Legal Terms & Procedures

abstract of record

A complete history in short, abbreviated form of the case as found in the record.

abstract of title

A chronological history, in abbreviated form, of the ownership of a parcel of land.

accumulative sentence

A sentence, additional to others, imposed at the same time for several distinct offenses; one sentence to begin at the expiration of another.

action in personam

An action against the person, founded on a personal liability.

action in rem

An action for the recovery of a specific object, usually an item of personal property such as an automobile.


Giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree; also the judgment given.


The law of maritime contracts, torts, injuries and offenses.

adversary system

The system of trial practice in the United States and some other countries in which each of the opposing, or adversary, parties has full opportunity to present and establish opposing contentions before the court.


The assertion, declaration, or statement of a party to an action, made in a pleading, setting out what he expects to prove.

amicus curiae

A friend of the court; one who interposes, with the permission of the court, and volunteers information upon some matter of law.

ancillary bill or suit

One growing out of and auxiliary to another action or suit, such as a proceeding for the enforcement of a judgment, or to set aside fraudulent transfers of property.


A pleading by which defendant endeavors to resist the plaintiff's allegation of facts.


The formal proceeding by which defendant submits himself to the jurisdiction of the court.


The party appealing a decision or judgment, which he considers unfavorable, to a higher court.

appellate court

A court having jurisdiction of appeal and review; not a "trial court."


The party against whom an appeal is taken.


In criminal practice, to bring a prisoner to the bar of the court to answer to a criminal charge.

arrest of judgment

The act of postponing the effect of a judgment already entered.

at issue

Whenever the parties to a suit come to a point in the pleadings which is affirmed on one side and denied on the other, they are said to be "at issue" and ready for trial.


A remedy by which plaintiff is enabled to acquire a lien upon property or effects of defendant for satisfaction of judgment which plaintiff may obtain in the future.

attorney of record

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


To set at liberty a person arrested or imprisoned, on security being taken, for his appearance on a specified day and place.

bail bond

An obligation signed by the accused, with sureties, to secure his presence in court.


A court attendant whose duties are to keep order in the courtroom and to have custody of the jury.


Bench; the place where a court permanently or regularly sits. A "sitting in banc" is a meeting of all the judges of a court, as distinguished from the sitting of a single judge.

bench warrant

Process issued by the court itself, or "from the bench" for the attachment or arrest of a person.

best evidence

Primary evidence, as distinguished from secondary; the best and highest evidence of which the nature of the case is susceptible.

binding instruction

One in which jury is told if they find certain conditions to be true they must find for plaintiff, or defendant, as the case might be.

bind over

To hold on bail for trial.


A written or printed document prepared by counsel to file in court, usually set forth both facts and law in support of his case.

burden of proof

In the law of evidence, the necessity or duty of affirmatively proving a fact or facts in dispute.


The break into and entering of a building with an intent to commit a serious crime.

calling the docket

The public calling of the docket or list of causes at commencement of term of court, for setting a time for trial or entering orders.


The caption of a pleading, or other papers connected with a case in court, is the heading or introductory clause which shows the names of the parties, name of the court, number of the case, etc.


An original writ commanding judges or officers of inferior courts to certify or to return records of proceedings in a cause for judicial review.

challenge for cause

A challenge to a juror for which a particular cause or reason recognized by law is alleged. Distinguished from peremptory challenge.

challenge to the array

Questioning the qualifications of an entire jury panel, usually on the grounds of partiality or some fault in the process of summoning the panel.


Private office or room of a judge.


Judge of Chancery Court.

chancery court

The Court of equity in Mississippi also having jurisdiction over property matters, divorce and alimony, probate, minors' business, matters dealing with persons of unsound mind, and similar issues.

change of venue

The removal of a suit begun in one county or district to another, for trial, or from one court to another in the same county or district.

circumstantial evidence

All evidence of indirect nature; the process of decision by which court or jury may reason from circumstances known or proved to established by inference the principal fact.

clear and convincing evidence

A higher degree of proof than a preponderance of evidence, but not as high a degree of proof as is required in criminal cases.


A collection, compendium or revision of laws systematically arranged into chapters, table of contents and index and promulgated by legislative authority.


A supplement or an addition to a will.


To send a person to prison, to an asylum, workhouse, or reformatory by lawful authority.

common law

Law which derives its authority solely from usages and customs of immemorial antiquity, or from the judgments and decrees of courts.


The change of a punishment from a greater degree to a lesser degree, as from death to life imprisonment.

comparative negligence

The doctrine by which acts of opposing parties are compared in the degrees of "slight," "ordinary," and "gross" negligence, frequently on a percentage basis.


In the law of evidence. The presence of those characteristics, or the absence of those disabilities, which render a witness legally fit and qualified to give testimony in a court of justice. The term is also applied, in the same sense, to documents or other written evidence. Competency differs from credibility. The former is a question which arises before considering the evidence given by the witness; the latter concerns the degree of credit to be COMPETENCY 233 COMPLAINT given to his story. The former denotes the personal qualification of the witness; the latter his veracity. A witness may De competent, and yet give incredible testimony; he may be incompetent, and yet his evidence, if received, be perfectly credible. Competency is for the court; credibility for the jury. Yet in some cases the term "credible" is used as au equivalent for "competent." Thus, in a statute relating to the execution of wills, the term "credible witness" is held to mean one who is entitled to be examined and to give evidence In a court of justice; not necessarily one who Is personally worthy of belief, but one who is not disqualified by imbecility, interest, crime, or other cause. 1 Jarm. Wills, 124; Smith v. Jones. OS Vt 132, 34 Atl. 424; Com. v. Holmes, 127 Mass. 424, 34 Am. Rep. 301. In French law. Competency, as applied to a court, means its right to exercise jurisdiction in a particular case.

Law Dictionary: What is COMPETENCY? definition of COMPETENCY (Black's Law Dictionary)


complainant -- Synonymous with `plaintiff.`


complaint -- The first or initiatory pleading on the part of the complainant,or plaintiff,in a civil action.

concurrent sentence

concurrent sentence -- Sentences for more than one crime in which the time of each is to be served concurrently,rather than successively.

concurring opinion

concurring opinion -- An opinion filed by one or more judges or justices in which the writer agrees with the conclusions or the result of another opinion filed in the case,but for different reasons.


condemnation -- the legal process by which real estate of a private owner is taken for public use without his consent,but upon the award and payment of just compensation.

contempt of court

contempt of court -- Any act calculated to embarrass,hinder or obstruct a court in the administration of justice,or calculated to lessen its authority or dignity. Contempts are of two kinds: direct and indirect. Direct contempts are those committed in the immediate presence of the court; indirect is the term chiefly used with reference to the failure or refusal to obey a lawful order.


contract -- An oral or written agreement between two or more parties which is enforceable by law.

corpus delicti

corpus delicti (kor'pus d�-lik't�) -- The body (material substance) upon which a crime has been committed,e.g.,the corpse of a murdered man,the charred remains of a burned house.

corroborating evidence

corroborating evidence -- Evidence supplementary to that already given and tending to strengthen or confirm it.

court reporter

court reporter -- A person who transcribes by shorthand or stenographically takes down testimony during court proceedings.


costs -- An allowance for expenses in prosecuting or defending a suit. Ordinarily this does not include attorney's fees.


counterclaim -- A claim presently by a defendant in opposition to the claim of a plaintiff.

courts of record

courts of record -- Those whose proceedings are permanently recorded,and which have the power to fine or imprison for contempt. Courts not of record are those of lesser authority whose proceedings are not permanently recorded.

criminal insanity

criminal insanity -- Lack of mental capacity to do or abstain from doing a particular act; inability to distinguish right from wrong.


cross-examination -- The questioning of a witness in a trial,or in the taking of a deposition,by the party opposed to the one who produced the witness.

cumulative sentence

cumulative sentence -- Separate sentences (each additional to the others) imposed against a person convicted upon an indictment containing several counts,each charging a different offense. (Same as accumulative sentence).


damages -- Pecuniary compensation which may be recovered in the courts by any person who has suffered loss,detriment,or injury to his person,property or rights,through the unlawful act or negligence of another.

de novo

de novo (d� n_' v_) -- Anew,afresh. A `trial de novo`is the retrial of a case.

declaratory judgment

declaratory judgment -- One which declares the rights of the parties or expresses the opinion of the court on a question of law,without ordering anything to be done.


decree -- A decision or order of the court. A final decree is one which fully and finally disposes of the litigation; an interlocutory decree is a provisional or preliminary decree which is not final.


default -- A `default`in an action at law occurs when a defendant omits to plead within the time allowed or fails to appear at the trial.


demur (d�-mer') -- To file a pleading (called `a demurrer`) admitting the truth of the fats in the complaint or answer,but contending they are legally insufficient.


deposition -- The testimony of a witness not taken in open court,but in pursuance of authority given by statute or rue of court to take testimony elsewhere.


dictum -- (also Obiter Dictum) A remark or opinion stated by a judge in a decision that is incidental or collateral,and does not bear directly upon the question before the court,usually introduced by way of illustration,analogy or argument.

direct evidence

direct evidence -- Proof of facts by witnesses who saw acts done or heard words spoken as distinguished from circumstantial evidence,which is called indirect.

direct examination

direct examination -- The first interrogation of a witness by the party on whose behalf he is called.

directed verdict

directed verdict -- An instruction by the judge to the jury to return a specific verdict.


discovery -- A proceeding whereby one party to an action may be informed as to facts known by other parties or witnesses.

dismissal without prejudice

dismissal without prejudice -- Permits the complainant to sue again on the same cause of action,while dismissal `with prejudice`bars the right to bring or maintain an action on the same claim or cause.


dissent -- A term commonly used to denote the disagreement of one or more judges of a court with the decision of the majority.


domicile -- That place where a person has his true and permanent home. A person may have several residences,but only one domicile.

double jeopardy

double jeopardy -- Common-law and constitutional prohibition against more than one prosecution for the same crime,transaction or omission.

due process

due process -- Law in its regular course of administration through the courts of justice. The guarantee of due process requires that every man have the protection of a fair trial.


embezzlement -- The fraudulent appropriation by a person to his own use or benefit of property or money entrusted to him by another.

eminent domain

eminent domain -- The power to take private property for public use by condemnation.


enjoin -- To require a person,by writ of injunction from a court of equity,to perform or to abstain or desist from some act.


entrapment -- The act of officers or agents of a government in inducing a person to commit a crime not contemplated by him,for the purpose of instituting a criminal prosecution against him.

equitable action

equitable action -- An action which may be brought for the purpose of restraining the threatened infliction of wrongs or injuries,and the prevention of threatened illegal action. (Remedies not available at common law).

equity,courts of

equity,courts of -- Courts which administer a legal remedy according to the system of equity,as distinguished from courts of common law.


escheat (es-ch�t) -- In American law,the right of the state to an estate to which no one is able to make a valid claim.


escrow (es-kr_) -- A writing,or deed,delivered by the grantor into the hands of a third person,to be held by the latter until the happening of a contingency or performance of a condition.


estoppel (es-top'el) -- A person's own act,or acceptance of facts,which preclude his later making claims to the contrary.

et al

et al -- An abbreviation of et alii,meaning `and others.`

et seq

et seq -- An abbreviation for et sequentes,or et sequentia,`and the following.`

ex contractu

ex contractu (ex kon-trak'tu) -- In both civil and common law,rights and causes of action are divided into two classes: Those arising ex contractu (from a contract) and ex delicto (from a wrong or tort).

ex delicto

ex delicto ex de-lik't_) -- Rights and causes of action arising from a wrong or `tort.`

ex parte

ex parte (ex par'te) -- By or for one party; done for,in behalf of or on the application of one party only.

ex post facto

ex post facto (esk p&omul;st fak' to) -- After the fact; an act or fact occurring after some previous act or fact,and relating thereto.


exception -- A formal objection to an action of the court,during the trial of a cause,in refusing a request or overruling an objection; implying that the party excepting does not acquiesce in the decision of the court,but will seek to procure its reversal.


executor -- A person named by the decedent in his will to carry out the provisions of that will.


exhibit -- A paper,document or other article produced and exhibited to a court during a trial or hearing.

expert evidence

expert evidence -- Testimony given in relation to some scientific,technical or professional matter by experts,i.e.,persons qualified to speak authoritatively by reason of their special training,skill or familiarity with the subject.

extenuating circumstances

extenuating circumstances -- Circumstances which render a crime less aggravated,heinous,or reprehensible than it would otherwise be.


extradition -- The surrender by one state to another of an individual accused or convicted of an offense outside its own territory,and within the territorial jurisdiction of the other.

fair comment

fair comment -- A term used in the law of libel,applying to statements made by a writer in an honest belief of their truth,relating to an official act,even though the statements are not true in fact.

fair preponderance

fair preponderance -- Evidence sufficient to create in the minds of the triers of fact the conviction that the party upon whom the burden is placed has established its case.

false arrest

false arrest -- Any unlawful physical restraint of another's liberty,whether in prison or elsewhere.


felony -- A crime of a graver nature than a misdemeanor. Generally,an offense punishable by death or imprisonment in a penitentiary.


fiduciary (fi-d�'shi-_-ri) -- A term derived from the Roman law,meaning a person holding the character of a trustee,in respect to the trust and confidence involving in it and the scrupulous good faith and candor which it requires.

forcible entry and detainer

forcible entry and detainer -- A summary proceeding for restoring possession of land to one who has been wrongfully deprived of possession.


forgery -- The false making or material altering with intent to defraud,or any writing which,if genuine,might be the foundation of a legal liability.


fraud -- An intentional perversion of truth; deceitful practice or device resorted to with intent to deprive another of property or other right,or in some manner to do him injury.

full faith and credit

full faith and credit -- United States Constitution Article 4,Section 1,requires that a judgment or record shall have the same faith,credit,conclusive effect and obligatory force in other States as it has by law or usage in the State where it originated.


garnishment -- A proceeding whereby property,money or credits of debtor in possession of another (the garnishee) are applied to the debts of the debtor.


garnishee -- (noun) The person upon whom a garnishment is served,usually a debtor of the defendant in the action; (garnish; verb) to institute garnishment proceedings.

general assignment

general assignment -- The voluntary transfer,by a debtor of all his property to a trustee for the benefit of all of his creditors.

general demurrer

general demurrer -- A demurrer which raises the question whether the pleading against which it is directed lacks the definite allegations essential to a cause of action or defense.

gratuitous guest

gratuitous guest -- In automobile law,a person riding at the invitation of the owner of a vehicle,or his authorized agent,without payment of a consideration or a fare.

guardian ad litem

guardian ad litem (ad l�'tem) -- A person appointed by a court to look after the interests of an infant whose property is involved in litigation.

habeas corpus

habeas corpus (h_'be-as kor'pus) (Lat.) -- `You have the body.`The name given a variety of writs whose object is to bring a person before a court or judge. In most common usage,it is directed to the official or person detaining another,commanding him to produce the body of the prisoner or person detained so the court may determine if such person has been denied his liberty without due process of law.

harmless error

harmless error -- In appellate practice,an error committed by a lower court during a trial,but not prejudicial to the rights of the party and for which the court will not reverse the judgment.


Hearsay -- Evidence not proceeding from the personal knowledge of the witness.


holding -- Ruling of a court upon specific issues of law raised in a case.

holographic will

holographic will (hol-_-graf'ik) -- A testamentary instrument entirely written,dated and signed by the testator in his own handwriting.

hostile witness

hostile witness -- A witness who is subject to cross-examination by the party who called him to testify,because of his evident antagonism toward that party as exhibited in his direct examination.

hypothetical question

hypothetical question -- A combination of facts and circumstances,assumed or proved,stated in such a form as to constitute a coherent state of facts upon which the opinion of an expert can be asked by way of evidence in a trial.


cause -- a suit,litigation or action,civil or criminal.

impeachment of witness

impeachment of witness -- An attack on the credibility of a witness by the testimony of other witnesses.

implied contract

implied contract -- A contract in which the promise made by the obligor is not expressed,but inferred by his conduct or implied in law.

imputed negligence

imputed negligence -- Negligence which is not directly attributable to the person himself,but which is the negligence of a person who is in privity with him,and with whose fault he is chargeable.


inadmissible -- That which,under the established rules of evidence,cannot be admitted or received.

in banc

in banc -- On the bench; all judges of the court sitting together to hear a cause.

in camera

in camera (in kam'e-ra) -- In chambers; in private.

incompetent evidence

incompetent evidence -- Evidence which is not admissible under the established rules of evidence.

indeterminate sentence

indeterminate sentence -- An indefinite sentence of `not less than`and `not more than`so many years,the exact term to be served being afterwards determined by parole authorities within the minimum and maximum limits set \\by the court or by statute.


indictment -- An accusation in writing found and presented by a grand jury,charging that a person therein named has done some act,or been guilty of some omission,which,by law,is a crime

inferior court

inferior court -- Any court subordinate to the chief appellate tribunal in a particular judicial system.


information -- An accusation for some criminal offense,in the nature of an indictment,from which it differs only in being presented by a competent public officer instead of a grand jury.


injunction -- A mandatory or prohibitive writ issued by a court.


instruction -- A direction given by the judge to the jury concerning the law of the case.

inter alia

inter alia (in ter a'li-_) -- Among other things or matters.

inter alios

inter alios (in'ter'a-li-_s) -- Among other persons,between others.


interlocutory -- Provisional; temporary; not final. Refers to orders and decrees of a court.


interrogatories -- Written questions propounded by one party and served on adversary,who must provide written answers thereto under oath.


intervention -- A proceeding in a suit or action by which a third person is permitted by the court to make himself a party.


intestate -- One who dies without leaving a will.


irrelevant -- Evidence not relating or applicable to the matter in issue; not supporting the issue.


jurisprudence -- The philosophy of law,or the science which treats the principles of positive law and legal relations.


jury -- A certain number of people,selected according to law,and sworn to inquire of certain matters of fact,and declare the truth upon evidence laid before them.

grand jury

grand jury -- A jury whose duty is to receive complaints and accusations in criminal cases,hear the evidence and find bills of indictment in cases where they are satisfied a trial ought to be had.

petit jury

petit jury -- The ordinary jury of twelve (or fewer) persons for the trial of a civil or criminal case. So called to distinguish it from the grand jury.

jury commissioner

jury commissioner -- An officer charged with the duty of selecting the names to be put into a jury wheel,or of drawing the panel of jurors for a particular term of court.

leading question

leading question -- One which instructs a witness how to answer or puts into his mouth words to be echoed back; one which suggests to the witness the answer desired. Prohibited on direct examination.

letters rogatory

letters rogatory (rog'a-t_-ri) -- A request by one court of another court in an independent jurisdiction that a witness be examined upon interrogatories sent with the request.


levy -- A seizure; the obtaining of money by legal process through seizure and sale of property. The raising of the money for which an execution has been issued.


libel -- A method of defamation expressed by print,writing,pictures or signs. In its most general sense any publication that is injurious to the reputation of another.


limitation -- A certain time allowed by statute in which litigation must be brought.

lis pendens

lis pendens (l�s pen'denz) -- A pending suit.

locus delicti

locus delicti (lo kus de-lik'ti) -- The place of the offense.


malfeaseance (mal-f�'zans) -- Evil doing; ill conduct; the commission of some act which is positively prohibited by law.

malicious prosecution

malicious prosecution -- An action instituted with intention of injuring defendant and without probable cause,and which terminates in favor of the person prosecuted.


mandamus (man-d_'-mus) -- The name of a writ which issues from a court of superior jurisdiction,directed to an inferior court,commanding the performance of a particular act.


mandate -- A judicial command or precept proceeding from a court or judicial officer,directing the proper officer to enforce a judgment,sentence,or decree.


manslaughter -- The killing of a human being,without malice,in the heat of passion,but in a cruel or unusual manner,or by the use of a dangerous weapon,without authority of law,and not in necessary self-defense.


master -- An officer of the court,usually an attorney,appointed for the purpose of taking testimony and making a report to the court.

material evidence

material evidence -- Such as is relevant and goes to the substantial issues in dispute.


mesne (m�n) -- Intermediate; intervening.


misdemeanor -- Offenses less than felonies; generally those punishable by fine or imprisonment other than in penitentiaries.


misfeasance -- A misdeed or trespass. The improper performance of some act which a person may lawfully do.


mistrial -- An erroneous or invalid trial; a trial which cannot stand in law because of lack of jurisdiction,wrong drawing of jurors or disregard of some other fundamental requisite.

mitigating circumstances

mitigating circumstances -- One which does not constitute a justification or excuse of an offense,but which may be considered as reducing the degree of moral culpability.


moot -- Unsettled; undecided. A moot point is one not settled by judicial decisions.

moral turpitude

moral turpitude -- Conduct contrary to honesty,modesty or good morals.

multiplicity of actions

multiplicity of actions - Numerous and unnecessary attempts to litigate the same right.

municipal courts

municipal courts -- In the judicial organization of some states,courts whose territorial authority is confined to the city or community.


murder -- The unlawful killing of a human being by another with malice aforethought,either express or implied.

ne exeat

ne exeat (n� ek's�-at) -- A writ which forbids the person to whom it is addressed to leave the country,the state or the jurisdiction of the court.


negligence -- The omission to do something which a reasonable man,guided by ordinary considerations,would do; or the doing of something which a reasonable and prudent man would not do.

next friend

next friend -- One acting for the benefit of an infant or other person without being regularly appointed as guardian.

nisi prius

nisi prius (n� s� pr�'us) -- Courts for the initial trial of issues of fact,as distinguished from appellate courts.

no bill

no bill -- This phrase,indorsed by a grand jury on an indictment,is equivalent to `not found`or `not a true bill.`It means that,in the opinion of the jury,evidence was insufficient to warrant the return of a formal charge.

nolle prosequi

nolle prosequi (nol'e pros'e-kw�) -- A formal entry upon the record by the plaintiff in a civil suit,or the prosecuting officer in a criminal case,by which he declares that he will not further prosecute the case.

nolo contendere

nolo contendere (n_'l_ kon-ten' de-r�) -- A pleading usually used by defendants in criminal cases,which literally means I will not contest it.

nominal party

nominal party -- One who is joined as a party or defendant merely because the technical rules of pleading require his presence in the record.

non compos mentis

non compos mentis (non kom'pos men'tis) -- Not sound of mind; insane.

non obstante veredicto

non obstante veredicto (non ob-stan'te ve-re-dik'to) -- Notwithstanding the verdict. A judgment entered by order of court for one party,although there has been a jury verdict against him.

notice to produce

notice to produce -- In practice,a notice in writing requiring the opposite party to produce a certain described paper or document at the trial.


objection -- The act of taking exception to some statement or procedure in trial. Used to call the court's attention to improper evidence or procedure.

of counsel

of counsel -- A phrase commonly applied to counsel employed to assist in the preparation or management of the case,or its presentation on appeal,but who is not the principal attorney of record.

opinion evidence

opinion evidence -- Evidence of what the witness thinks,believes or infers in regard to fact in dispute,as distinguished from his personal knowledge of the facts; not admissible except (under certain limitations) in the case of experts.


ordinary -- A judicial officer,in several of the states,clothed by statute with powers in regard to wills,probate,administration and guardianship.

out of court

out of court -- One who has no legal status in court is said to be `out of court,`i.e.,he is not before the court. For example,when a plaintiff,by some act of omission or commission,shows that he is unable to maintain his action he is frequently said to have put himself `out of court.`


panel -- A list of jurors to serve in a particular court,or for the trial of a particular action; denotes either the whole body of persons summoned as jurors for a particular term of court or those selected by the clerk by lot.

parol evidence

parol evidence -- Oral or verbal evidence,the kind of evidence orginarily given by witnesses in court.

parol evidence rule

parol evidence rule -- Under this rule,parol evidence is not admissible to add to,subtract from,vary or contradict judicial or official records or documents,or written instruments which dispose of property,or are contractual in nature,and which are valid,complete,unambiguous,and unaffected by accident,mistake or fraud.


parole -- Relief of a convict from imprisonment on certain conditions,and suspension of sentence during the period of relief.


parties -- The persons who are actively concerned in the prosecution or defense of legal proceedings.

peremptory challenge

peremptory challenge -- The challenge which the prosecution or defense may use to reject a certain number of prospective jurors without assigning any cause.


plaintiff -- A person who brings an action; the party who complains or sues a personal action and is so named,on the record.

plaintiff in error

plaintiff in error -- The party who obtains a writ of error to have a judgment or other proceeding at law reviewed by an appellate court.


pleading -- The process by which the parties in a suit or action alternately present written statements of their contentions,each responsive to that which precedes and each serving to narrow the field of controversy,until there evolves a single point,affirmed on one side and denied on the other,called the `issue`upon which they then go to trial.

polling the jury

polling the jury -- A practice whereby the jurors are asked individually whether they assented,and still assent,to the verdict.

power of attorney

power of attorney -- An instrument authorizing another to act as one's agent or attorney.


praecipe (pr�'si-pe) -- An original writ commanding the defendant to do the thing required; also,an order addressed to the clerk of the court,requesting him to issue a particular writ.

prejudicial error

prejudicial error -- Synonymous with `reversible error`; an error which warrants the appellate court in reversing the judgment before it.

preliminary hearing

preliminary hearing -- Synonymous with `preliminary examination`; the hearing given a person charged with crime by a magistrate or judge to determine whether he should be held for trial.

preliminary injunction

preliminary injunction -- An injunction granted near the time of filing of a suit to restrain a party from doing or continuing some act,the right to which is in dispute. Such an injunction may be made permanent or dissolved,depending on how the rights of the parties are determined at trial of the lawsuit.

preponderance of evidence

preponderance of evidence. -- Greater weight of evidence,or evidence which is more credible and convincing to the mind,not necessarily the greater number of witnesses.


presentment -- An informal statement in writing by a grand jury to the court that a public offense has been committed,from their own knowledge or observation,without any bill of indictment laid before them.

presumption of fact

presumption of fact -- An inference as to the truth or falsity of any proposition or fact,drawn by a process of reasoning in the absence of actual certainty of its truth or falsity,or until such certainty can be ascertained.

presumption of law

presumption of law -- A rule of law that courts and judges shall draw a particular inference from a particular fact,or from particular evidence.

pro hac vice

pro hac vice -- Literally `for this turn`a term generally used to describe an attorney from another State or jurisdiction who appears in a court where he is not admitted to practice,with permission of the court,for representation of a client in a particular proceeding.

pro se

pro se -- Denotes that a party is appearing `for himself,`rather than with representation by an attorney.


probate -- The act or process of proving a will.


probation -- In modern criminal administration,allowing a person convicted of some minor offense (particularly juvenile offenders) to go at large,under a suspension of sentence,during good behavior,and generally under the supervision or guardianship of a probation officer.


prosecutor -- One who instigates the prosecution upon which an accused is arrested or who prefers an accusation against the party whom he suspects to be guilty; also one who takes charge of a case and performs function of trial lawyer for the people.


prosecutrix -- A female prosecutor.


quaere (ke&wuml;'r�) -- A query; question; doubt.


quash -- To overthrow; vacate; to annul or void a summons or indictment.

quasi judicial

quasi judicial (kw_'s�) -- Authority or discretion vested in an officer wherein his acts partake of a judicial character.

quid pro quo

quid pro quo -- `What for what,`a fair return or consideration.

quo warranto

quo warranto (kw_ wo-ran' t_) -- A writ issuable by the state,through which it demands an individual to show by what right he exercises an authority which can only be exercised through grant or franchise emanating from the state.

reasonable doubt

reasonable doubt -- An accused person is entitled to acquittal if,in the minds of the jury,his guilt has not been proved beyond a `reasonable doubt`; that state of the minds of jurors in which they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction as to the truth of the charge.


rebuttal -- The introduction of rebutting evidence; the showing that statements of witnesses as to what occurred is not true; the stage of a trial at which such evidence may be introduced.

redirect examination

redirect examination -- Follows cross-examination,and is had by the party who first examined the witness.


referee -- A person to whom a cause pending in a court is referred by the court to take testimony,hear the parties and report thereon to the court. He is an officer exercising judicial powers and is an arm of the court for a specific purpose.

removal,order of

removal,order of -- An order by a court directing the transfer of a cause to another court.


replevin -- A remedy by which a party plaintiff may recover possession of his goods from another party who has unlawfully taken them.


reply -- When a case is tried or argued in court,the argument of the plaintiff in answer to that of the defendant. A pleading in response to an answer.

request to produce and inspect

request to produce and inspect -- A discovery device by which one party may require another party to produce for copying,inspection and examination prior to trial documents and tangible items,and to permit entry upon designated land or other property in possession or in control of the party requested for surveying,photographing,testing or sampling.

res gestae

res gestae -- The circumstances,things said,and things done immediately prior to,during and immediately following an act which is the subject of a lawsuit.

res judicata

res judicata -- Rule that a final judgment or decree on the merits of a case by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive of the rights of parties in all later suits on the points and matters determined.


rest -- A party is said to `rest`or `rest his case`when he has presented all the evidence he intends to offer.


retainer -- Act of the client in employing his attorney or counsel,and also denotes the fee which the client pays when he retains the attorney to act for him.


robbery -- The taking or stealing of property from another with force or the threat of force.

rule nisi,or rule to show cause

rule nisi,or rule to show cause (ni si) - A court order obrained on motion by either party to show cause why the particular relief sought should not be granted.

rule of court

rule of court - An order made by a court having cometent jurisdiction Rules of court are either general or special; the former are the regulations by which the practice of the court is governed; the latter are special orders made in particular cases.

search and seizure,unreasonable

search and seizure,unreasonable - In general,an examination without authority of law of one's premises or person with a view to discovering stolen contraband or illicit property or some evidence of guilt to be used in prosecuting a crime.

search warrant

search warrant - An order in writing,issued by a justice or magistrate in the name of the state,directing an officer to search a specified house or other premises for stolen property. Usually required as a condition precedent to a legal search and seizure.


self-defense - The protection of one's person or property against some injury attempted by another. The law of `self-defense`justifies an act done in the reasonable belief of immediate danger. When acting in justifiable self-defense,a person may not be punished criminally nor held responsible for civil damages.

separate maintenance

separate maintenance - Allowance granted to a wife for support of herself and children while she is living apart from her husband but not divorced from him.

separation of witnesses

separation of witnesses - An order of the court requiring all witnesses to remain outside the courtroom until each is called to testify,except the paintiff or defendant.


sheriff - An officer of a county,chosen by popular election,whose principal duties are aid of criminal and civil courts; chief preserver of the peace. He serves processed,summons juries,executes judgments and holds judicial sales.

sine qua non

sine qua non (si ne kwa non) - An indispensable requisite


slander - Base and defamatory spoken words tending to prejudice another in his reputation,business or means of livelihood. `Libel`and `slander`both are methods of defamation,the former being expressed by print,writings,pictures or signs; the latter orally.

special venire

special venire - Distinguished from venire. A person charged with a capital crime,or with the crime of manslaughter,has the right to demand a specially-drawn panel of prospective jurors in an amount determined by the court,but not less than forty.

specific performance

special performance - A mandatory order in equity. Where damages would be inadequate compensation for the breach of a contract,the contractor will be compelled to perform specifically what he has agreed to do.


standing - In actions in Federal Court by a citizen against a government officer,complaining of alleged unlawful conduct,the citizen may not maintain the suit unless the citizen can show that the conduct complained of invades or will invade a private substantive legally protected interest of the plaintiff citizen. A party who can make such a showing is said to have standing.

stare decisis

stare decisis (sta' re de-si'sis) - The doctrine that,when a court has once laid down a principle of law as applicable to a certain set of facts,it will adhere to that principle and apply it to future cases where the facts are substantially the same.

state's evidence

state's evidence - Testimony,given by an accomplice or participant in a crime,tending to convict others.


statute - The written law in contradistinction to the unwritten law.


stay - A stopping or arresting of a judicial proceeding by order of the court.


stipulation - An agreement by attorneys on opposite sides of a case as to any matter pertaining to the proceedings of the trial. It is not binding unless assented to by the parties,and most stipulations must be in writing.


subpoena (su-pe� n_) _ A process to cause a witness to appear and give testimony before a court or magistrate.

subpeona duces tecum

subpoena duces tecum (su-pe�n_ du�sez te�kum) _ A process by which the court commands a witness to produce certain documents or records in a trial.

substantive law

substantive law - The law dealing with rights,duties and liabilities,as distinguished from adjective law,which is the law regulating procedure.


summons - A writ directing the sheriff or other office to notify the named person that an action has been commenced against him in court and that he is required to appear,on the day named,and answer the complaint in such action.


supercedeas (s_-per-see-dee-as) _ A writ containing a command to stay proceedings at law,such as the enforcement of a judgment pending an appeal.


talesman (tailz�man ) - A person summoned to act as a juror from among the bystanders in a court.

temporary restraining order

temporary restraining order - An injunction granted by a court without notice to the opposing party or with short notice,to prevent immediate and irreparable injury loss or damage to the party requesting the injunction. It is ordinarily granted only for a short period of time,until a full hearing can be held to determine whether a preliminary or permanent injunction should be granted.


testate - Having a will.


testimony - Evidence given by a competent witnness,under oath; as distinguished from evidence derived from writings and other sources.


tort - An injury or wrong committed,either with or without force,to the person or property of another.


transcript - The official record of proceedings in a trial or hearing.


transitory - Actions are `transitory`when they might have taken place anywhere,and are `local`when they could occur only in some particular place.


traverse - In pleading,traverse signifies a denial.When a defendant denies any material allegation of fact in the plaintiff's declaration,he is said to traverse it.

trial de novo

trial de novo (de no� vo) _ A new trial or retrial had in an appellate court in which the whole case is gone into as if no trial had been had in a lower court.

true bill

true bill - In a criminal practice,the endorsement made in a grand jury upon a bill of indictment when they find it sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal charge.

undue influence

undue influence - Whatever destroys free will and causes a person to do something he would not do if left to himself.

unlawful detainer

unlawful detainer - A detention of real estate without the consent of the owner or other person entitled to its possession.


usury - The taking of more for the use of money than the law allows,i.e. illegal interest rate.


venire (ve-ni�re) _ Technically,a writ summoning persons to court to act as jurors; popularly used as meaning the body of names thus summoned.

venire facias de novo

Venire facias de novo (ve-ni�re fa�she-as de no�vo) _ A fresh or new venire,which the court grants when there has been some impropriety or irregularity in returning the jury,or where the verdict is so imperfect or ambiguous that no judgment can be given upon it.


veniremen (ve-ni�re-men) _ Members of a panel of jurors.


venue (ven� u) _ The particular county,city or geographical area in which a court with jurisdiction may hear and determine a case.


verdict - In practice,the formal and unanimous decision or finding made by a jury,reported to the court and accepted by it.

voir dire

voir dire (vwor der) - To speak the truth. The phrase denotes the preliminary examination which the court may make of one presented as a witness or juror,as to his qualifications.

waiver of immunity

waiver of immunity - A means authorized by statutes by which a witness,in advance of giving testimony or producing evidence,may renounce the fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution that no person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

warrant of arrest

warrant of arrest - A writ issued by a magistrate,justice or other competent authority,to a sheriff or other officer,requiring him to arrest the person therein named and bring him before the magistrate or court to answer to a specified charge

weight of evidence

weight of evidence - The balance or preponderance of evidence; the inclination of the greater amount of credible evidence,offered in a trial,to support one side of the issue rather than the other.


willful - A `willful`act is one done intentionally,without justifiable cause,as distinguished from an act done carelessly or inadvertently.

with prejudice

with prejudice - The term,as applied to judgment of dismissal,is as conclusive of rights of parties as if action had been prosecuted to final adjudication adverse to the plaintiff.

without prejudice

without prejudice - A dismissal `without prejudice`allows a new suit to be brought on the same cause of action.


witness - One who testifies to what he has seen,heard or otherwise observed.


writ - An order issuing from a court requiring the performance of a specified act,or giving authority and commission to have it done.

writ of error coram nobis

writ of error coram nobis (ko�ram no�bis) _ A common-law writ,the purpose of which is to correct a judgment in the same court in which it was rendered,on the ground of error of fact.