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Glossary of Legal Terms & Definitions

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  • Fiduciary  A person or company that has contractually agreed, or a court has appointed, to manage the money or property of another. For example, a trustee or an executor of an estate.  
  • Fiduciary Duty  A legal obligation that requires a party to act in the best interest of another party. For example, a trustee has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of a trust.  
  • Filing Fee  The predetermined fee courts require for filing various documents with the court.  
  • Garnishment (Garnish)  A court ordered remedy whereby the property or money of the debtor is taken and applied to the debt until it is paid off.  
  • Grand jury  A group of people gathered prior to criminal charges being filed against a person to hear and determine if the prosecution has probable cause to prosecute someone for a felony.  
  • Guardian  A relative or third party appointed by a will or by the law to assume responsibility for minor children or incompetent adults.   
  • Guardian ad litem  Latin for a court appointed guardian of a child or incompetent person to look out for their best interests throughout a legal proceeding.  
  • Habeas corpus  A writ of habeas corpus is filed to bring a prisoner before the court for any of the following reasons: to determine the legality of their imprisonment; to allow them to argue there is not sufficient cause to imprison them; to give testimony, or to be prosecuted.  
  • Hearing  A formal proceeding held before trial to discuss issues of law or of fact. They can be used to narrow down the issues needed to be argued at trial or to help facilitate settlement.  
  • Hearsay  Information a witness obtained secondhand from another source which they then try to testify to at trial. Unless it falls under an exception, hearsay is usually not admissible as evidence.  
  • Lawsuit  A legal action originating with a complaint where a plaintiff claims a defendant failed to perform a legal duty owed to them, resulting in harm to the plaintiff.  
  • In Loco Parentis  A Latin phrase referring to a person treated as a parent by a child, and that has established a meaningful parental relationship with them over a period but are not legally or biologically their parent.  
  • Indictment  A written accusation submitted to the court by a grand jury, after hearing the prosecution’s evidence, charging a person with committing a crime.  
  • Indigent  a person who cannot financially afford their own legal representation, so the court will have to appoint an attorney to represent them.  
  • Initial appearance   In a criminal case, it is when a defendant first comes in front of a judge to determine if there is probable cause for their arrest and to establish release conditions.  
  • Initial hearing  In a criminal case, it is when the judge informs the defendant of the charges against them, their rights moving forward, and decides what bail will be.  
  • Injunction  An order from the court stopping another party from performing a specific act to prevent or mitigate damage or injury.  
  • Interrogatories  A set of questions included in a party’s discovery request to the opposing party that is required to be answered in writing under oath.  
  • Interview  A meeting between parties to ask questions and gather information.  
  • Joint and several liability  When multiple parties are found liable for an injury and either of them can be held liable to pay the total amount of damages if the other liable party cannot afford to pay.  
  • Joint Legal Decision Making  When neither parent has superior decision-making authority except for things specifically identified by the court or the parents in the final judgment.  
  • Judge   A government official appointed to regulate legal proceedings and decide lawsuits brought before the court.  
  • Judgment  The final determination by the court of each parties’ respective rights and obligations to the other.  
  • Jurisdiction  The geographic area or type of case a court has authority to hear and decide a case on. For example, a bankruptcy case can only be heard in federal bankruptcy court. If a case meets certain criteria, then it can be heard in both state and federal courts. The party initiating the action(...)
  • Jury  A group of six to twelve people, unless otherwise agreed to, that is sworn to hear and determine the outcome of a case after hearing both sides’ arguments.  
  • Law clerk (staff attorney)  An attorney that assists judges with researching case law and writing opinions for cases.  
  • Legal aid  Organizations that may provide legal services to people or businesses which are unable to afford an attorney otherwise.  
  • Litigation  The judicial process of bringing a lawsuit in a court of justice for the purpose of enforcing a right or a law.  
  • Living will  A written legal document that instructs others how a person wants certain medical treatments handled if they ever lose consciousness, are disabled to the point where they cannot make the decision themselves, or end up on life-support.  
  • Magistrate  A term that broadly refers to all judges or a judicial officer that assists U.S. district court judges in preparing cases for trial.  
  • Maintenance  Also known as alimony, is money paid by one spouse to the other to financially support them as they did during marriage while they are going through a divorce or separation.  
  • Mediation  A form of Alternative Dispute Resolution that allows parties to an action to informally resolve a dispute without going through the court system.  
  • Misdemeanor  A criminal offense less serious than a felony punishable by fine or imprisonment for less than one year.  
  • Mistrial  A mistrial is declared when a fundamental error occurs during a trial and a new jury must be selected to restart the trial.  
  • Moot  A moot case or point is one that has already been resolved prior to needing a court decision, leaving nothing left for a court to decide.  
  • Motion  A written request submitted to a court or judge requesting a ruling or order in that party’s favor.  
  • Motion to Dismiss   In a criminal case, a motion to dismiss is a written request, typically filed by a defendant, arguing that the case should be thrown out for a violation of their rights or other legal issue.  
  • Negligence  Failure to act in a way that a reasonable and prudent person would under similar circumstances.  
  • No-fault Divorce  Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, meaning parties can get a divorce regardless of the cause and without fault assigned to either party.   
  • Nolo Contendere  A term meaning “no contest.” In a criminal case, it has the same effect as pleading guilty, but is not considered an admission of guilt, rather the defendant does not wish to contest the charges.  
  • Non-custodial Parent  A child’s parent that has no legal custody of them or is not the primary caretaker.  
  • Notary Public  A state authorized person who can administer oaths or certify documents.  
  • Notice of Appearance  A written document filed with the court informing the other parties of their or their lawyers’ involvement in the case.  
  • Oath  A solemn pledge by someone that a statement is true or that written documents are true/correct.  
  • Objection  A challenge by an attorney of a statement or question made at trial that a judge must decide whether to allow or overrule.  
  • Opinion  The written explanation of the court’s final decision on a case. When multiple judges hear a case, they can write a concurring opinion agreeing with the result or they can write a dissenting opinion disagreeing with it.  
  • Oral Argument  An opportunity for a party or their attorney to appear before the court to present their argument and answer any questions.  
  • Panel  Refers to either a group of appellate judges assigned to hear a case or a group of potential jurors.  
  • Paralegal (legal assistant)  A person working under the supervision of a lawyer who has special training but does not have a law degree.  
  • Parties  The opposing sides of a lawsuit.  

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