A jury verdict that a criminal defendant is not guilty, or the finding of a judge
A judge in the full-time service of the court.
A term used to describe evidence that may be considered by a jury or judge
A written or printed statement made under oath.
In the practice of the court of appeals, it means that the court of appeals
A juror selected in the same manner as a regular juror who hears all the evidence
Alternative dispute resolution
A procedure for settling a dispute outside the courtroom. Most forms of ADR are not binding,
Latin for “friend of the court.” It is advice formally offered to the court in a brief
The formal written statement by a defendant in a civil case that responds to a complaint,
A request made after a trial by a party that has lost on one or more issues that
The party who appeals a district court’s decision, usually seeking reversal of that decision.
About appeals; an appellate court has the power to review the judgment
The party who opposes an appellant’s appeal, and who seeks to persuade the appeals court to affirm the district court’s decision.
A proceeding in which a criminal defendant is brought into court,
Article III judge
A federal judge who is appointed for life, during “good behavior,” under Article III
Property of all kinds, including real and personal, tangible and intangible.
An agreement to continue performing duties under a contract or lease.
An injunction that automatically stops lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments,
The release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime, under specified conditions
A legal procedure for dealing with debt problems of individuals and businesses;
The informal name for title 11 of the United States Code (11 U.S.C. §§ 101-1330), the federal bankruptcy law.
A trial without a jury, in which the judge serves as the fact-finder.
A written statement submitted in a trial or appellate proceeding that explains one side’s legal and factual arguments.
Burden of proof
The duty to prove disputed facts. In civil cases, a plaintiff generally has the burden
A crime punishable by death.
A complete collection of every document filed in court in a case.
The law as established in previous court decisions. A synonym for legal precedent.
The number of cases handled by a judge or a court.
Cause of action
A legal claim or reason to initiate litigation.
The offices of a judge and his or her staff.
A creditor’s assertion of a right to payment from a debtor or the debtor’s property.
A lawsuit in which one or more members of a large group, or class, of individuals
Clerk of court
The court officer who oversees administrative functions, especially managing the flow
Property that is promised as security for the satisfaction of a debt.
The legal system that originated in England and is now in use in the United States,
A special condition the court imposes that requires an individual to work – without pay – for a civic or nonprofit organization.
A written statement that begins a civil lawsuit, in which the plaintiff details the claims against the defendant.
Prison terms for two or more offenses to be served at the same time, rather than
Money that a defendant pays a plaintiff in a civil case if the plaintiff has won.
Latin, meaning “in fact” or “actually.” Something that exists in fact but not necessarily as a matter of law.
Latin, meaning “in law.” Something that exists by operation of law.
Latin, meaning “anew.” A trial de novo is a completely new trial. Appellate review de novo implies no deference to the trial judge’s ruling.
A judge’s statement about someone’s rights. For example, a plaintiff may seek
A judgment awarding a plaintiff the relief sought in the complaint because
An individual (or business) against whom a lawsuit is filed.
In a civil case, the person or organization against whom the plaintiff brings suit; in a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.
An oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to administer oaths.
Procedures used to obtain disclosure of evidence before trial.
Dismissal with prejudice
Court action that prevents an identical lawsuit from being filed later.
Dismissal without prejudice
Court action that allows a later filing.
A log containing the complete history of each case in the form of brief chronological entries summarizing the court proceedings.
In criminal law, the constitutional guarantee that a defendant will receive a fair
French, meaning “on the bench.” All judges of an appellate court sitting together
Pertaining to civil suits in “equity” rather than in “law.” In English legal history,
The value of a debtor’s interest in property that remains after liens and other creditors’ interests are considered.
Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case in favor of one side or the other.
A proceeding brought before a court by one party only, without notice to or challenge by the other side.
Doctrine that says evidence obtained in violation of a criminal defendant’s constitutional or statutory rights is not admissible at trial.
Evidence indicating that a defendant did not commit the crime.
Contracts or leases under which both parties to the agreement have duties remaining
Property that a debtor is allowed to retain, free from the claims of creditors who do not have liens on the property.
Federal question jurisdiction
Jurisdiction given to federal courts in cases involving the interpretation and application of the U.S. Constitution, acts of Congress, and treaties.
A serious crime, usually punishable by at least one year in prison.
To place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of court to enter into the files or records of a case.
A transfer of a debtor’s property made with intent to defraud or for which the debtor receives less than the transferred property’s value.
A body of 16-23 citizens who listen to evidence of criminal allegations, which is presented by the prosecutors, and determine whether there is probable cause to believe an individual committed an offense.
Latin, meaning “you have the body.” A writ of habeas corpus generally is
Evidence presented by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question
A special condition the court imposes that requires an individual to remain
1. The process of calling a witness’s testimony into doubt. For example, if the attorney
Latin, meaning in a judge’s chambers. Often means outside the presence of a jury and the public. In private.
In forma pauperis
“In the manner of a pauper.” Permission given by the court to a person to file a case
Evidence indicating that a defendant did commit the crime.
The formal charge issued by a grand jury stating that there is enough evidence
A formal accusation by a government attorney that the defendant committed a misdemeanor. See also indictment.
A court order preventing one or more named parties from taking some action.
A form of discovery consisting of written questions to be answered in writing and under oath.
1. The disputed point between parties in a lawsuit; 2. To send out officially, as in a court issuing an order.
A court-approved mechanism under which two or more cases can be administered together.
One bankruptcy petition filed by a husband and wife together.
An official of the Judicial branch with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts.
The position of judge. By statute, Congress authorizes the number of judgeships for each district and appellate court.
The official decision of a court finally resolving the dispute between the parties to the lawsuit.
Judicial Conference of the United States
The policy-making entity for the federal court system. A 27-judge body whose presiding officer is the Chief Justice of the United States.
The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a certain type of case.
The study of law and the structure of the legal system.
The group of persons selected to hear the evidence in a trial and render a verdict on matters of fact. See also grand jury.
A judge’s directions to the jury before it begins deliberations regarding the factual questions it must answer and the legal rules that it must apply.
A legal action started by a plaintiff against a defendant based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty which resulted in harm to the plaintiff.
A charge on specific property that is designed to secure payment of a debt or performance of an obligation. A debtor may still be responsible for a lien after a discharge.
The sale of a debtor’s property with the proceeds to be used for the benefit of creditors.
A case, controversy, or lawsuit. Participants (plaintiffs and defendants) in lawsuits are called litigants.
A judicial officer of a district court who conducts initial proceedings in criminal cases,
Mental health treatment
Special condition the court imposes to require an individual to undergo evaluation
An offense punishable by one year of imprisonment or less. See also felony.
An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again with the selection of a new jury.
Not subject to a court ruling because the controversy has not actually arisen, or has ended.
A request by a litigant to a judge for a decision on an issue relating to the case.
Motion in Limine
A pretrial motion requesting the court to prohibit the other side from presenting,
Motion to lift the automatic stay
A request by a creditor to allow the creditor to take action against the debtor
No contest. A plea of nolo contendere has the same effect as a plea of guilty,
A debt that cannot be eliminated in bankruptcy. Examples include a home
Property of a debtor that can be liquidated to satisfy claims of creditors.
A judge’s written explanation of the decision of the court. Because a case may be heard by three or more judges in the court of appeals,
An opportunity for lawyers to summarize their position before the court and also to answer the judges’ questions.
1. In appellate cases, a group of judges (usually three) assigned to decide the case;
The release of a prison inmate – granted by the U.S. Parole Commission – after the
The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 abolished parole in favor of a determinate sentencing system in which the sentence is set by sentencing guidelines. Now, without the option of parole, the term of imprisonment the court imposes is the actual time the person spends in prison.
Latin, meaning “for the court.” In appellate courts, often refers to an unsigned opinion.
A district court may grant each side in a civil or criminal trial the right to exclude
Petit jury (or trial jury)
A group of citizens who hear the evidence presented by both sides at trial
A federal misdemeanor punishable by six months or less in prison.
A person or business that files a formal complaint with the court.
A debtor’s detailed description of how the debtor proposes to pay creditors’ claims over a fixed period of time.
In a criminal case, the defendant’s statement pleading “guilty” or “not guilty” in answer to the charges. See also nolo contendere.
Written statements filed with the court that describe a party’s legal or factual assertions about the case.
A court decision in an earlier case with facts and legal issues similar to a dispute
A report prepared by a court’s probation officer, after a person has been convicted
A meeting of the judge and lawyers to plan the trial, to discuss which matters
A function of the federal courts that takes place at the very start of the criminal justice
The Bankruptcy Code’s statutory ranking of unsecured claims that determines the order
A slang expression sometimes used to refer to a pro se litigant. It is a corruption of the Latin phrase “in propria persona.”
Representing oneself. Serving as one’s own lawyer.
A written account of the proceedings in a case, including all pleadings, evidence, and exhibits submitted in the course of the case.
Send back to a lower court with specific instructions after an appeal.
The act of a court setting aside the decision of a lower court. A reversal is often accompanied by a remand to the lower court for further proceedings.
A penalty or other type of enforcement used to bring about compliance with the law or with rules and regulations.
A secured creditor is an individual or business that holds a claim against the debtor
Debt backed by a mortgage, pledge of collateral, or other lien; debt for
The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime.
A set of rules and principles established by the United States Sentencing Commission
To separate. Sometimes juries are sequestered from outside influences during their deliberations.
Service of process
The delivery of writs or summonses to the appropriate party.
Parties to a lawsuit resolve their dispute without having a trial.
Standard of proof
Degree of proof required. In criminal cases, prosecutors must prove a defendant’s guilt
A law passed by a legislature.
Statute of limitations
The time within which a lawsuit must be filed or a criminal prosecution begun.
Latin, meaning “of its own will.” Often refers to a court taking an action in a case without being asked to do so by either side.
The act or process by which a person’s rights or claims are ranked below those of others.
A command, issued under a court’s authority, to a witness to appear and give testimony.
Subpoena duces tecum
A command to a witness to appear and produce documents.
Temporary restraining order
Akin to a preliminary injunction, it is a judge’s short-term order forbidding certain actions
Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials or before grand juries.
A civil, not criminal, wrong. A negligent or intentional injury against a person or property, with the exception of breach of contract.
A written, word-for-word record of what was said, either in a proceeding such as a trial,
Any mode or means by which a debtor disposes of or parts with his/her property.
A lawyer appointed by the President in each judicial district to prosecute
A debt secured by property that is worth less than the amount of the debt.
The most widely used test for evaluating undue hardship in the dischargeability of
Unlawful detainer action
A lawsuit brought by a landlord against a tenant to evict the tenant from rental property – usually for nonpayment of rent.
A claim for which a specific value has not been determined.
The appellate court agrees with the lower court decision and allows it to stand. See affirmed.
The geographic area in which a court has jurisdiction. A change of venue is a change or transfer of a case from one judicial district to another.
The decision of a trial jury or a judge that determines the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant, or that determines the final outcome of a civil case.
Jury selection process of questioning prospective jurors, to ascertain their qualifications and determine any basis for challenge.
A nonbankruptcy legal proceeding whereby a plaintiff or creditor seeks to subject
Court authorization, most often for law enforcement officers, to conduct a search or make an arrest.
A person called upon by either side in a lawsuit to give testimony before the court or jury.
A written court order directing a person to take, or refrain from taking, a certain act.
Writ of certiorari
An order issued by the U.S. Supreme Court directing the lower court to transmit records for a case which it will hear on appeal.