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Glossary of Legal Terms & Definitions

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  •   An acquittal is a jury’s verdict that a criminal defendant is found not guilty, or the finding of a judge that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction, thus dismissing the criminal case completely.  
  •   An adjudication is the final binding decision by a judge or other trier of fact after they have heard the opposing party’s arguments, which determines each parties rights and obligations.  
  •   An administrative agency is a branch of the federal or state government that administers and enforces laws pertaining to specific areas, such as the IRS with taxes.  
  •   Admiralty law is the collection of regulations and laws that oversee the transportation of persons or property by sea.  
  •   Admissible refers to evidence that a judge or jury may consider at trial in civil and criminal cases because it is deemed reliable and relevant to resolving the issue.  
  •   An affidavit is a voluntary written or printed statement of fact confirmed by the person making it, either by notarization or administered by an authorized officer of the court.  
  •   A judgment is affirmed when a party appeals an adjudication to an appellate court and it determines the judgment was correctly made.  
  •   Alimony is the financial obligation one spouse must pay to the other to help support them after a divorce or separation.  
  •   An allegation is a party’s statement of what they think happened and what they hope to prove moving forward in a case.  
  •   Alternative dispute resolution is when the parties to a dispute can resolve the problem without having to appear for a trial in front of a judge or jury. The most common methods are mediation and arbitration.  
  •   An amicus curiae is a party not directly involved in a case that may provide information or evidence to the court to help clear up a matter of law or inform the court of their position on the matter. In Latin amicus curiae means “a friend of the court.”  
  •   An annulment is a determination by the court that at the time of marriage there was some issue or error preventing a legal marriage from being established, thus the parties were never legally married.  
  •   Refers to the written response of a person being accused in a civil case admitting or denying the allegations made against them and providing any defenses they may have.  
  •   An antenuptial, also known as a prenup, is an agreement made before marriage which indicates how each party would like to divide property or assets if they divorce or one party dies. Do not confuse this with a will or trust, which is an agreement made during marriage on how property or(...)
  •   An appeal is a request made by a party who disagrees with the final ruling after trial and wants a supervisory court to review the trial to overturn the decision.  
  •   An appearance is when a party consents to the court’s jurisdiction by appearing in the case either on their own behalf or through an attorney to make their case.  
  •   An appellate court reviews the procedure and judgment of a lower court when a party appeals the final decision.   
  •   An arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution where an arbitrator will act like a judge, hear both sides of the dispute and make a decision. There are two forms of arbitration: binding voluntary arbitration (cannot appeal decision) and mandatory non-binding arbitration (can(...)
  •   An arbitrator is a disinterested person, usually an attorney, selected by the parties to an arbitration or by the court to hear the case and make a determination based on the evidence without having a formal trial.  
  •   An arraignment is the first appearance with a judge in a criminal case where the charges against the defendant are read and a defendant is asked to plea guilty or not guilty. Release conditions may be set at this time.  
  •   Arrears are money that is overdue to be paid; typically refers to child support or alimony that has not been paid on time.  
  •   Articles of incorporation are documents that are required to be filed with the state to incorporate a business. Typically, they include general information about the company, including name, address, and purpose. Many states have websites where you can develop and submit these documents(...)
  •   The release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime, under specified conditions designed to assure that person's appearance in court when required. Also can refer to the amount of bond money posted as a financial condition of pretrial release.  
  •   Is money or property put up to get a criminal defendant released from jail, which is supposed to ensure they appear at all required court appearances.   
  •   Is a federal legal proceeding involving people or businesses that cannot pay their debts and are seeking help from the court to rid them from those obligations, sometimes by paying a portion of each debt.  
  •   In the legal field, a bar refers the association that regulates the lawyers allowed to legally practice within a jurisdiction.  
  •   A bench trial is a trial without a jury where the judge makes the final determination. A jury trial is where a jury determines the facts of a case. A bench trial is only allowed in certain misdemeanor cases or when a Defendant waives their right to a jury trial.  
  •   In a criminal case, the prosecution is required to prove this standard to the jury in order to convict the defendant of a crime.  
  •   Refers to the decisions made by higher courts, which set the legal standards lower courts must apply when handling cases that are similar and have the same issues. All district courts are bound by the decisions of the appellate courts which review their cases, and all courts, state and(...)
  •   A brief is a written document containing the summary of the facts of the case, pertinent laws, and a party’s argument applying the law to the facts.  
  •   In a court case, the burden of proof is the obligation placed on one of the parties to prove their claims in order to get a decision in their favor.  For example, a prosecutor has to prove a criminal claim beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict a criminal defendant of a crime.  
  •   Canons of ethics are the ethical standards attorneys must follow in the practice of law.  
  •   A capital offense is a crime which can result in someone being sentenced to death, such as treason or first-degree murder.  
  •   Is law established from previous decisions by appellate courts or the Supreme Court of the United States that are used in writing an argument in a brief or answer.  
  •   The number assigned by the court to identify one case from another.   
  •   The factual situation which provides a legal right to bring a claim in court for damages and compensation.  
  •   A certified copy is a copy of a document that is authenticated and certified as a true copy of the original document by the person who is in possession of the original.  
  •   Granting a writ of certiorari is the legal equivalent of agreeing to do something. A higher court, such as the Supreme Court of the United States, grants a writ of certiorari to review a lower court’s procedure and decision.  
  •   In a criminal case, the Defendant gets charged with committing a crime. The charge is the law the defendant is accused of breaking.  
  •   Is when a principal fact is inferred from one or more circumstantial facts. For example, a judge or jury can infer a person committed a crime if they are seen running away from the scene of the crime.  
  •   A civil case involves private parties or businesses suing each other under law not regulated by a state or federal government.  
  •   A class action is a case brought by an individual or two on behalf of a larger group of people.  
  •   An organization located in one spot that monitors, receives, and disburses child support-IV-D payments.  
  •   Is a fund established by the Supreme Court of Arizona to help people hurt by the dishonest conduct of licensed Arizona attorneys by reimbursing them for loses they have sustained.  
  •   Usually refers to purchasing and selling of real estate. It is the final exchange where the parties exchange the agreed on amount for the title and deed.  
  •   The ethical rules attorneys are required to follow when practicing law.  
  •   is the original legal system, based on court decisions, that originated in England and was brought over to the United States when it was first forming. United States common law varies by state, the three types are: English; French; and Spanish.  
  •   Is money awarded to compensate someone for losses suffered. Typically, it is for damages that can be measured, such as medical bills or replacing property, but can also include harder to measure damages, such as pain and suffering.  
  •   In a civil case, the complainant is the party alleging the offense and brining the lawsuit.  
  •   The complaint is the initial document filed to begin a case. It lists the facts of the case, the relevant law, and the action the filing party is asking the court to take.  

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