Nevada Courtroom Terminology

Courtroom Terms

Family Court Vocabulary

Juvenile Court Vocabulary

Latin and Other Foreign-Language Terminology

Record Keeping and Other Administrative Matters Terminology

Trial Terminology

pdfDownloadable PDF document with all terms

Courtroom Terms

ATTORNEY

Technically means an agent or substitute, or one who is appointed and authorize to act on behalf of another; in common usage, the term refers to a lawyer, attorney at law or counsel; when a power of attorney is given to a non-lawyer, the person receiving the power of attorney is an attorney in fact.

A lawyer who represents a party in a lawsuit, and whose name appears on the pleadings and in the official court records, is known as the attorney of record.

BAIL

Money or other security (such as a bail bond) provided to the court to temporarily allow a person’s release from jail and assure his or her appearance in court.  Bail and Bond are often use interchangeably.

BAIL FORFEITURE

Bail that is kept by the court as a result of not following a court order.

BAILIFF

A courtroom clerk or attendant, whose duties include keeping order in the courtroom and maintaining custody of the jury.

BAR

The railing in front of the bench, where the attorneys argue. Also refers to attorneys collectively, as in a member of the bar.

BENCH

The desk, platform, and surrounding area where the judge sits. As in, the lawyers should approach the bench. Also refers to all judges collectively, as in a member of the bench.

BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT

The standard in a criminal case requiring that the jury be satisfied to a moral certainty that every element of a crime has been proven by the prosecution.  This standard of proof does not require that the state establish absolute certainty by eliminating all doubt, but it does require that the evidence be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are moved from the mind of the ordinary person.

BOX (JURY BOX)

The chairs and surrounding area where the juror sits.

CASE LAW (see PRECEDENT)

CHAMBERS

A judge’s private office; proceedings conducted in the judge’s office are said to be conducted in chambers.

CLERK OF COURT

An officer of the court, who is responsible for the clerical part of the court’s work (who keeps its records and seal, issues process, enters judgments and orders, provides certified copies, and the like).

CODE

A collection or compendium of statutes.

COMMON LAW

The legal system that originated in England and is now in use in the United States.  It is based on judicial decisions rather than legislative action.

COUNSEL TABLE

Table(s) near the front of the courtroom, reserved for the attorneys in the case.

COURT COMMISSIONER

A judicial officer who is lower in rank than a judge, serving as an assistant to the judge and authorized to perform limited judicial functions; similar in function to a magistrate.

COURT OF LIMITED JURISDICTION

A court that hears only certain kind of cases, i.e. a municipal court or small claims court or family court.

COURT OF RECORD

A court in which proceedings are recorded and made a matter of public record. Most trial courts and appellate courts are courts of record.

COURT REPORTER

A person who records and transcribes the testimony of witnesses during trial.

DEPUTY CLERK

A person appointed to act in place, of, or on behalf of, the clerk of court; an employee of the clerk’s office.

DUE PROCESS

Fundamental principles of liberty and justice that lie at the base of all civil and political institutions; in litigation, often used to refer to the right to notice and an opportunity to be heard.

EQUITY

A body of law, or field of jurisdiction, differing in its origin, theory, and methods from common law; often used in a general sense to refer to the body of law pertaining to injunctions and restraining orders.

JUDGE PRO TEM

A temporary judge appointed for a particular day or to hear a particular matter; may be a lawyer, court commissioner, or retired judge.

JUDICIARY, JUDICIAL SYSTEM

General terms referring to the entire court system, i.e. the third branch of government.

JURY ROOM

The room in which the jurors wait when they are not present in the courtroom, and when they are deliberating at the end of the trial.

LAW

General term for rules and principles of conduct established by the constitution, the legislature, or the courts.

LOCAL RULES

Rules of procedure adopted by each court to supplement the statewide rules, usually adopted by the state’s highest court.

MAGISTRATE

A judicial officer who is lower in rank than a judge, serving as an assistant to the judge and authorized to perform limited judicial functions; similar in function to a court commissioner.  A committing magistrate is a magistrate having the authority to conduct preliminary hearings in criminal cases, and to decide whether defendants should be committed or released until trial.

ORDINANCE

Usually refers to a law enacted by a city or county, as distinguished from a statute, which is enacted by the state legislature.

PRECEDENT

A previously decided case, furnishing an example or authority for determining similar cases in the future. Also known as case law.

PRESIDING JUDGE

The judge who is presiding over a particular trial or proceeding; in multijudge districts, the term is used to refer to the one judge who also has supervisory and administrative responsibilities within the court.

RULES OF COURT

Statewide rules typically adopted by highest court of a particular state, governing practice and procedure in the state courts; in addition, each court may adopt local rules to supplement the statewide rules.

STATUTE

Usually refers to a law enacted by the state legislature, as distinguished from an ordinance, which is enacted by a city or county.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

A statutory time limit, by which a civil or criminal case must be filed; when the time has expired, the statute of limitations is said to have run or expired.

TRIAL COURT

Court in which trials are actually held; as opposed to an appellate court, which reviews decisions by the trial courts.

Family Court Vocabulary

ABANDONMENT

A parent’s or custodian’s act of leaving a child without adequate care, supervision, support, or parental contact for an excessive period of time. Also, the desertion of one spouse by the other with the intent to terminate the marriage relationship.

ALIMONY

Older term for money to be paid from one spouse to the other for support, either during or at the conclusion of the dissolution of a marriage; the term is largely obsolete and has been replaced by maintenance.

ARREARAGES

Unpaid child support payments for a past period owed by the non-custodial parent.

ATTORNEY OF RECORD

An attorney who has filed a notice of appearance with court.

BATTERED CHILD SYNDROME (B.C.S.)

Physical condition of a child indicating that external or internal injuries result from acts committed by a parent or custodian.

BATTERY

An offensive touching or use of force on a person without the person’s consent.

BATTERY, SPOUSAL

An offensive touching or use of force on one’s spouse without the spouse’s consent.

BENCH WARRANT

A court order for a person’s arrest so he/she can be brought to court.

CALENDAR DESCRIPTION:

  1. Adoption - Legal process by which a child’s legal rights and duties toward natural parents are terminated and similar rights and duties towards adoptive parents are substituted.
  2. Affidavit to Dissolve TPO
  3. Affidavit to Obtain TPO
  4. Annulment Hearing
  5. Arrearages - Unpaid child support payments for a past period owed by the non-custodial parent
  6. Child Interview
  7. Contempt Show Cause
  8. Cooperative Parenting Class
  9. Custody Evaluation
  10. Defendant’s Amended Opposition and Countermotion
  11. Defendant’s Opposition and Countermotion for Sanctions and Attorney’s fees
  12. Defendant’s Opposition and Countermotion to Confirm Custody
  13. Drug Test Results
  14. Emergency Motion for Change in the Visitation Schedule
  15. Emergency Motion to Modify Child Custody and Other Related Relief
  16. Evidentiary Hearing
  17. Genetic Test Review
  18. Hearing for Change of Name
  19. Hearing for Child Custody
  20. Hearing for Custody
  21. Hearing to Extend TPO
  22. Issue of Exemption
  23. Mandatory Calendar Call
  24. Mediation
  25. Motion for an Order to Show Cause for Contempt
  26. Motion for Clarification of the Court’s Order
  27. Motion for Contempt
  28. Motion for Determination of Community Property Interest on Sale
  29. Motion for Exclusive Possession
  30. Motion for Fees and Allowances
  31. Motion for Joint Legal Custody
  32. Motion for Reconsideration Regarding Visitation
  33. Motion for Sole Legal and Sole Physical Custody of Minor Child
  34. Motion for Temporary Order for Child Custody
  35. Motion for Temporary Primary Physical Custody of the Subject
  36. Motion to Continue Trial
  37. Motion to Establish Jurisdiction
  38. Motion to Modify Child Custody and Child Support, Visitation
  39. Motion to Reduce Child Support
  40. Motion to Reduce Lien to Judgment
  41. Motion to Relocate
  42. Motion to Reschedule Hearing on Motion Establishing Paternity
  43. Motion to Set Aside Divorce Decree
  44. Motion to Set Aside Last Order Filed on
  45. Motion to Strike Peremptory Challenge of Judge
  46. Motion to Withdraw as Counsel
  47. Non-Jury Trial
  48. Notice for Hearing on Applicants Motion and Affidavit to Dissolve TPO
  49. Notice of Hearing
  50. Notice of Motion for Perfection of Attorney’s Lien
  51. Objection to Ruling
  52. Order for Expedited Hearing on Adverse Party’s Motion
  53. Order Shortening Time on Applicant’s Motion
  54. Outsource Custody Evaluation
  55. Plaintiff’s Motion for Change of Venue
  56. Plaintiff’s Objection to Report of the Special Master
  57. Plaintiff’s Opposition and Countermotion for Termination of Spousal Support
  58. Plaintiff’s Opposition and Countermotion to Modify Child Support
  59. Plaintiff’s Opposition and Countermotion to Modify Joint Physical Custody
  60. Pretrial Conference
  61. Remaining Issues
  62. Remand from Family Court
  63. Request to Quash Bench Warrant
  64. Respondent’s Request
  65. Review and Adjustment
  66. Review/In Custody
  67. Separate Maintenance Hearing
  68. Status Check
  69. Uncontested Divorce Hearing
  70. Visitation Resolution

CASE MANAGER

The person who works on a child support case at the District Attorney’s Office of the Family Support Division.

CHILD SUPPORT

Money to be paid by one spouse by another for the support of their children.

COHABITATION

Term used to describe living or residing together, usually in reference to unmarried persons.

COMMUNITY PROPERTY

Property acquired during marriage and owned by both husband and wife.

CUSTODIAN

Person with legal custody of a child or with whom a child lives; this person is not necessarily the child’s parent.

CUSTODY (legal or physical)

In domestic cases, the legal right to take control over and care of a child. In criminal cases, the defendant is said to be in custody if he is detained on authority or otherwise restrained, so that he is not free to come and go at will. See also parenting plan.

DECLARATION OF INVALIDITY

A declaration by the court that a marriage is invalid or that no legal marriage existed. In some states called an annulment.

DECREE

The final and formal document upon dissolution of marriage, specifying the rights and obligations of the former spouses. Analogous to a judgment in other cases.

DISSOLUTION

The act of legally dissolving a marriage or other legal status; in the context of marriage, formerly called divorce.

DIVORCE

An older term for dissolution (above).

EMANCIPATION

Removing a child from a support order because he/she is no longer considered a minor. In Nevada, this occurs at age 18, unless still in high school or age 19, whichever occurs first.

ENFORCEMENT

Obtaining payment of child support or medical support obligation.

ESTABLISHMENT

Initiating a legal action to obtain a child support obligation. 

GENETIC TESTING

Analysis of DNA of the mother, child and alleged father to help prove or disprove that a particular man fathered a particular child.

GUARDIAN

A person appointed to take care of the person or property of another.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM

A person appointed by the court to look after interests of a minor or incapacitated person during the course of litigation.

GUARDIANSHIP

The office, duty or authority of a guardian; also the area of the law pertaining to guardian and protected person.

INCAPACITATED

The terms incapacitated person, incapacitated, and mentally incapacitated refer to any person who for reasons other than being a minor, is unable to receive and evaluate information or make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the person lacks the ability to meet essential requirements for physical health, safety or self-care without appropriate assistance.

LETTERS OF GUARDIANSHIP

The instrument by which a person (the guardian) is empowered to take charge of the person or property of a minor or incapacitated person; similar in effect to letters of conservatorship.

LOCATE

The process used to determine the location of a non-custodial parent.

MAINTENANCE

Money to be paid by one spouse to another for support, either during or at the conclusion of the dissolution of a marriage. Called alimony in some states.

MODIFICATION

The ability to adjust the current child support obligation based on the income of the non-custodial parent. Modification does not include non-modifiable terms which could include spousal support and age of emancipation.

NEXT FRIEND

A person acting for the benefit of a child or adult, without being formally appointed as a guardian.

NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT

The parent who does not live with or have custody of a child but does have a responsibility for financial support of that child.

NOTICE OF HEARING

A legal document served on the opposing parties giving them notice of a court hearing.

OBLIGEE/PAYEE

The person to whom child support is owed.

OBLIGOR/PAYOR

The person who owes child support.

PARENTAGE

Legal determination of fatherhood.

PARENTAGE ACTION

See paternity action

PATERNITY ACTION

Action in which a man is alleged to be the father of the child and that he has a duty to support the child; also called a filiation action; also called a parentage action.

PETITION

Written application asking the court to grant a specified remedy; used in place of a complaint in certain actions, such as marriage dissolutions.

PETITIONER

One who files a petition (above). The party that opens a case.

PROPOSED PROTECTED MINOR

Any minor for whom proceedings for the appointment of a guardian have been initiated.

PROTECTED MINOR

Any minor for whom a guardian has been appointed. 

PROPOSED PROTECTED PERSON
 
Any person for whom proceedings for the appointment of a guardian have been initiated.
 
PROTECTED PERSON
 
Any person for whom a guardian has been appointed.  

PUTATIVE FATHER

The alleged or reputed father of an illegitimate child.

RESPONDENT

The party that is responding to an action.

QUASHING A BENCH WARRANT

A court order which eliminates a bench warrant.

STIPULATION

Out of court order to pay child support and/or to provide medical insurance as required.

SUPPORT

See child support.

UN-REIMBURSED MEDICAL

Medical costs which are not covered by insurance co-pays or deductibles.

WARD

A person, typically a child placed under the care of a guardian.

Juvenile Court Vocabulary

APPOINTMENT LISTING

ARREST ID

CITATION

CHARGE

A formal accusation of an offense as a preliminary step to prosecution i.e. a murder charge; to accuse (a person) of an offense i.e. the police charged him with murder

ACCIDENTS – NO PERSONAL INJURY

An unintended and unforeseen injurious occurrence; something that does not occur in the usual course of events or that could not be reasonably anticipated.

AFFRAY/ FIGHTING

The fighting by mutual consent, of two or more persons in some public place, to the terror of onlookers.  The fighting must be mutual. If one person unlawfully attacks another who resorts to self-defense, the first is guilty of assault and battery, but there is no affray.

ALLOWING UNLICENSED DRIVER TO DRIVE

ARSON – 3rd Degree

At common law, the malicious burning of someone else’s dwelling house or outhouse that is either appurtenant to the dwelling house or within the cartilage.  Under modern statutes, the intentional and wrongful burning of someone else’s property (as to destroy building) or one’s own property.

ASSAULT

The threat or use of force on another that causes that person to have a reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact; the act of putting another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of an immediate battery by means of an act amounting to an attempt or threat to commit a battery.

BATTERY

The use of force against another, resulting in harmful and offensive contact.

BATTERY ON A SCHOOL EMPLOYEE  

BATTERY WITH SUBSTANTIAL BODILY HARM 

BURGLARY

The common law offense of breaking and entering another’s dwelling at night with the intent to commit a felony.  The modern statutory offense of breaking and entering any building – not just a dwelling, and not only at night – with the intent to commit a felony.

CARRYING CONCEALED WEAPON (1st OFFENSE)

CHALLENGE TO FIGHT 

CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT GRAND LARCENY

CONTRIBUTING TO DELIQUENCY OF A MINOR  

COERCION (No Force or Threat) 

Compulsion by physical force or threat of physical force.  An act such as signing a will is not legally valid if done under coercion.  And since a valid marriage requires voluntary consent, coercion or duress is grounds for invalidating a marriage.

CURFEW – GENERAL

History - A law requiring that all fires be extinguished at a certain time in the evening, usually announced by the ringing of a bell.

A regulation that forbids people (or certain classes of them, such as minors) from being outdoors or in vehicles during specified hours.

DAMAGE TO SCHOOL PROPERTY

DEFRAUDING AN INNKEEPER

To cause injury or loss to (a person) by deceit.

DISCHARGING A FIREARM INTO A VEHICLE OR STRUCTURE (Occupied)

DISORDERLY CONDUCT

DISTURBING THE PEACE

(Also termed breach of the peace; disturbance of the peace; public disturbance). The criminal offense of creating a public disturbance or engaging in disorderly conduct, particularly by making an unnecessary or distracting noise

DRIVING ON SUSPENDED LICENCE  

DRIVING WITHOUT A LICENCE (3rd Offense)

DRAW/EXHIBIT DEADLY WEAPON IN A THREATENING MANNER

DUI – Alcohol

EVADE POLICE OFFICER

EMBEZZLEMENT

The fraudulent taking of personal property with which one has been entrusted, esp. as a fiduciary

ENDANGERING PERSON

ENTER PROPERTY WITH INTENT TO DAMAGE PROPERTY

FAILURE TO DRIVE ON RIGHT SIDE

FAILURE TO OBEY RED LIGHT

FAILURE TO OBEY STOP SIGN

FALSE CRIME REPORT

FALSE FIRE ALARM

FALSE INFORMATION TO POLICE OFFICER

FALSE 911 ALARM

FORGERY

GRAFFITI

GRAND LARCENY

Larceny of property worth more than a statutory cutoff amount, usu. $100.00

HARASSMENT (1st Offense)

Words, conduct, or action (usu. repeated or persistent) that, being directed at a specific person, annoys, alarms, or causes substantial emotional distress in that person and serves no legitimate purpose.

HIT AND RUN

INCITE A RIOT

To provoke or to stir up (someone to commit a criminal act, or the criminal act itself.

INHALE HARMFUL VAPORS

INJURY

The violation of another’s legal right, for which the law provides a remedy; a wrong or injustice; any harm or damage

INTIMIDATING AN OFFICER – No Force or Threat

LARCENY

The unlawful taking and carrying away of someone’s else’s personal property with the intent to deprive the possessor of it permanently

LEAVING THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT

LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS CONDUCT

Obscene or indecent; tending to moral impurity or wantonness.  Tending to excite lust; lewd; indecent; obscene.

LICENSING/REGISTRATION VIOLATION

LITTERING

LODGING WITHOUT CONSENT

LOITERING

The criminal offense of remaining in a certain place (such as public streets) for no apparent reason.

LOITERING FOR DRUG ACTIVITY

LOITERING FOR PROSTITUTION

LOITERING ON SCHOOL GROUNDS

MALICIOUS DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY

Intentional, wrongful, without legal justification or excuse. The act of destroying or demolishing; the ruining of something

NO INSURANCE/NO PROOF OF INSURANCE

OBSTRUCTING AN OFFICER

Something that impedes or hinders, as in a street, river, or design; an obstacle; the act of impeding or hindering something

OBTAINING MONEY, PROPERTY, RENT, OR LABOR UNDER FALSE PRETENSES

The crime of knowingly obtaining title to another’s personal property by misrepresenting a fact with the intent to defraud

OPEN LIQUOR CONTAINER IN VEHICLE

PEDESTRIAN VIOLATION

PETTY LARCENY

Larceny of property worth less than an amount fixed by statute, usu. $100.00

POSSESSION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE WITH INTENT TO SELL

Any type of drug whose possession and use is regulated by law, including a narcotics, a stimulant, or a hallucinogen

POSSESSION OF DANGEROUS DRUG (1st Offense)

A drug that has potential for abuse or injury, usu. requiring a label warning that it cannot be dispensed without a prescription

POSSESSION OF DANGEROUS DRUG NOT TO BE INTRODUCED INTO INTERSTATE COMMERCE

POSSESSION OF DANGEROUS WEAPON (1st Offense)

An object or device that, because of the way it is used, is capable of causing serious bodily injury

POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA

Anything used, intended for use, or designed for use with controlled substance

POSSESSION OF FALSE ID

POSSESSION OF FIREARM

POSSESSION OF FIREWORKS

POSSESSION OF HYPODERMIC DEVICE

POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA

POSSESSION OF SPRAY PAINT

POSSESSION OF STOLEN PROPERTY

POSSESSION OF STOLEN VEHICLE

POSSESSION OF WEAPON ON SCHOOL PROPERTY

POSSESSION OR CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL

PROVOKING ASSAULT

PUBLIC NUISANCE

RECKLESS DRIVING

The criminal offense of operating a motor vehicle in a manner that shows conscious indifference to the safety of others

RESISTING OFFICER

SALE OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE

SCHOOL DISTURBANCE

DISTURBANCE

An act causing annoyance or disquiet, or interfering with a person’s pursuit of a lawful occupation or the peace and order of a neighborhood, community or meeting

SOLICITATION OF PROSTITUTION

SPEEDING

TAMPER WITH MOTOR VEHICLE

TAMPER

To meddle so as to alter (a thing), esp. to make changes that are illegal, corrupting, or perverting; to interfere improperly

THEFT

THREAT TO CAUSE BODILY HARM OR DEATH TO PUPIL OR SCHOOL EMPLOYEE

THREAT

A communicated intent to inflict harm or loss on another or on another’s property, esp. one that might diminish a person’s freedom to act voluntarily or with lawful consent

Bodily Harm = physical pain, illness, or impairment of the body

THREAT TO OFFICER – Without Threat of Physical Force

Force consisting in a physical act, esp. a violent act directed against a robbery victim (also termed actual force).

TRESPASS UNSAFE TURN/MOVE

An unlawful act committed against the person or property of another; esp. wrongful entry on another’s real property

THROWING DEADLY MISSILE

THROWING SUBSTANCE AT VEHICLE

TRAFFIC WARRANT

UNDER THE INFLUENCE OR USE OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE WITH INTENT TO SELL

UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY

A meeting of three or more persons who intend either to commit a violent crime or to carry out some act, lawful or unlawful, that will constitute a breach of the peace.

UNLAWFUL MANEUVER WHILE DRIVING

VANDALISM

VIOLATION OF INSTRUCTION PERMIT

VIOLATION OF LOCAL ORDINANCE OR CODE

DECLINING JURISDICTION

Process by which juvenile court refuses to accept a case, typically a very serious case, thus exposing the juvenile to prosecution as an adult.

DEPENDENCY PROCEEDING

A general term often used to refer to juvenile court proceedings other than those in which the juvenile is charged with a crime. The general nature of the proceeding is to provide court-ordered assistance to a child who has been abused, who cannot live peacefully with his/her parents, who has committed misconduct short of a criminal offense or the like.

DETENTION HEARING

A hearing in juvenile court to determine whether a juvenile who is in custody should be further detained or released; usually used in connection with the hearing to determine whether the juvenile will be released until the adjudicatory hearing (trial).

DETENTION ORDER

A juvenile court order detaining the juvenile in custody until further proceedings are held.

DISPOSITION

Final result or termination of a trial; usually refers to the sentence or other punishment imposed; a disposition hearing is a hearing in a juvenile court case, at which the court decides upon the sentence to be imposed.

DISPOSITION HEARING

A hearing at which the court decides the final outcome of the case. Roughly analogous to sentencing in a criminal case.

DIVERSION

Process by which formal prosecution is suspended, pending the outcome of efforts to help the juvenile through counseling, social services or the like.

FACT FINDING HEARING

A hearing at which the court determines the facts of the case. Roughly analogous to a trial in a case involving an adult.

INTERSTATE COMPACT ON JUVENILES

An agreement among the states to assure cooperative supervision of delinquent juveniles on probation or parole and the return of a juvenile from one state to another.

PREPONDERANCE

Superiority in weight, importance or influence.

PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE

The greater weight of the evidence, not necessarily established by the greater number of witnesses testifying to a fact but by evidence that has the most convincing force; superior evidentiary weight that, though not sufficient to free the mind wholly from all reasonable doubt, is still sufficient to incline a fair and impartial mind to one side of the issue rather than the other.

This is the burden of proof in most civil trials, in which the jury is instructed to find for the party that, on the whole, has the stronger evidence, however slight the edge may be.

REASONABLE

Fair, proper or moderate under the circumstances.

REASONABLE DOUBT

The doubt that prevents one from being firmly convinced of a defendant’s guilt or the belief that there is a real possibility that a defendant is not guilty.

“Beyond a reasonable doubt “is the standard used by a jury to determine whether a criminal defendant is guilty.

SHELTER CARE

Temporary care for a child who is the subject of a dependency proceeding.

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

A formal separation of parent and child, usually because of abuse or other serious misconduct by the parent.

Latin and Other Foreign-Language Terminology

ACTION IN PERSONAM

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

ACTION IN REM

Proceeding “against the thing” as compared to personal actions (in personam).  Usually a proceeding where property is involved.

AD LITEM

For the suit; for the purpose of the suit; e.g. a guardian ad litem (a person appointed by the court to protect the interests of a minor or legally incompetent person in a lawsuit.

AD VALOREM

According to value, as determined by assessment, invoice or appraisal.

ALIA

Latin term meaning other things. Inter alia means among other things. Example: He argued, inter alia, that the contract was invalid.

AMICUS CURIAE

Latin term meaning friend of the court – a third party that is permitted by the court to submit a brief or to assist the court in some other way; often called simply an amicus, and a brief submitted by an amicus is often called an amicus brief.

CAVEAT

A warning; a note of caution.

CERTIORI

A means of getting an appellate court to review a lower court’s decision.  The loser of a case will often ask the appellate court to issue a writ of certiorari, which orders the lower court to convey the record of the case to the appellate court and to certify it as accurate and complete.  If an appellate court grants a writ of certiorari, it agrees to take the appeal. This is often referred to as granting cert.

CORPUS DELICTI

Body of the crime. The objective proof that a crime has been committed. It sometimes refers to the body of the victim of a homicide or to the charred shell of a burned house, but the term has a broader meaning. 

DE NOVO

Anew; without regard to earlier events. For example, a trial de novo is when a party is granted a new trial.

E.G.

Abbreviation for exempli gratia, a Latin term meaning “for example”; usually used at the beginning of a sentence or phrase.

ERROR CORAM NOBIS

A writ to correct a judgment in the same court in which it was rendered on the basis of grounds of fact.

ET AL

Latin term meaning and others.

ET ANO

Latin term meaning and one other.

ET SEQ

Latin abbreviation meaning and following. Pages 19 et seq. means Pages 19 and the pages following.

ET UX

Latin term meaning and wife.

ET VIR

Latin term meaning and husband.

EX PARTE

On behalf of only one party, without notice to any other party.  A judicial act or proceeding is said to be ex parte when it is taken  or conducted at the instance and for the benefit of one party only, without notice to the opposing party or other persons; also refers to the department  of the court in which such actions and proceedings are conducted.

EX PARTE PROCEEDING

The legal procedure in which only one side is represented.

EX POST FACTO

After the fact; a statute is termed ex post facto if it purports to affect situations in existence at the time of its enactment.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM

A person appointed by a court to look after the interests of an infant, child, or incompetent during court proceedings.

HABEAS CORPUS

The name given to a variety of writs having for their object to bring a person before the court or a judge and protect him or her from unlawful imprisonment or custody.

HEARING DE NOVO

A full new hearing.

IN CAMERA

A Latin term meaning “in the judge’s chamber” (the judge’s personal office), or in private.  A hearing in camera takes place in the judge’s office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.

IN FORMA PAUPERIS

Latin term referring to the right of an impoverished person to proceed with certain actions without payment of the usual fees and cost.

IN LOCO PARENTIS

“In the place of the parent”. It refers to actions of a custodian, guardian, or the person acting in the parent’s place.

IN PROPIA PERSONA

In courts, it refers to persons who present his or her own case without lawyers.  See PRO PER and PRO SE.

IN LIEU OF

Instead of; in place of; e.g. use of a deposition in lieu of testimony.

IN REM

(1) An act done or directed to no specific person and consequently against or with reference to all whom it may concern; (2) with reference to or relating to real property; e.g. an in rem action.

INTER ALIA

Among other things.

LIMINE

A motion requesting that the court not allow certain evidence that might prejudice the jury.

LOCUS DELICTI

The place of the offense.

MOTION IN LIMINE

A written motion which is usually made before or after the beginning of a jury trial for a protective order against prejudicial questions and statements.

NE EXEAT

A writ that forbids a person from leaving the state or the jurisdiction of the court.

NOLLE PROSEQUI

A formal entry in the record, by a plaintiff in a civil case or the prosecutor in a criminal case that he will not further prosecute the case, either as to some of the counts or some of the defendants or in its entirety. It translates, “I do not choose to prosecute.” Also loosely called nolle pros.

NOLO CONTENDRE

A Latin term meaning no contest; a plea by a criminal defendant, having the same effect as a plea of guilty in the present case, but that may not be used as an admission elsewhere; such pleas are not allowed in some states.

NUNC PRO TUNC

Now for then; a phrase applied to acts having a retroactive effect; for example, a judgment nunc pro tunc is effective as of a specified date prior to the actual entry of the judgment.

OBITER DICTUM

A statement of opinion by a judge on some point not argued in a case, or not a part of the conclusions necessary to support the judgment; it is not binding to the court in later cases.

PARENS PATRIAE

The doctrine under which the court protects the interests of a juvenile.

PENDENTE LITE

Pending or during the progress of a lawsuit; an order pendent elite is an order that gives temporary relief to one party until the final outcome of the case.

PER DIEM

Per day or by the day; a sum of money of so much per day.

PER SE

By himself or by itself; not to be confused with pro se (below)

PETIT (pronounced and sometimes written petty) 

Small; minor; insignificant; e.g. petty theft.

PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE

Evidence that is good and sufficient on its face; evidence sufficient to establish a particular fact or group of facts, constituting the party’s claim or defense and which, if not rebutted or contradicted, will remain sufficient.

PRO BONO PUBLICO

For the public good. Lawyers representing clients without a fee are said to be working pro bono publico.

PRO PER

One who represents oneself in a court proceeding without the assistance of a lawyer.  Also known as pro se. See also IN PROPIA PERSONA.

PRO SE

For himself; on his own behalf; a party who represents himself in court without an attorney is a pro se party.

PRO TERM (or TEMPORE) JUDGE

A judge serving temporarily in place of a regular judge.

QUID PRO QUO

Something in exchange for another.

RES GESTAE

A vague term usually referring to the facts and circumstances surrounding a more central fact or action that is the subject of litigation. Often used in connection with the admissibility of evidence. Example: “The bystander’s statements were admissible as part of the res gestae (meaning, roughly, as part of the excitement and events in question).

RES IPSA LOQUITUR

A Latin term meaning the thing speaks for itself; it is a rule of law holding that under some circumstances strongly suggesting negligence, the defendant will be presumed negligent until the contrary is shown.

RES JUDICATA

A matter adjudged; an issue judicially settled or decided; usually used to mean final and not subject or modification; rule of law that prevents parties from re-litigating the same matter.

SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM

A court order commanding a witness to bring certain documents or records to court.

ULTRA VIRES

A term describing an act done by a public or private entity that is void for lack of authority to perform the act.

VENIRE FACIAS

An ancient writ summoning a person for jury duty.

VOIR DIRE

To speak the truth; the term is used to refer to the preliminary questioning of a person to determine the person’s qualifications to serve as a juror or witness. 

Record Keeping and Other Administrative Matters Terminology

ABSTRACT

A summary of a larger work, wherein the principal ideas of the larger work are contained.

ABSTRACT OF RECORD

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

AGENDA

A list of cases pending with the court or set for hearing at a particular time and place; also called a court calendar.

AKA

Also known as.

ARCHIVES

A place or facility where old records and other materials are stored.

CALENDAR

A list of cases pending with the court or set for hearing at a particular time and place; sometimes called an agenda.

CLERICAL ERROR

An unintentional mistake, not involving exercising of discretion, by the clerk, counsel or the court, usually in a written document.

COURT ADMINISTRATOR

The manager of the non-judicial work of the court.

DBA (D/B/A)

Doing business as; e.g. John Smith, dba Smith Hardware.

DOCKET NUMBER

The numerical designation assigned to each case by the court.

DOCKET, DOCKETING, DOCKET ENTRY

(1) A collection of brief statements called docket entries compiled by the clerk, describing court appearances, pleadings and other actions taken in particular case; the activity by the clerk is called docketing. (2) A list or calendar of cases to be heard, as in the case was on the docket.

ENTER

To record an order, judgment or other decision of the court in the court’s records.

EXCERPT

A portion of the record in a case, extracted and certified by the clerk for a specified purpose; the record is certified as an excerpt only.

FDBA (F/D/B/A)

Formerly doing business as.

FEES

Charges established by law for certain services or privileges. For example, filing fees.

FILE (noun)

A record of the court; usually refers to the file folder itself, containing pleadings and related documents.

FILE (verb)

To endorse upon a document the date it is received, and to then place it in the file (see above).

FILING FEE

The fee charged by the clerk of court for accepting a document for filing with the court. A fee is typically charged for the first document filed in a case (for opening the case file). Additional fees may also be charged for certain documents. The amounts to be charged are usually specified by law.

IN RE

In regard to or in the matter of; used in pleading captions, such as In re Marriage of Smith.

LODGE

To bring into the custody of the clerk, but without the clerk physically attaching the papers to others in the file.

MINUTES, (MINUTE ENTRIES)

Memoranda or notes compiled by a courtroom clerk, summarizing the actions taken by counsel and the court.

NKA

Now known as; e.g. John Doe nka John Smith

SEALED

(1) Authenticated by a seal; executed by the affixing of a seal; (2) protected against public disclosure; e.g. a sealed file.

Trial Terminology

ACCESSORY

A person who aids or contributes in the commission of a crime.

ACCOMPLICE

One who knowingly, voluntarily, and intentionally unites with the principal offender in the commission of a crime. Partner in crime.

ACCUSATION

A formal charge against the person, to the effect that he has engaged in a punishable offense.

ACCUSED

The generic name for the defendant in a criminal case.

ACQUIT

To legally certify the innocence of one charged with a crime. To set free, release or discharge from an obligation, burden or accusation. To find a defendant not guilty in a criminal trial.

ADJOURN, ADJOURNMENT

The act of discontinuing or postponing a proceeding until another time or place; the court is said to adjourn until tomorrow, or to grant an adjournment. Usually shorter for continuance.

ADJUDICATE

To determine finally.

ADMISSIBLE

Pertinent and proper to be considered in reaching a decision.

ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE

Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.

ADMONISH

To advise or caution.  For example the Court may caution or admonish counsel for wrong practices.

AFFIRM

(1) To give a formal declaration, used in place of an oath, usually to avoid religious overtones; (2) To approve or validate that which was done by a lower court, i.e. an appellate court is said to affirm the trial court. 

AGGRAVATING FACTORS

Any factors associated with the commission of a crime which increase the seriousness of the offense or add to its injurious consequences.

ALIBI

A defense claim that the accused was somewhere else at the time a crime was committed.

ALLEGE

To state, recite, assert, claim, maintain, charge or set forth. To make an allegation.

ALLEGED

Asserted to be true as depicted or a person who is accused but has not yet been tried in court.

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (ADR)

Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement, among others.

APPEARANCE

A coming into court as a party or interested person or as a lawyer on behalf of party or interested person.

ARGUMENT

Remarks addressed by attorney to judge or jury on the merits of case or on points of law.

ARRAIGN

The procedure where the accused is brought before the court to hear the criminal charge(s) against him or her and to enter a plea of either guilty, not guilty or no contest.

ARRAIGNMENT

A proceeding in which the accused is brought before the court to plead to criminal charge in the indictment or information.  The charge is read to him or her and he or she is asked to plead guilty or not guilty or, where permitted, nolo contendere (no contest).

ATTEMPT

An endeavor or effort to do an act or accomplish a crime.

BENCH TRIAL

Trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts and law.

CHALLENGE

A formal objection to a potential juror.

CITATION

(1) A summons requiring an appearance in court; (2) A reference to an authority in support of a legal argument. In the latter sense, CR 2 is said, for example, to be a citation to Civil Rule 2. 

CIVIL ACTION (Civil Case)

A lawsuit instituted to compel payment, or the doing of some act, as distinguished from a civil case.

COMPETENCY

Mental capacity of a person, especially with regard to his or her ability to stand trial and to assist counsel in his or her defense.

CONTINUE, CONTINUANCE

The act of discontinuing or postponing a proceeding until another time or place; the court is said to continue a case or to grant a continuance; usually longer than an adjournment.

CROSS-EXAMINATION

See examination.

DAMAGES

In a civil action, an amount of money claimed by the plaintiff, or awarded by the court, as compensation for injury or loss.

DAY (or DATE) CERTAIN

A fixed or appointed day or date.

DECREE

The judgment of a court of equity or admiralty; usually used to describe a judgment that requires the doing of some act, as distinguished from the payment of money.

DEFENDANT

The party defending or denying; as distinguished from the plaintiff in a civil case or the prosecution in a criminal case.

DELIBERATE (verb)

To discuss or consider, in order to reach a decision; the jury deliberates before reaching a verdict.

DISMISSAL

An order or judgment disposing of an action without a trial. A dismissal of the plaintiff’s case on motion of the defendant is called an involuntary dismissal.

A dismissal at the plaintiff’s own request is called a voluntary dismissal. A dismissal that also bars the plaintiff from re-filling the same suit is called a dismissal with prejudice.

DISPOSITION

Final result or termination of a trial; usually refers to the sentence or other punishment imposed following a criminal or juvenile case; a disposition hearing is a hearing in a juvenile court case, at which the court decides upon the sentence to be imposed.

DOE, JOHN or JANE

Fictitious names used to designate a party until his or her real name can be ascertained. 

EVIDENCE

Any proof legally presented at trial, by the act of the parties and through the medium of witnesses, records, documents, concrete objects, and the like, for the purposes of including belief in the minds of the court or jury as to their contention.

EXAMINATION

Questioning of a witness under oath, at trial or during a deposition.

Direct Examination – is the first questioning of a witness, by the party who calls the witness.

Cross-Examination – is the questioning of a witness by the opposing party, to test the truth of the witness, or to further explore testimony already given on direct examination.

EXHIBIT

A paper, document or object produced and exhibited during a trial or hearing; if accepted as evidence, it is marked for identification and filed for record.

HUNG JURY

A jury that can not agree on a verdict.

INDIGENT

Technically, referring to a person who is entitled, because of poverty, to an attorney and certain other court services at public expense; the term is often used in a general sense to mean impoverished, poor or needy.

INSTRUCTIONS

See Jury Instructions.

JUDGMENT

The final determination of the rights of the parties to an action or proceeding; the formal, written document reflecting such a final determination; the term is used in both civil and criminal cases.

JURISDICTION

The courts authority to render judgment in particular case; the power of the court over a particular person or subject matter; a court without such authority is said to lack jurisdiction over the parties or subject matter; e.g. courts of limited jurisdiction lack jurisdiction to grant a dissolution of marriage because only trial courts have jurisdiction to do so.

JURY

A certain number of persons (usually 6 or 12), selected according to law, and sworn to decide issues of fact and declare the truth on the basis of evidence submitted to them.

JURY INSTRUCTIONS

The judge’s explanation of the law that governs a case, given to the jury at the conclusion of the trial, often based upon standardized (“pattern”) instructions. Sometimes called the judge’s charge to the jury.

LEAVE OF COURT

The court’s permission; e.g. additional briefs cannot be filed without leave of court.

MISTRIAL

An order declaring a trial to be invalid because of some fundamental error; when a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again from the beginning.

MOTION

An application to the court for a ruling or order, usually before or during the trial.

OATH

(1) Any form of attestation by which a person signifies that he is bound in conscience to perform an act faithfully and truthfully; (2) A written or oral pledge to keep a promise to speak the truth. 

OBJECTION

A statement by counsel, taking exception to testimony or to the attempted introduction of evidence.

OPENING STATEMENT

The first address of counsel, given at the beginning of a trial. Also called opening argument.

ORDER

Every direction of a court or judge, made or entered in writing and not included in the final judgment.

PARTIES

The persons or other entities who take part in the performance of an act, or who are directly interested in any affair, contract, or conveyance, or who are actively concerned in the prosecution or defense of any legal proceeding; in litigation, the persons or entities who are actually named as plaintiffs or defendants.

PERJURY

Making a false statement under oath, a criminal offense.

PLAINTIFF

A person or entity who commences a civil action filing a complaint; the party who complains or sues in a personal action and is named as plaintiff on the record, as distinguished from the defendant.  When the action is commenced by the filing of a petition instead of a complaint, the term petitioner is used instead of plaintiff.

PLEADINGS

The formal allegations by the parties of their respective claims and defenses for the judgment of the court; usually used with reference to civil cases, in which the pleading consist of the complaint, answer, counterclaims, and so forth.  The plaintiff’s first pleading is called a complaint or petition. The defendant’s first pleading is called an answer.

QUASH

To annul or make void; e.g. to quash a writ or a search warrant.

RECESS

A short interval during which the court suspends business but does not adjourn; e.g. the court is said to recess for lunch.

RECORD

(1) As a noun, the official, written history of an action or proceeding; (2) As a verb, to preserve in writing, printing, film, electronic recording, or the like. Trial proceedings that are formally recorded are on the record.  Informal, unrecorded proceedings, such as an informal meeting among the attorneys in the case are off the record.

RETURN

A vague term, usually referring to proof that an act was carried out; e.g. when the sheriff serves a writ as directed by the court, the sheriff files a return of service with the court, stating that the writ was served. A return date is a date by which such proof must be filed or otherwise submitted to the court.

SEALED

(1) Authenticated by a seal; executed by the affixing of a seal; (2) Protected against public disclosure, e.g. a sealed file.

SEQUESTRATION OF JURY

The practice of keeping the jurors isolated from all outside influence, staying in hotel if necessary. If the jurors cannot go home at night, they are sequestered. If the jurors are not sequestered, they are allowed to separate at night.

The term sequester is also used to apply to witnesses who are kept from the courtroom until it is time for them to testify.

SETTLEMENT

Conclusion of a dispute; the term usually refers to a compromise reached by the parties, eliminating the need for a trial.

STIPULATION

A binding agreement between counsels in a pending case, made in writing or in open court.

SUMMONS

Normally the first document in a civil suit, attached to the complaint and notifying the defendant that an action has been commenced, and requiring the defendant to appear and respond to the complaint by filing an answer to it.

TESTIMONY

Oral statements given as evidence by a witness under oath; as distinguished from evidence consisting of documents, films, pictures, or the like.

TRIAL

The examination before a competent tribunal, according to the law put in issue in a cause, for the purpose of determining such issue.

VACATE

To nullify or to set aside; e.g. the court will vacate a judgment that was entered without jurisdiction to do so.

VENIRE

To come or to appear in court; sometimes used to refer to list of persons who have been or are to be summoned for jury duty.

VENUE

The place, usually a county, in which the law requires an action to be filed; if the court transfers the case to another county, the court is said to have granted a change of venue.

VERDICT

The formal decision by a jury, reported to, and accepted by the court.

VERIFICATION

Confirmation of the correctness, truth, or authenticity of a pleading, account, or other document by affidavit or oath, some pleadings must be verified

VIEW

An actual viewing by the jury of something away from the courtroom (i.e. where the accident occurred, where the crime was committed, or the like).

WAIVE, WAIVER

To abandon or to surrender a claim, privilege or right; one who waives a right is said to give a waiver.