Lawyers and Legal Team
Our Law Practice
of the Injured
Acquittal A jury verdict that a criminal defendant is
not guilty, or the finding of a judge that the evidence
is insufficient to support a conviction.
Active Judge A judge in the full-time service of the
court. Compare to senior judge.
Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO)
The federal agency responsible for collecting court statistics,
administering the federal courts' budget, and performing
many other administrative and programmatic functions, under
the direction and supervision of the Judicial Conference
of the United States.
Admissible A term used to describe evidence that may
be considered by a jury or judge in civil and criminal cases.
Affidavit A written or printed statement made under oath.
Alternate Juror A juror selected in the same manner as
a regular juror who hears all the evidence but does not
help decide the case unless called on to replace a regular
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) A procedure for
settling a dispute outside the courtroom. Most forms of
ADR are not binding on the parties, and involve referral
of the case to a neutral party such as an arbitrator or
Amicus Curiae Latin for "friend of the court."
It is advice formally offered to the court in a brief filed
by an entity interested in, but not a party to, the case.
Answer The formal written statement by a defendant in
a civil case that responds to a complaint, articulating
the grounds for defense.
Appellant The party who appeals a district court's decision,
usually seeking reversal of that decision.
Appellee The party who opposes an appellant's appeal,
and who seeks to persuade the appeals court to affirm the
district court's decision.
Arraignment A proceeding in which a criminal defendant
is brought into court, told of the charges in an indictment
or information, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.
Article III Judge A federal judge who is appointed for
life, during "good behavior," under Article III
of the Constitution. Article III judges are nominated by
the President and confirmed by the Senate.
Bail 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.
Bankruptcy Judge A judicial officer of the United States
district court who is the court official with decision-making
power over federal bankruptcy cases.
Bench Trial A trial without a jury, in which the judge
serves as the fact-finder.
Brief 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 of proving
his or her case. In criminal cases, the government has the
burden of proving the defendant's guilt. (See standard of
Case File A complete collection of every document filed
in court in a case.
Case Law The law as established in previous court decisions.
A synonym for legal precedent.
Akin to common law, which springs from tradition and judicial
Caseload The number of cases handled by a judge or a
Cause of Action A legal claim.
Chambers The offices of a judge and his or her staff.
Class Action A lawsuit in which one or more members of
a large group, or class, of individuals or other entities
sue on behalf of the entire class. The district court must
find that the claims of the class members contain questions
of law or fact in common before the lawsuit can proceed
as a class action.
Clerk of Court The court officer who oversees administrative
functions, especially managing the flow of cases through
the court. The clerk's office is often called a court's
central nervous system.
Complaint A written statement that begins a civil lawsuit,
in which the plaintiff details the claims against the defendant.
Concurrent Sentence Prison terms for two or more offenses
to be served at the same time, rather than one after the
other. Example: Two five-year sentences and one three-year
sentence, if served concurrently, result in a maximum of
five years behind bars.
Consecutive Sentence Prison terms for two or more offenses
to be served one after the other. Example: Two five-year
sentences and one three-year sentence, if served consecutively,
result in a maximum of 13 years behind bars.
Count An allegation in an indictment or information,
charging a defendant with a crime. An indictment or information
may contain allegations that the defendant committed more
than one crime. Each allegation is referred to as a count.
Damages Money that a defendant pays a plaintiff in a
civil case if the plaintiff has won. Damages may be compensatory
(for loss or injury) or punitive (to punish and deter future
Declaratory Judgment A judge's statement about someone's
rights. For example, a plaintiff may seek a declaratory
judgment that a particular statute, as written, violates
some constitutional right.
De Facto Latin, meaning "in fact" or "actually."
Something that exists in fact but not as a matter of law.
Default Judgment A judgment awarding a plaintiff the
relief sought in the complaint because the defendant has
failed to appear in court or otherwise respond to the complaint.
De Jure Latin, meaning "in law." Something
that exists by operation of law.
De Novo 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.
Discharge A release of a debtor from personal liability
for certain debts, preventing creditors from taking any
action against the debtor or the debtors property to collect
Discovery Procedures used to obtain disclosure of evidence
Dismissal with Prejudice Court action that prevents an
identical lawsuit from being filed later.
Dismissal without Prejudice Court action that allows
the later filing.
Due Process In criminal law, the constitutional guarantee
that a defendant will receive a fair and impartial trial.
In civil law, the legal rights of someone who confronts
an adverse action threatening liberty or property.
En Banc French, meaning "on the bench." All
judges of an appellate court sitting together to hear a
case, as opposed to the routine disposition by panels of
three judges. In the Ninth Circuit, an en banc panel consists
of the chief judge and 14 other, randomly selected, judges.
Exclusionary Rule Doctrine that says evidence obtained
in violation of a criminal defendant's constitutional or
statutory rights is not admissible at trial.
Exculpatory Evidence Evidence indicating that a defendant
did not commit the crime.
Ex Parte A proceeding brought before a court by one party
only, without notice to or challenge by the other side.
Federal Public Defender Organization As provided for
in the Criminal Justice Act, an organization established
within a federal judicial circuit to represent criminal
defendants who cannot afford an adequate defense. Each organization
is supervised by a federal public defender appointed by
the court of appeals for the circuit.
Felony A serious crime, usually punishable by at least
one year in prison.
Habeas Corpus Latin, meaning "you have the body."
A writ of habeas corpus generally is a judicial order forcing
law enforcement authorities to produce a prisoner they are
holding, and to justify the prisoner's continued confinement.
Federal judges receive petitions for a writ of habeas corpus
from state prison inmates who say their state prosecutions
violated federally protected rights in some way.
Hearsay Evidence presented by a witness who did not see
or hear the incident in question but heard about it from
someone else. With some exceptions, hearsay generally is
not admissible as evidence at trial.
In Camera Latin, meaning in a judge's chambers. Often
means outside the presence of a jury and the public. In
Inculpatory Evidence Evidence indicating that a defendant
did commit the crime.
Injunction A court order preventing one or more named
parties from taking some action. A preliminary injunction
often is issued to allow fact-finding, so a judge can determine
whether a permanent injunction is justified.
Interrogatories A form of discovery consisting of written
questions to be answered in writing and under oath.
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.
Jurisdiction The legal authority of a court to hear and
decide a certain type of case. It also is used as a synonym
for venue, meaning the geographic area over which the court
has territorial jurisdiction to decide cases.
Moot Not subject to a court ruling because the controversy
has not actually arisen, or has ended.
Motion in Limine A pretrial motion requesting the court
to prohibit the other side from presenting, or even referring
to, evidence on matters said to be so highly prejudicial
that no steps taken by the judge can prevent the jury from
being unduly influenced.
Per Curiam Latin, meaning "for the court."
In appellate courts, often refers to an unsigned opinion.
Peremptory Challenge A district court may grant each
side in a civil or criminal trial the right to exclude a
certain number of prospective jurors without cause or giving
Probation An alternative to prison, it is conditional
freedom for an offender.
Pro Se Representing oneself. Serving as one's own lawyer.
Pro Tem Temporary.
Remand Send back.
Sanction A penalty or other type of enforcement used
to bring about compliance with the law or with rules and
Senior Judge A federal judge who, after attaining the
requisite age and length of judicial experience, takes senior
status, thus creating a vacancy among a court's active judges.
A senior judge retains the judicial office and may cut back
his or her workload by as much as 75 percent, but many opt
to keep a larger caseload.
Standard of Proof Degree of proof required. In criminal
cases, prosecutors must prove a defendant's guilt "beyond
a reasonable doubt." The majority of civil lawsuits
require proof "by a preponderance of the evidence"
(50 percent plus), but in some the standard is higher and
requires "clear and convincing" proof.
Statute of Limitations The time within which a lawsuit
must be filed or a criminal prosecution begun. The deadline
can vary, depending on the type of civil case or the crime
Sua Sponte 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.
Subpoena A command, issued under a court's authority,
to a witness to appear and give testimony.
Temporary Restraining Order Akin to a preliminary injunction,
it is a judge's short-term order forbidding certain actions
until a full hearing can be conducted. Often referred to
as a TRO.
341 Meeting A meeting of creditors at which the debtor
is questioned under oath by creditors, a trustee, examiner,
or the United States trustee about his/her financial affairs.
Tort A civil, not criminal, wrong. A negligent or intentional
injury against a person or property, with the exception
of breach of contract.
Trustee The representative of the bankruptcy estate who
exercises statutory powers, principally for the benefit
of the unsecured creditors, under the general supervision
of the court and the direct supervision of the United States
trustee or bankruptcy administrator.
Venue 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.
Voir Dire Jury selection process of questioning prospective
jurors, to ascertain their qualifications and determine
any basis for challenge.
Warrant Court authorization, most often for law enforcement
officers, to conduct a search or make an arrest.
Writ A written court order directing a person to take,
or refrain from taking, a certain act.