the power and duty to take care of and/or manage the property and rights of another person regarded as unable to take care of their personal affairs

Guardian Ad Litem – A person, usually a parent, appointed by the court to represent a child or unborn person in a court case (though it will be a social worker if it’s a Child Services worker), and a judge may appoint an attorney if a family member is not available

Guillotine Clause – A contract stipulation that indicates that all parts of a contract package must be adopted or the entire contract package is terminated

Habeas Corpus – A court order that physically brings a person before a court to test the legality of the person’s detention, usually directed to the official or person detaining another, commanding them to bring the person to court for the judge to determine if that person has been denied liberty without due process of law

Habitability – The adequacy of an environment for human living

Heads of Loss – aka “heads of claim”, the various categories a plaintiff will use when seeking damages

Hearing – Any legal proceedings that occur in front of a judge without a jury

Hearsay – Testimony given by a witness who tells second or third hand information

Hire Purchase – An contractual installment plan for payment

Hold-Harmless Agreement – A special type of contract most commonly found in insurance that holds a party completely free of any responsibility for liability or damages

Honor Court – A program of outpatient group therapy for alcohol abusers

Housing Specialist – A person who provides pretrial mediation of landlord/tenant cases to reach settlement, as well as giving information about community resources to litigants

Hung Jury – A jury whose members cannot reconcile their differences of opinion and thus cannot reach a verdict

Illusory promise – A contract, but with vague enough elements that a court won’t enforce it

Imminent peril – aka “Imminent danger”, certain danger that’s immediate and pending, menacingly close at hand, and threatening

Immunity – a legally enforced exemption from specific duties or requirements, can be absolute (for government officials) or diplomatic (across governments for diplomatic officials)

Implied – Communication based on the person’s conduct

Implied-in-fact – A contract defense based on the factual precedent of customary behavior establishing a contract, without explicit dialogue or consent

Implied Authority – The implied ability of an individual to make a legally binding contract on behalf of another organization

Implied Warranty – The implied assurances a seller has given a buyer during a purchase agreement, can be disclaimed by selling as is

Impossibility – A defense in contract law where the circumstances have changed, and nobody presumed they would, so performing the contract is now literally impossible, similar to impracticability, often confused with frustration of purpose

Impracticability – A defense in contract law where the circumstances have changed, and nobody presumed they would, so performing the contract is now too burdensome for one party, similar to impossibility

Impute – Associate liability to a party that holds them responsible, often for financial liability

In status quo – Latin for “in the present state”

Incarceration – Confinement to a state correctional institute or prison

Income Withholding Order – A court order to deduct child support or alimony payments from someone’s wages, which all must include an income withholding order unless both parents ask the judge not to

Indemnity – A contractual obligation to compensate losses through compensation, a common concept within insurance

Indigent – Someone without enough money to either support himself or herself or his or her family, or who cannot afford to pay certain fees required by the court

Inducement – An incentive by a party to bring about a desired state by another party

Information – In a criminal case, the formal court document in the clerk’s file, which contains the charges, dates of offenses, bond status, continuance dates and disposition

Infraction – A case where the fine may be paid by mail and usually the person does not have to appear or come to court, such as a speeding ticket

Inherent Risk – The risk of something before controls are set to mitigate it

Injunction – A court order to stop or to start doing a specific act

Injury – The amount of money that indemnifies a victim

Innominate term – A component of a contract that’s in the middle between a condition and warranty

Innuendo – Spoken words that are defamatory because they have a double meaning

Insured – An individual or entity who has an insurance policy

Insurance Policy – An agreement for an insured to transfer economic risk to an insurer for a fee

Integration Clause – aka “merger clause”, a condition in a contract that indicates the contract is the complete and final agreement between parties, can make the entire contract an “integrated contract”

Intent – aka “mens rea”, a person’s state of mind when performing an action, contrast to actus reus

Inter alia – “Latin for “among other things”

Interlineation – Inserting language in between the content of an existing legal document

Interpreter – The person who translates court hearings from a second language to English, provided at no cost to someone who needs them in all cases where the person’s life, freedom, children or housing are at risk of being taken away or in criminal or child support cases

Interrogatory – Formal, written questions used to get information from another party in a lawsuit

Intervening Cause – A cause that breaks proximate cause and begins a new sequence of events

Investigation – Obtaining and analyzing information about an entity in response to an alert of a possible statuory violation

Investigatory Grand Jury – A judge, constitutional state referee or any three judges of the Superior Court, appointed by the Chief Court Administrator to conduct an investigation into the commission of a crime or crimes

Invitation to treat/bargain – from Latin phrase “invitatio ad offerendum” meaning “inviting an offer”, an expression of being willing to negotiate, which doesn’t mean others’ acceptance is a binding agreement

Ipso facto – Latin for “by the mere fact”, declaring a logical connection between two elements

Judge – A person who hears and decides cases for the courts, appointed by the governor for a multi-year term and confirmed by the General Assembly

Judgment – aka Decree or Order, a court decision

Judgment File – A permanent court record of the court’s final disposition of the case

Judicial District – aka JD, where civil, criminal, family and juvenile matters are heard, as well as civil jury, civil non-jury, administrative appeals and family matters

Juris Number – An identification number assigned to each attorney in a state

Jurisdiction – Power and authority of a court to hear and make a judgment in a case

Juror – Member of a jury

Jury Charge – The judge’s formal instructions on the law to the jury before it begins deliberations

Jury Instructions – Directions given by the judge to the jury concerning the law of the case

Juvenile Court – aka “Superior Court for Juvenile Matters”, a special division of the Superior Court designated to hear all cases concerning Uncared For, Dependent children and youth and delinquents

Juvenile Delinquent – A person under the age of 16 who commits a criminal act

Juvenile Detention – State facility to provide for the temporary care of a child who alleged to be delinquent and who requires a physically restricted, secure environment

Juvenile Detention Center – A secure facility for juveniles operated by the Division of Juvenile Detention Services of the State Judicial Branch, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Juvenile Detention Officer – aka JDO, a person who works within a Juvenile Detention Center

Juvenile Matters – All cases concerning:

  • Uncared For, Neglected or Dependent children and youth
  • Termination of parental rights of children committed to a state agency
  • Matters concerning families with service needs
  • Contested matters involving termination of parental rights or removal of guardian transferred from the Probate Court and the emancipation of minors
  • Doesn’t include matters where Probate Court has jurisdiction, who hears appeals concerning adoption, termination of parental rights, and removal of a parent as guardian

Juvenile Probation – Placement of an adjudicated delinquent under the supervision of a juvenile probation officer

Juvenile Transportation Officer – aka JTO, a person who provides safe transportation services for juveniles in custody

Kickback – A negotiated form of bribery where a commission is paid to the bribe-taker in exchange for rendered services

Knock and talk – An investigative technique where one or more police officers approaches a private residence, knocks on the door, and requests consent from the owner to search the residence

Knowledge – The mental state that accompanies a prohibited act

Lapse – A gap in time after the term ended

Larceny – Theft of physical possessions

Law Librarian – Court staff who maintain legal reference and research materials for public use

Legal Aid or Legal Services – Free legal representatives in civil cases for income eligible persons

Legal Custody – Relationship with a child created by court order which gives a person legal responsibility for the physical possession of a minor and the duty to protect, care for and discipline the child

Legal Fiction – A fact assumed or created by courts, which is then used to reach a decision or apply a legal rule (e.g., your formalized full name in all capital letters)

Legal Instrument – A legal document that can be formally attributed to its author

Legal Immunity – A condition where a person or entity cannot be held liable for a violation of the law

Legal Rights – Rights bestowed onto a person by a legal system (creates “positive laws”), contrast to natural rights

Legal Separation – A court order describing the conditions under which two married people will live separately

Legality – Whether an action is consistent or aligned with the law

Lemon Laws – aka “redhibition”, a civil action against a seller/manufacturer of a defective product

Letter of Intent – aka “letter of comfort”, “heads of terms” or “heads of agreement” an unenforceable communication to indicate initial willingness to enter into a contract but without all the necessary elements to make a contract, its purpose is to create a morally binding but not legally binding assurance and tends to be worded vaguely

Liability – The responsibility a party has for adverse events

License – Authorization to perform an otherwise prohibited or restricted activity

Lien – A charge, hold, or claim upon property of another as security for a debt

Limited Liability Company (LLC or LTD) – A company where the owners’ liability is limited to how much they’ve put into the company

Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) – A partnership that is a Limited Liability Company

Limited Warranty – A warranty that only applies to portions of a contract

Liquidated Damages – A contract stipulation that clarifies the damages incurred in the case of specific breaches of contract

Lis Pendens – A pending lawsuit, jurisdiction or control that courts have over property in a case waiting for final disposition, a notice of lis pendens is filed on the land records

Litigant – A party to a case

Lockout – Illegally forcing a tenant out of rented property, usually by changing the locks on the doors

Locus standi – aka “standing, a party seeking a legal remedy must demonstrate to the court they have sufficient connection with what they’re challenging

Loss – A materially significant sabotage for an individual or entity’s expected purposes or rights

Magistrate – A person who is not a judge but who is authorized to hear and decide certain types of cases (e.g., family support magistrates hear cases involving child support)

Mala fide – Latin for “in bad faith”, intentional fraud or deception, contrast to bona fide

Malum in se – Latin for “wrong in itself”, some crimes are considered inherently wrong, regardless of whether there’s a law for it (e.g., murder, rape), contrast to malum prohibitum

Malum prohibitum – Latin for “prohibited wrong”, a crime is bad not because it’s inherently bad, but because the state has prohibited it

Mandamus – An order directed to a private corporation, or any of its officers, or to an executive, administrative or judicial officer, or to a lower court, commanding the performance of a particular act

Mandatory Rules – Rules in the hypothetical complete contract that can’t be amended, contrast to default rules

Marshal – The people responsible for courthouse security (e.g., metal detectors at the entrance of each courthouse) and maintaining order in each courtroom, they can serve legal papers to named people named in a lawsuit

Material – An adjective referring to information or objects that would change the state of a ruling or contract

Mediation – A dispute resolution process in which an impartial third party assists the parties to voluntarily reach a mutually acceptable settlement

Meeting of the minds – A legal situation where two parties have interacted in a way that a contract was possibly formed

Minor – A person under the age of majority

Misdemeanor – A crime that carries a maximum penalty of one year and/or a $2,000 fine

Misnomer – A wrong or inaccurate name or term

Misrepresentation – A false or misleading statement of fact

Mistake – An erroneous (while innocent) belief of certain facts being true

Mitigating Circumstances – Circumstances that may be considered to reduce the guilt of a defendant, usually based on fairness or mercy

Mittimus Judgment – aka Mitt, the formal document prepared by the court clerk to present a convicted defendant in a criminal case to the Department of Correction for incarceration

Modification – Request to change a prior order, usually requires showing a change in circumstances since the date of the prior order

Modus operandi – Latin for “way of operating”, the way of work or mode of operation

Modus vivendi – Latin for “way of life”, the customs and approach of a person’s routine

Money Order – A monetary instrument usually purchased with cash in small denominations

Money Laundering – Concealing or disguising illegal transfers to make them appear legitimate, consists of 3 stages: (1) place funds in a financial system (2) layering transactions to disguise its details (3) integration of funds back into society

Moot – A matter where legal proceedings regarding it can’t have any effect

Morals Clause – aka “bad boy/girl clause”, a clarification in a contract about what a party can not do

Moratorium – A legally authorized period of delay for a legal obligation

Motion – Usually written request to the court in a case, typically to dismiss or revise an allegation, filed with the clerk’s office

Movant – The person who filed the motion, or request, to the court

Moving Party – The person making the request to the court in a case

Named Person – An individual’s legally recognized name on a legal document

Natural Rights – Rights which are universal, fundamental, and inalienable that the laws or customs of a particular government cannot bestow, contrast to legal rights

Ne Exeat – A legal paper requesting that a person be required to remain within the jurisdiction of the court (either through incarceration or posting of a bond)

Negative Pledge – A contract provision that prohibits a party from creating security interests over specified property

Neglected Minor – A child or youth who has been (a) abandoned, (b) denied proper attention, (c) permitted to live under conditions injurious to his/her well being, or (d) abused

Negligence – Failing to exercise appropriate care expected for specific circumstances

Negotiable Instrument – A legal instrument that indicates payment

Nonacquiescence – The intentional failure by one branch of a government to comply in some way with another branch’s decision

Non Prosequitur – A final legal judgment against the plaintiff for neglecting to responsibly take any steps they’re required to take

No Contact Order – A court order that prohibits a defendant from contacting the stated victim; can be ordered by a judge, a bail commissioner, a probation officer or a parole officer

No Contest – aka Nolo Contendre, a plea in a criminal case that allows the defendant to be convicted without admitting guilt for the crime charged, while a finding of guilty is entered on the criminal court record the defendant can deny the charges in a civil action based on the same acts

No Fault Divorce – aka “Broken Down Irretrievably”, the most common kind of divorce, where no one needs to prove that the husband or the wife is at fault, or caused the marriage to end

Nokku Kooli – Malayalam for “gawking wages”, extortion by organized labor by showing up, not doing the work, then demanding payment with risk of violence after the work is completed by someone else

Nolle – Short for “nollo prosequi”, Latin for “no prosecution”, a disposition where the prosecutor/plaintiff agrees to drop the case against the defendant but keeps the right to reopen the case and prosecute in the near future

Non es factum – Latin for “not my facts”, where a signing party can escape performance of an agreement when it’s fundamentally different than what they intended to sign

Nondelegable Obligation – A legal obligation which is not delegable

Non-Repudiation – The confirmation of the validity of a repudiated signature on a contract

Non Sequitur – Latin for “no sequence”, a statement which does not follow logically from or not clearly related to anything previously said

Non-Suit – Vacating a case by the court, usually for failure to prosecute

Notarize – To formally complete a document by acknowledgment or oath

Notice of Violation – A notice that local cities and towns issue that give 30-60 day notice to correct the violation

Novation – A transaction where a new contract is agreed-upon by all parties to replace the existing contract that replaces an obligation to perform with another obligation, adds an obligation to perform, or replaces a party to an agreement with another party

Nudum Pactum – Latin for “naked promise”, a promise that doesn’t have consideration, meaning it’s not legally binding

Nunc Pro Tunc – Latin for “now for then”, retroactively correcting an earlier ruling

Oath – To swear/affirm to the truth of a statement/document

Obiter dictum – Latin for “other things said”, a legal opinion expressed by any judge or arbitrator which is not binding but can be persuasive, contrast to ratio decidendi

Obligatio Consensu – Latin for “obligation by consent”, contracts which don’t require formalities or parties present

Obligation of Performance – An offeror’s requirement to perform according to a contract, triggered by power of acceptance

Occupy – Broad word for a physical space that a party either owns or inhabits

Office of Adult Probation – A division within the Judicial Branch The primary responsibilities of the Office of Adult Probation are to supervise persons placed on probation, to conduct investigations for the court to provide background information on convicted offenders and to conduct eligibility investigations for special programs

Officious Intermeddler – A person who voluntarily, without request or pre-existing legal duty, interjects themselves into others’ affairs

Offshore – Out-of-country, relative to context of current country

Onus Probandi – aka “burden of proof”, the duty of a party to produce an assertion of fact, includes (1) the burden of producing and (2) the burden of persuasion

Operational Risk – Risks that come from failed organizational operations

Order – A written direction of a court or judge to do or refrain from doing certain acts

Order to Detain – An order signed by a judge of the Superior Court authorizing admission of a juvenile to a Juvenile Detention Center, pending a hearing on the next business day

Order of Detention – An order issued by a judge of the Superior Court finding that there is probable cause that a juvenile committed an offense or a violation of a court order and ordering that the juvenile be held in a Juvenile Detention Center or some alternative facility until further order of the court

Orders of Temporary Custody – aka OTC, court order placing a child or youth in the short-term legal custody of an individual or agency authorized to care for juveniles

Parcel – A tract or a plot of land

Parenting Education Program – A mandatory program for persons involved in a divorce with children or a custody or visitation case, must be attended within 60 days of the return date on the summons

Parole – Release from incarceration after serving part of a sentence

Particeps criminis – Latin for “criminal participant”, a participator in a crime

Parties – The people or legal entities that are named as plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) on legal papers

Party – A person or legal entity that is named as a plaintiff or defendant on legal papers

Paternity – Legal fatherhood

Penalty Clause – A contract clarification that delivers a penalty for over-performing (e.g., finishing a job late), contrast to bonus clause

Pendente Lite Order – A court order made before final orders are granted

Peppercorn – A very small consideration such as a tiny cash payment which satisfies the requirements for creating a legal contract

Per Curiam – Latin for “by care”, referring to the court

Per Incuriam – Latin for “by no care”, referring to negligence

Per Minas – Latin for “by menaces or threats”

Per Se – Latin for “by itself”

Peremptory Challenge – The rejection of a prospective juror by the attorneys in a case, without having to give a reason, state law defines the number of peremptory challenges available

Perjury – Making false statements under oath

Persona Non Grata – Latin for “unacceptable/unwelcome person”, typically a person who is not where they ought to have been or a person in a foreign country against the laws of that country’s government

Personalty – aka “personal property” or “chattel”, property tied to a person, which means it’s movable (e.g., automotives), contrast to realty

Petition – A formal written request to a court that starts a Special Proceeding

Plaintiff – aka Petitioner or Complainant, the person who sues or starts a civil case

Plea – An accused persons answer to a criminal charge (e.g., not guilty; guilty; no contest)

Plea Bargain – The agreement a defendant makes with the prosecutor to avoid a trial, usually involves pleading guilty to lesser charges in exchange for a lighter sentence

Pleadings – The court documents filed with the court by the parties in a civil or criminal case (e.g., motion to dismiss, motion for modification)

Post Bond – To pay the court ordered bond amount with cash or property

Post Judgment – Any request to a court or action by a judge after a judgment in a case

Power of Acceptance – A party’s ability to respond to a contract, which triggers the offeror’s obligation of performance

Practice Book – Contains the rules of court and forms which must be followed in all state court cases, available in all courthouse law libraries

Precedent – A principle or rule established in a previous legal case, tends to guide most cases

Prerogative – An exclusive right bestowed by a government and invested into an individual or group, which is separate from the body of rights enjoyed by everyone under general law

Pre-Emption Right – aka “first option to buy”, a contractual right granted for a party to acquire newly existing property before it can be offered to any other party

Pre-Sentence Investigation – aka PSI, a background investigation conducted by a probation officer on a person who has been convicted of a criminal offense

Presumption – A particular fact that can be made without the aid of proof

Pretrial – In a civil case, a conference with a judge or trial referee to discuss discovery and settlement, in a criminal case, a conference with the prosecutor, defense attorney and judge to discuss the case status and what will happen next

Pretrial Hearing – Conference with attorneys to determine scope of possible trial with view toward resolving issues through agreement

Privity – a close, mutual or successive relationship to the same right of property or power to enforce a promise or warranty, typically part of contract law

Pro Rata – Latin for “per rate”, typically refers to a proportional amount (e.g., a fraction of the number of days used versus the total number of days in a contract)

Probable Cause Hearing – A hearing held before a judge in criminal cases to determine if enough evidence exists to prosecute, the hearing must be conducted within 60 days of filing the complaint or information in Superior Court, unless the defendant waives the time or the court grants an extension based on good cause

Probate/Probate Court – A court with limited authority to hear certain kinds of cases, such as adoption, guardianship, mental health commitments, not a part of the Superior Court system

Probation – aka Community-Led Supervision, when a convicted offender receives a suspended term of incarceration and is then supervised by a probation officer for a period of time set by a judge

Probation Absconder – A person under probation supervision whose location is unknown, in violation of the conditions of their probation

Production – Providing evidence that proves an assertion of fact is true, typically falls on the prosecution/plaintiff

Promise to Appear – A type of non-financial bond where the defendant agrees to return to court without giving cash or property

Property – A person’s lawful possession, often refers to real estate but can also apply to intellectual property, contracts and service agreements, or assets, once involved people directly but has generally transitioned strictly to debt

Protection – Broad word that refers to the state or means of being safe

Pro Se – Latin for “for yourself”, representing yourself in any kind of case

Pro Se Divorce – Do it yourself divorce

Prosecute – To carry on a case or judicial proceeding, or to proceed against a person criminally

Prosecutor – aka State Attorney, represents the state in a criminal case against a defendant

Protective Order – A criminal court order issued by a judge to protect a family or household member

Provision – A written term used in a solicitation, which becomes a clause once the solicitation becomes a contract

Proximate Cause – an event related to an injury enough that it’s deemed as the injury’s cause, applies to both law and insurance

Public Defender – An attorney appointed and paid by the state who defends a person in a criminal case after the court finds that the person is indigent (financially unable) to hire a private attorney

Public Domain – A property that’s meant for public use, typically refers to intellectual property

Puffery – Exaggerated or false praise

Quantum Meruit – Latin for “the amount one has earned”, the fair amount a person deserves to be paid for a service

Quantum Valebant – Latin for “the amount of value of something”, the fair amount a person deserves to be paid for goods

Quasi-Contract – A fictional contract recognized by a court, even when it’s not an explicit agreement

Quid Pro Quo – Latin for “something for something”, typically refers to business exchanges or agreements

Ratio Decidendi – Latin for “the reason for the decision”, reasoning for a ruling regarding the crucial factsand law of a case, contrast to obiter dictum

Ready – Means ready to start the trial or begin oral argument, usually said by an attorney or party in response to a judge calling the list of scheduled cases

Realty – aka “real estate”, land which is the property of a person, along with all structures integrated with or affixed to the land, contrast to personalty

Rebating – A separate contract that gives back consideration on top of a formal contract (e.g., providing a consulting fee for future possible service)

Recharacterization – Treating something differently than the way it was described

Reciprocal Obligation – A contract arrangement where several parties have shared obligations

Record – The pleadings, the exhibits and the transcript made by the court reporter of all proceedings in a trial

Rectification – A situation where a court orders a document to be changed to reflect what it ought to have said in the first place

Referee – Judges who reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 may be designated as Judge Trial Referees by the Chief Justice and can hear and decide certain types of cases

Refoulement – The act of a government sending a refugee back to their country they fled from

Regional Child Protection Docket – A specialized court designed to hear complicated child protection cases where one judge hears the case from start to finish

Regional Family Trial Docket – A specialized court designed to hear complicated family cases where one judge hears the case from start to finish

Reinstate – Reverting a contract to the terms it had before it lapsed

Relief – A broad word referring to entitlements that the plaintiff/prosecution is claiming the defendant must provide, often involves money

Remedy – The action necessary to indemnify a party

Remoteness – The distance between an action’s cause and the loss or damage sustained as a result, addressed through a series of rules in both tort and contract law and limits the amount of compensatory damages available for a violation

Remuneration – Paying back a party for a performed service

Renewal – A contract that carries on to another term, with minor modifications to details such as pricing or physical address

Repudiation – Discrediting the validity of a signature on a contract, can directly lead to non-repudiation

Reputation Risk – The potential risks from adverse publicity

Rescission – Unwinding a contract to a state before the contract occurred, typically from situations like mistakes or misrepresentations

Residential Treatment Programs – Programs that provide extensive drug or alcohol treatment on an inpatient basis

Rest – To be done presenting the evidence in a case, as in “the plaintiff rests”

Restitution – Money ordered to be paid by the defendant to the victim to reimburse the victim for the costs of the crime (or to the court for their trouble), generally gives up the equivalent for any loss, damage or injury caused by a person’s actions to the court and contrasts to loss-based recovery, Often a condition of criminal probation

Restraining Order – A civil court order to protect a family or household member from physical abuse

Retainage – A contract arrangement where a portion of the agreed-upon price is withheld until the work is completed to ensure performance

Retention – To hold onto something, often for a contractual agreement

Return Date – A date where nothing happens and no one must go to court on, but the 90-day waiting period for a divorce begins and a countdown starts for certain filing deadlines

Revoke – aka “void”, “annulment” or “cancellation”, the invalidation of a contract

Revocation Hearing – A hearing held before a judge to determine whether or not a person has violated the conditions of probation, and a finding that a violation has occurred may provoke the judge to impose all or part of the original sentence

Rider – An addendum to a contract that replaces the original wording of the language

Right – A legal, social, or ethical principle of freedom or entitlement

Right of First Refusal – A party’s held right to enter a business transaction with another party or refuse first before that party can enter an agreement with a third party

Ripeness – The readiness of a case for litigation

Risk – aka Danger, the possibility of suffering harm or loss

Risk Appetite – aka Risk Tolerance, the amount of risk an entity is willing to take

Risk of Loss – The contractual determination about which party should pay for any damages after a sale but before a delivery

Rule to Show Cause – Summons compelling a person to appear in court on a specific date to answer to a request that certain orders be modified or vacated

Safe Harbor – A statute that specifies that certain conduct is deemed to not violate a given rule

Sanction – A country’s prohibition of transactions and activity with another country

Scope of Licensing – Permitted activities granted by a license

Scope of Permitted Activities – Activities permitted with or without a license

Scrivener’s error – A clerical error in a legal document

Seal – A court order closing a case file from public review, usually in cases of youthful offenders and acquittal, and prevents the public from obtaining information on the cases

Security – A tradable financial asset, typically refers to a type of surety given by a party to bind an agreement (e.g., for a loan) or owning shares of a company

Senior Judge – A judge who reaches the age of 65, or who meets certain other requirements and chooses senior status

Senior judges hear cases on a part time basis until they reach the mandatory retirement age of 70

Sentences – The penalty imposed by a judge after the defendant is convicted of a crime, and can be:

  • Concurrent – Multiple sentences served at the same time (i.e., concurrent sentences of 10 years, 8 years and 2 years – equal a total effective sentence of 10 years)
  • Consecutive – The sentences are served back-to-back (e.g., the same example above would equal a total effective sentence of 20 years)

Sentencing – When a criminal defendant is brought before a judge after conviction for ordering the terms of the punishment

Sentence Modification – A defendant’s written application to the sentencing judge or court to have a hearing to reduce the sentencing while they’re serving it, and the prosecutor must agree if the original sentence was more than three years

Sentence Review – A defendant’s written application to a three judge panel to review the sentence, which must be filed within 30 days after being sentenced with the court clerk and can increase or decrease the sentence

Serious Juvenile Offender – A child who has been adjudicated by the juvenile court for a serious juvenile offense

Serious Juvenile Offense – Certain criminal offenses listed in the state General Statutes, which are crimes against persons, serious property crimes and certain drug offenses, and may admit a juvenile charged with it to a Juvenile Detention Center with a prior court order to only be released by order of a judge of the Superior Court

Service – The legal method of giving a copy of filed court papers to other parties in a case, which is necessary for legal proceedings to continue

Set-Off – A procedure that provides netting (combining liabilities instead of keeping them separate) for more efficient cross claims

Settlement – A legal alternative to paying damages to a court, typically through arbitration or mediation

Shelf Company – Company created months or years ahead of time, then goes “on the shelf” until needed

Shell Company – A company without active business or assets, completely legal but can be used for illegal activity

Short Calendar – A list of cases in which hearing by the judge or magistrate is requested or required

Shrinkwrap Contract – A standard contract attached to the product itself, with usage of the product implying acceptance of its terms

Side Letter – aka “side agreement” or “side letter arrangement”, a second contract that’s not part of a primary contract, but is used to cover issues that the primary contract doesn’t cover

Simple Contract – A written or oral contract that isn’t formally sealed, needs physical consideration to be valid

Sine Qua Mon – Latin for “without which nothing”, an essential condition that is absolutely necessary, typically refers to an argument that, if debunked, causes the entire argument to crumble

Slip Opinions – Opinions, or written decisions, of the Supreme Court or the Appellate Court that are publicly released prior to their official publication in the state’s Law Journal

Small Claims – Civil actions to recover damages, or money, up to $5000, with relaxed rules of evidence and people often representing themselves instead of hiring an attorney

Solicitation – An offer to engage in a contract

Sound Mind – A person in a state of mind where they’re capable of making reasonable decisions

Special Proceeding – A specific court action that has been authorized by Statute

Special Sessions of the Superior Court – A program of the Judicial Branch where cases of a single type are heard by the same judge through the entire case and can include Drug Session, Tax Session, and Community Court

Specific Performance – A court’s requirement for a party in a contract to perform a specific action

Standard Form Contract – aka “contract of adhesion”, “leanine contract” or “take-it-or-leave-it contract”, a conventionally-written formalized contract, typically written by attorneys and then signed by someone without much review, any ambiguity leans in favor of the responding party

Standard of Care – In tort law, the only degree of prudence and caution required for an individual under a duty of care

State Actor – a perosn acting on behalf of a government body, therefore subject to limitations imposed on governments by the Constitution

State Referee – A retired judge who presides over cases referred by the court with agreement of counsel for both parties and has the full powers of an active trial judge

Statute – A law enacted by a legislative body, contrast to Common Law

Statute of Frauds – The laws a region has established to prevent fraud by requiring written and signed agreements for all contracts in that domain

Statute of Limitations – A certain time allowed by law for starting a case after the event has happened (e.g., 6 years in a contract case)

Stay – Temporarily stopping a judicial proceeding

Sting Operation – An investigation that involves undercover officers posing as criminals to win the trust of suspected or known criminals

Steering – Trying to influence someone against their interests

Stipulation – aka “stip”, a written agreement by the parties or their attorneys

Stripping – Omitting or removing key information to avoid detection

Subpoena – A command to appear in court to testify as a witness

Subpoena Duces Tecum – A legal paper requiring someone to produce documents or records for a trial

Subrogation – A third party assuming a party’s contractual right to collect a debt or damages

Substance Abuse Education – A community based program for drug offenders that educates on the harmful effects of drug abuse and supervises community service

Substitute Charge – In a criminal case, a charge that replaces the original charge by the prosecutor

Summary Process – An eviction case

Summons – A written notice issued by the court that gains jurisdiction over a party by commanding a person to appear in a court at a given date and time, which is issued to an individual charged or other party on a petition or complaint and starts a civil case

Support Enforcement Officer – A person who supervises child support payments and brings parents to court to enforce child support orders. May also file legal papers to modify or change child support orders

Surety – aka “guarantee”, a private transaction where a person makes themselves answerable for something

Supreme Court – The highest law interpretation in the land, only arrives after going through an Appellate Court

Suspect Classification – A class or group of people meeting a set of criteria that suggests they’re likely the subject of discrimination

Taint – Evidence which has been ruined in some manner, typically by being obtained illegally by law enforcement

Tax – A financial requirement for an individual or entity to pay a government for a business transaction

Term – A clearly indicated period of time

Terra Nullius – Latin for “nobody’s land”, a territory that no government owns

Testimony – Statements made by a witness or party under oath

Time Served – A sentence of incarceration equal to the amount of time a defendant has already spent in state custody waiting for Disposition of the case

Title – Legally recognized ownership of property, usually proven by a document

Tort – A civil injury or wrong to someone else, or their property

Tortfeasor – the defendant in a tort case

Transcript – The official written record of everything that was said at a court proceeding, a hearing, or a deposition
Transfer – Assignment of a case to another court location by court order

Transfer Hearing – Juvenile Court hearing to determine whether a child, 14 or older, charged with a serious juvenile offense should have his/her case transferred to a criminal court and be subject to the same processes and penalties as an adult charged with the same crime

Transshipment – Shipping goods through intermediate countriesa

Trial De Novo – A new trial or retrial in which the whole case with evidence and witnesses is presented as if no previous trial had been held

Trial Referee – An attorney appointed by the Chief Justice to hear any civil non-jury case where the parties agree to use a trial referee and all the legal papers have been filed

Ultrahazardous Activity – In tort law, an activity that is so harmful that a person performing that activity can be held liable for any injury, even if they took all necessary precautions

Ulysses pact – aka “Ulysses contract”, an agreement a person makes for a future situation where they may not be as capable of making a decision

Unaccompanied Minor – A child who is not accompanied by a legal guardian

Uncared For – Legal description of a child or youth who is homeless or whose home cannot provide the specialized care which his/her physical, emotional or mental condition requires

Unconditional Discharge – A sentence in a criminal case in which the defendant is released without imprisonment, probation supervision or conditions

Undue Influence – A situation where one party pressures another into signing a contract

Unjust Enrichment – In laws of equity, a situation where one person is enriched at another’s expense in an unjust capacity

Vacate – To cancel or rescind a court order

Venue – The court location

Vest – The process of transferring property between parties, typically happens after a specified period of time from an event

Veto – A ban or order to not allow something to become law, even if it has been passed by a legislative body

Victim Services Advocate – A person who assesses a victim’s needs and helps the victim understand the court case, how to exercise their rights and how to access other resources

Visitation – aka “Parenting Time” or Access, a court order deciding the amount of time a non-custodial parent may spend with his or her child

Violation – An offense for which the only sentence authorized is a fine

Violation of Probation – Action or inaction that disobeys a condition of probation

Voir Dire – Latin for “to speak the truth”, The process of questioning prospective jurors or witnesses about their qualifications

Vox populi – Latin for “people’s voice”, the opinion of the majority of the people

Wage Execution – aka Garnishment or Attachment, the process of deducting money from wages to pay a judgment

Wage Withholding – A court order to deduct child support or alimony payments from someone’s wages, and all child support court orders must include an income withholding order unless both parents ask the judge not to

Waiver – Voluntarily giving up or removing existing conditions

Warranty – Elements in a contract that may lead to damages but wouldn’t typically void the contract

Witness – A person who testifies to what they saw, heard, observed or did

Writ – Legal paper filed to start various types of civil lawsuits

Youth – Any person 16 to 18 years of age

Youthful Offender – The legal status of persons who have been arrested for a crime committed when they were between 16 and 18 and meet some other requirements