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This page is still in early development.
In the actual implementation, the glossary list will be longer and more complete, with regular updates and links from other pages.
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The Informed ReSource Glossary

(noun) Legal judgement that a defendant in a criminal trial has not been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
a fortiori
Legal term derived from Latin meaning "for a stronger reason." Said of an inference that follows even more rigorously the logic of a previously accepted conclusion.
Example: In a product dumping case (where certain manufacturers are acused of selling goods below cost to run weaker competitors out of business), it has been exstablished that widgets cost at least $50 to manufacture. Company A has already been convicted of dumping for selling its widgets for $40. Company B is a fortori guilty of dumping when its sells widgets for $30. A fortiori applies since Company B is guilty of dumping for the same reason as Campany A (both are selling below cost), but even more so since Company B's dumping price is even lower than Comany A's.

(noun) A written statement of facts, given under oath. by confirmed by the oath of the party making it, before a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths.
(noun) In legal usage, a decision is affirmed when an appelate court confirms a lower court's action. In such cases the higher court may be said to have upheld the lower court's decision.
(noun) A request made after a trial, asking another court (usually the court of appeals) to decide whether the trial was conducted properly. Cases can be appealed to several levels of courts including the Federal Circuit Courts and the Supreme Court. The party which appeals the decision henceforth refered to in legal proceedings s the appellant.
(adj.) Regarding appeals. Federal and state courts exist which only hear cases on appeal, such appellate courts have the power to review the judgement of lower courts or tribunals.
(noun) A proceeding in which an individual who is accused of committing a crime is brought into court, told of the charges, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.

(noun) Security (usually in the form of a cash bond) given for the release of a criminal defendant or witness from legal custody while awiaitng further legal proceedings (for example, while awaiting trial). Bail is forfeited ifthe party fails to appear before the court at such later time as may be determined.
(RWT) Refers to statutes and judicial proceedings involving persons or businesses that cannot pay their debts and seek the assistance of the court in getting a fresh start. Under the protection of the bankruptcy court, debtors may discharge their debts, perhaps by paying a portion of each debt. Bankruptcy judges preside over these proceedings.
bench trial
(RWT) Trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts.

capital offense
A crime punishable by death. Treason is the only capital offence explicitly cited in the constitution.
case law
The law as determined by previous cases and legal decisions.
charge to the jury
(RWT) The judge's instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of the case on trial.
circumstantial evidence
Legal term for Indirect evidence; secondary facts from which a principal fact may be reasonably inferred.
(adj.) Legal term used to describe matters which fall within the jurisdiction of a specific court or more broadly within the jurisdiction of the judicial system.
common law court
(RWT) The legal system that originated in England and is now in use in the United States. It is based on judicial decisions rather than legislative action.
(noun) In legal usage a complaint is a written statement by the plaintiff stating the wrongs allegedly committed by the defendant.
(RWT) An agreement between two or more persons that creates an obligation to do or not to do a particular thing.
(noun) In legal usage, a judgement of guilt against a criminal defendant. Such defendants are henceforth considered convicted offenders.
(noun) Legal advice. The right of persons to legal counsel was affirmed by the Supreme Court in the 1973 Miranda decision. The term is also used to refer to lawyers in a case.

(noun) Money paid by defendants to successful plaintiffs in civil cases to compensate the plaintiffs for injuries, property damage, pain and suffering, etc.
default judgement
(noun) In legal usage, said of a judgement rendered because of the defendant's failure to answer or appear before the court.
(noun) In a civil suit, the person or organization complained against; in a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.
(RWT) An oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to administer oaths. Such statements are often taken to examine potential witnesses, to obtain discovery, or to be used later in trial.
discovery court
(RWT) Lawyers' examination, before trial, of facts and documents in possession of the opponents to help the lawyers prepare for trial.
(RWT) A log containing brief entries of court proceedings.

en banc
(noun) From the french "In the bench" Refers to court sessions with the entire membership of a court participating rather than the usual quorum. U.S. courts of appeals usually hear cases in panels of three judges, but may expand to a larger number in certain cases. They are then said to be sitting en banc.
(RWT) Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other.

federal question
(RWT) Jurisdiction given to federal courts in cases involving the interpretation and application of the U.S. Constitution, acts of Congress, and treaties.
(RWT) A crime carrying a penalty of more than a year in prison.
(noun) The legal right to vote in public elections.

(verb) To divide a voting area so as to give one political party a majority in as many districts as possible or weaken the voting strength of an ethnic or racial group, urban population, etc.
(noun) A redistricting of voting districts to the advantage of one party or disadvantage of a group, region, etc.
Etymology: satirical coinage after Massachusetts governor William Gerry's 1812 redistricting plan from Gerry+(sala)mander (said to describe the shape of the new Essex district)

grandfather clause
(non) A provision permitting persons engaged in an activity before passage of a law affecting that activity to continue in such activity (or otherwise receive a license or prerogative) without the necessity of fulfilling all that is legally required of persons subsequently undertaking the same activity.
grand jury
(RWT) A body of citizens who listen to evidence of criminal allegations, as presented by the local or federal prosecutors, and determines whether there is sufficient grounds for a trial. If the grand jury beleives that there is probable cause that the specified offense was committed, the suspects concerned are said to be indicted and the matter proceeds to a criminal trial.

habeas corpus
(RWT) A writ that is usually used to bring a prisoner before the court to determine the legality of his imprisonment. It may also be used to bring a person in custody before the court to give testimony, or to be prosecuted.
(RWT) Statements by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. Hearsay is usually not admissible as evidence in court.

(RWT) (1) The process of calling something into question, as in "impeaching the testimony of a witness." (2) The constitutional process whereby the House of Representatives may "impeach" (accuse of misconduct) high officers of the federal government for trial in the Senate.
(noun) The formal charge issued by a grand jury stating that there is sufficient evidence that the defendant committed the crime to justify a criminal trial.
in forma pauperis
Legal term from the latin "in the manner of a pauper", refers to permission given to a person to sue without payment of court fees due to their claim of indigence or poverty.
(RWT) An order of the court prohibiting (or compelling) the performance of a specific act to prevent irreparable damage or injury.
(RWT) Written questions asked by one party of an opposing party, who must answer them in writing under oath; a discovery device in a lawsuit.

(RWT) Government official with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts. Other judicial officers in the U.S. courts system are Supreme Court justices.
(RWT) The official decision of a court finally determining the respective rights and claims of the parties to a suit.
(noun) (1) The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case. Concurrent jurisdiction exists when two courts have simultaneous responsibility for the same case.
(2) The geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases.

(RWT) Persons selected according to law and sworn to inquire into and declare a verdict on matters of fact.
(noun) The study of law and the structure of the legal system.

(RWT) A legal action started by a plaintiff against a defendant based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty, resulting in harm to the plaintiff.
(RWT) A case, controversy, or lawsuit. Participants (plaintiffs and defendants) in lawsuits are called litigants.

magistrate judges
(RWT) Judicial officers who assist U.S. district judges in getting cases ready for trial, who may decide some criminal and civil trials when both parties agree to have the case heard by a magistrate judge instead of a judge.
(noun) The average of a set of numbers, computed by adding all members of a set together and dividing that sum by the total number of set members.
Example: For the four element set {2,5,3,4} the mean is computed by dividing the sum of the set elements 2+5+3+4=14 by the number of elements in the set 4. Thus the mean of the set {2,5,3,4} = 14/4 = 3.5. See also
(noun) The middlemost element of a set of numbers, chosen so that most nearly 1/2 of the members of the set are greater/lesser than it.
Example: For sets containing an odd number of elements, such as the five member set {2,5,3,4,6} the median is found by ordering the set elements {2,3,4,5,6} and selecting the element in the middle, in this case 4. For sets containing an even number of elements, such as the six member set {2,5,3,4,6,7} the median is found by ordering the set elements {2,3,4,5,6,7}, summing the two middlemost elements, in this case 4+5=9, and dividing this sum by 2, thus the median of the set is 9/2=4.5. See also
(RWT) Usually a petty offense, a less serious crime than a felony, punishable by less than a year of confinement.
(RWT) An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again from the selection of the jury.

nolo contendere
(RWT) No contest-has the same effect as a plea of guilty, as far as the criminal sentence is concerned, but may not be considered as an admission of guilt for any other purpose.

(RWT) A judge's written explanation of a decision of the court or of a majority of judges. A dissenting opinion disagrees with the majority opinion because of the reasoning and/or the principles of law on which the decision is based. A concurring opinion agrees with the decision of the court but offers further comment.

per curiam
Legal term from Latin "by the court". Said of a judicial opinion presented as that of the entire court rather than that of any one judge.
(noun- legal) 1. In appellate cases, a group of judges (usually three) assigned to decide the case
2. In the jury selection process, the group of potential jurors.

(RWT) Plaintiffs and defendants (petitioners and respondents) to lawsuits, also known as appellants and appellees in appeals, and their lawyers.
petit jury (or trial jury)
(RWT) A group of citizens who hear the evidence presented by both sides at trial and determine the facts in dispute. Federal criminal juries consist of 12 persons. Federal civil juries consist of six persons.
(RWT) The person who files the complaint in a civil lawsuit.
(RWT) In a criminal case, the defendant's statement pleading "guilty" or "not guilty" in answer to the charges, a declaration made in open court.
(RWT) Written statements of the parties in a civil case of their positions. In the federal courts, the principal pleadings are the complaint and the answer.
(noun) An act, statement, legal decision, case, etc. that may serve as an example, reason, or justification for a later one.
(RWT) A sentencing alternative to imprisonment in which the court releases convicted defendants under supervision as long as certain conditions are observed.
pro se
(RWT) A Latin term meaning "on one's own behalf"; in courts, it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers.
(RWT) To charge someone with a crime. A prosecutor tries a criminal case on behalf of the government.

(noun) The changing of a legislative district or of the number of seats a state is entitled to in the Congress to more clearly reflect the population of that district or state. Generally perfomed by the states after each census.
(verb) 1. To send a case back to the court, tribunal or other such body from which the case has been appealed or moved.
2. To send (a prisoner or accused person) back into custody, as to await trial or further investigation.
(noun) Such a sending back. Example: When a judgment is appealed to higher court and subsequently reversed, the higher court usually remands (sends back) the case for a new trial to be carried out consistent with the conditions and principles (i.e. that certain evendence be excluded from the new trial) announced in the higher court's opinion.

(RWT) When an appellate court sets aside the decision of a lower court because of an error. A reversal is often followed by a remand.

service of process
(RWT) The service of writs or summonses to the appropriate party.
(RWT) Parties to a lawsuit resolve their difference without having a trial. Settlements often involve the payment of compensation by one party in satisfaction of the other party's claims.
(RWT) To separate. Sometimes juries are sequestered from outside influences during their deliberations.
(RWT) A conference between the judge and lawyers held out of earshot of the jury and spectators.
(RWT) A law passed by a legislature.statute of limitations: A law that sets the time within which parties must take action to enforce their rights.
(RWT) A command to a witness to appear and give testimony.
subpoena duces tecum
(RWT) A command to a witness to produce documents.
summary judgement
(RWT) A decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case, and one party is entitled to judgement as a matter of law.

temporary restraining order
(RWT) Prohibits a person from an action that is likely to cause irreparable harm. This differs from an injunction in that it may be granted immediately, without notice to the opposing party, and without a hearing. It is intended to last only until a hearing can be held.
(RWT) Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials or before grand juries.
(RWT) A civil wrong or breach of a duty to another person, as outlined by law. A very common tort is negligent operation of a motor vehicle that results in property damage and personal injury in an automobile accident.
(RWT) A written, word-for-word record of what was said, either in a proceeding such as a trial or during some other conversation, as in a transcript of a hearing or oral deposition.

(RWT) The decision of an appellate court not to reverse a lower court decision.

(RWT) The geographical location in which a case is tried.
(RWT) The decision of a petit jury or a judge.
voir dire
(RWT) The process by which judges and lawyers select a petit jury from among those eligible to serve, by questioning them to determine knowledge of the facts of the case and a willingness to decide the case only on the evidence presented in court. "Voir dire" is a phrase meaning "to speak the truth."

(RWT) A written order directing the arrest of a party. A search warrant orders that a specific location be searched for items, which if found, can be used in court as evidence.
(RWT) A person called upon by either side in a lawsuit to give testimony before the court or jury.
(RWT) A formal written command, issued from the court, requiring the performance of a specific act.
writ of certiorari
(RWT) An order issued by the Supreme Court directing the lower court to transmit records for a case for which it will hear on appeal.

This page was last updated December 5, 1995