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Glossary of Legal Terms & Definitions

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  • Conciliation  A conciliation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party tries to help resolve a case without proceeding through the court system, similar to a mediation.  
  • Constable  A constable is an elected official directed by the Justice of the Peace to deliver and return legal notices/documents.  
  • Contempt of court  A person is found in contempt of court when they willfully disobey or disrespect the court or a judge’s command and interfere with the administration of justice. Someone found in contempt of court can face financial sanctions and, potentially, jail time.  
  • Contingency fee  A contingency fee is the amount a lawyer agrees to be paid out of the damages awarded to their client. Typically, filing fees and other costs associated with working the case are not considered part of the contingency fee amount.  
  • Continuance  A continuance is a request by a party for the court to postpone a legal proceeding to a later date.  
  • Contract  A contract is a legally enforceable agreement made either orally or in writing between two or more parties creating an obligation to do or not to do a particular thing. A contract can be formed by orally agreeing to do something, signing an agreement, or by performing your part of the(...)
  • Conviction  In a criminal case, a conviction is when someone has been found guilty of committing a crime.  
  • Copyright  A copyright is a legally enforceable authority someone was given to prevent other people or businesses from copying things they have written, authored, or created.  
  • Corporation  A corporation is a legal entity authorized by a state to conduct business or other activities within the state. Similar to an individual person, a corporation can perform actions necessary to carry on business, such as enter into contracts or sue/be sued. Typically, those who own a(...)
  • Counsel  Is another word for attorney or lawyer in a case, a person who can give legal advice.  
  • Counterclaim  In a civil case, a counterclaim is made by the Defendant against the Plaintiff alleging they did something to cause or aggravate the issue.  
  • Court  A court is an entity established by the federal or state government to resolve legal disputes.  
  • Court costs  Are the costs associated with arguing or defending a court case, not including attorney fees. For example, the costs associated with filing the complaint or the costs for hiring a process server.  
  • Court reporter  A court reporter is a person who works for the court who transcribes word-for-word what is said in a court proceeding or deposition and produces a transcript of the proceedings upon request.  
  • Crime  Someone commits a crime when they do an action forbidden by a state or federal statute or regulation.  
  • Criminal justice system  All the courts and tribunals established to handle enforcement of criminal law.  
  • Cross-examine  When a witness has finished being questioned by the attorney who asked them to testify and the opposing attorney starts questioning them.  
  • Damages  Damages are money the court has awarded to the injured party in a court case.  
  • Debtor  A debtor is a person or business that owes a monetary amount to another person or business.  
  • Decree  Another word for the court’s final decision on a case.  
  • Deed  A legally enforceable written document that outlines and describes the boundaries of a property.  
  • Default  A defendant is found to be in default when they fail to appear after receiving the summons and answer the complaint.  
  • Default judgment  Default judgment is entered when a defendant is found to be in default and awards the opposing party what they are requesting.  
  • Defendant  Is the person accused of a crime or being sued for an action that has to defend themselves in a legal proceeding.  
  • Delinquent Act  When a minor commits an act that would be considered a crime if committed by an adult.  
  • Department of Economic Security (DES)  An Arizona agency tasked with overseeing and coordinate IV-D payments and public assistance programs.  
  • Dependency  A dependency action begins when children are removed from their parents’ home for safety or general welfare concerns. During a dependency action, a court will determine whether the parent is fit to care for the child or if their parental rights should be severed.   
  • Deposition  Oral or written testimony taken outside of court, under oath, of a witness or a party to be used later as evidence or read in court.  
  • Disbarment  Disbarment is when a lawyer’s license is revoked, either temporarily or permanently, for unethical conduct.  
  • Discipline Agency  An agency established by the state to investigate complaints against lawyers and, if necessary, enforce an appropriate punishment. These agencies cannot help recover fees paid or force lawyers to reimburse for losses suffered.  
  • Discovery  The gathering of facts and documents possessed by other parties or witnesses before trial in order to prepare arguments for trial.  
  • Dismissal  A court or party dismisses a case when they find there is not enough evidence to proceed.  
  • Dismissal with prejudice  When a good reason exists for dismissing a case and the plaintiff is forbidden from bringing the same claim again.  
  • Dismissal without prejudice  When a case is dismissed for a lack of supporting evidence, but the same claim may be brought later in a new suit.  
  • Docket (trial docket)  A list of cases and matters to be completed in those cases assigned to a specific judge, or a list of court proceedings the judge has that day.  
  • Domicile  A person’s permanent residence or their home to which they intend to return.  
  • Double jeopardy  When a criminal defendant may not be tried a second time for the same crime where the prosecution failed to convict through no fault of the defendant.  
  • Due process  Constitutionally, a person cannot have their basic rights taken away by the government without receiving their day in court.  
  • Duty of Support  Parents of an unemancipated natural or adopted minor child have an obligation to financially support them until they reach the age of 18, unless the child is still attending high school or a certified equivalency program, then they must continue to support the child until finished. If a(...)
  • Emancipation  A process where a child, due to age or circumstance, requests a court to declare them legally independent from their parents.  
  • En Banc  Is Latin for “in the bench” or “full bench.” It is a term used when an entire appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court sit to hear a case, instead of only a portion.   
  • Equal Parenting Time  An agreement between parents that equally splits the children’s time between them each year.  
  • Equal Protection Clause  The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that state government institutions must equally apply the law to each person regardless of preference or class of persons over another.  
  • Evidence  Evidence is testimony or documentation presented by either party to the judge or jury to support their argument and persuade them to rule in their favor.  
  • Ex Parte  Ex parte is a Latin phrase for when a party asks for relief from the court without providing notice to the opposing party. Typically, an ex parte proceeding is done to obtain orders of protection.  
  • Exhibit  An exhibit is documentation, such as a report or photograph, or physical evidence, such as a gun, presented at trial in support of one party’s argument.  
  • Expert witness  A third party not directly involved in a legal proceeding who has specialized knowledge of a subject and is asked to testify on how that knowledge applies to the case. For example, an expert on poison could testify about the type of poison used to kill someone.  
  • Expungement  Expungement is a legal process that allows a person convicted of a crime to petition a court to destroy any record of the case from court records, so it is like the case never existed.  
  • Extradition  When a state or country agrees to turnover an accused criminal to another state or country.  
  • Felony  A felony is a serious criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or by death.  

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