Glossary

Glossary A

Abatement of action

A suit which has been quashed and ended.

Abstract of record

A short, abbreviated form of the case as found in the record.

Abstract of title

A chronological summary of all official records and recorded documents affecting the title to a parcel of real property.

Acceptance

The taking and receiving of anything in good faith with the intention of retaining it.

Accessory

A person who assists in the commission of a crime, either before or after the fact.

Accomplice

1. A partner in a crime. 2. A person who knowingly and voluntarily participates with another in a criminal activity.

Accord

A satisfaction agreed upon between the parties in a lawsuit which bars subsequent actions on the claim.

Accord and satisfaction

A method of discharging a claim upon agreement by the parties to give and accept something in settlement of the claim.

Accretion

The increase or accumulation of land by natural causes, as out of a lake or river.

Accused

The name for the defendant in a criminal case.

Acknowledgment

A formal declaration before an authorized official by the person who executed an instrument that it is his free act and deed; the certificate of the official on such instrument attesting that it was so acknowledged.

Acquittal

The legal certification of the innocence of a person who has been charged with a crime, setting the person free from a charge of guilty by a finding of not guilty.

Acquittal

A release, absolution, or discharge of an obligation or liability. In criminal law the finding of not guilty.

Action Case

Cause, suit, or controversy disputed or contested before a court of justice.

Action in personam

An action against the person, founded on a personal liability. In contrast to action in rem, an action for the recovery of a specific object, usually an item of personal property such as an automobile.

Action in rem

Proceeding “against the thing” as compared to personal actions (in personam). Usually a proceeding where property is involved.

Additur

An increase by a judge in the amount of damages awarded by a jury.

Adjective law

Also, procedural law. That body of law which governs the process of protecting the rights under substantive law.

Adjudication

Giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree. Also the judgment given.

Administrative agencies

Agencies created by the legislative branch of government to administer laws pertaining to specific areas such as taxes, transportation, and labor.

Administrator

1. One who administers the estate of a person who dies without a will. 2. A court official.

Admiralty law

Also, maritime law. That body of law relating to ships, shipping, marine commerce and navigation, transportation of persons or property by sea, etc.

Admissible evidence

Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.

Admission

A statement tending to establish the guilt or liability of the person making the statement.

Admonish

To advise or caution. For example the court may caution or admonish counsel for wrong practices.

Advance sheets

Paperback pamphlets published by law book publishers weekly or monthly which contain reporter cases, including correct volume number and page number. When there are sufficient cases, they are replaced by a bound volume.

Adversary proceeding

One having opposing parties such as a plaintiff and a defendant. Individual lawsuit(s) brought within a bankruptcy proceeding.

Adversary system

The system of trial practice in the United States and some other countries in which each of the opposing, or adversary, parties has the opportunity to present and establish opposing contentions before the court.

Adverse possession

Method of acquiring real property under certain conditions by possession for a statutory period.

Affiant

The person who makes and subscribes an affidavit.

Affidavit

A voluntary, written, or printed declaration of facts, confirmed by oath of the party making it before a person with authority to administer the oath.

Affirmation

A solemn and formal declaration that an affidavit is true. This is substituted for an oath in certain cases.

Affirmative defense

A defense raised in a responsive pleading (answer) relating a new matter as a defense to the complaint; affirmative defenses might include contributory negligence or estopped in civil actions; in criminal cases insanity, duress, or self-defense might be used.

Affirmed

In the practice of appellate courts, the word means that the decision of the trial court is correct.

Aggravated assault

An attempt to cause serious bodily injury to another or purposely, knowingly or recklessly causing such injury, or an attempt to cause or purposely or knowingly cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon.

Aggravated battery

The unlawful use of force against another with unusual or serious consequences such as the use of a dangerous weapon. agent

Agreement

Mutual consent.

Aid and Abet

To actively, knowingly, or intentionally assist another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime.

alibi

A defense claim that the accused was somewhere else at the time a crime was committed.

Alien

A foreign-born person who has not qualified as a citizen of the country.

Allegation

A statement of the issues in a written document (a pleading) which a person is prepared to prove in court.

Alteration

Changing or making different.

Alternative dispute resolution

Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement, among others.

American Bar Association

A national association of lawyers whose primary purpose is improvement of lawyers and the administration of justice.

American Law Reports

A publication which reports cases from all United States jurisdictions by subject matter.

amicus curiae

A friend of the court; a nonparty who interposes, with the permission of the court, and volunteers information upon some matter before the court.

Ancillary

A proceeding which is auxiliary or subordinate to another proceeding. In probate, a proceeding in a state where a decedent owned property but was not domiciled.

Annotations

Remarks, notes, case summaries, or commentaries following statutes which describe interpretations of the statute.

Answer

A formal, written statement by the defendant in a lawsuit which answers each allegation contained in the complaint.

Answers to Interrogatories

A formal written statement by a party to a lawsuit which answers each question or interrogatory propounded by the other party. These answers must be acknowledged before a notary public or other person authorized to take acknowledgments.

Antitrust acts

Federal and state statutes to protect trade and commerce from unlawful restraints, price discriminations, price fixing, and monopolies.

Appeal

A proceeding brought to a higher court to review a lower court decision.

Appeal Bond

A guaranty by the appealing party insuring that court costs will be paid.

Appearance

The act of coming into court as a party to a suit either in person or through an attorney.

Appellant

The party appealing a decision or judgment.

Appellate court

A court having jurisdiction to hear appeals and review a trial court’s procedure.

Appellee

The party against whom an appeal is taken.

Appendix

Supplementary materials added to the end of a document.

Arbitration

The hearing of a dispute by an impartial third person or persons (chosen by the parties), whose award the parties agree to accept.

Arbitrator

A private, disinterested person chosen by the parties in arbitration to hear evidence concerning the dispute and to make an award based on the evidence.

Arraignment

The hearing at which the accused is brought before the court to plead to the criminal charge in the indictment. He may plead “guilty,” “not guilty,” or where permitted “nolo contendere.”

Arrest

To take into custody by legal authority.

Assault

Threat to inflict injury with an apparent ability to do so. Also, any intentional display of force that would give the victim reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm.

Assignment

The transfer to another person of any property, real or personal.

Assumption of risk

A doctrine under which a person may not recover for an injury received when he has voluntarily exposed himself to a known danger.

At issue

The time in a lawsuit when the complaining party has stated their claim and the other side has responded with a denial and the matter is ready to be tried.

Attachment

Taking a person’s property to satisfy a court-ordered debt.

Attempt

An endeavor or effort to do an act or accomplish a crime, carries beyond preparation, but lacking execution.

Attorney of record

The principal attorney in a lawsuit, who signs all formal documents relating to the suit.

Attorney-at-law

An advocate, counsel, or official agent employed in preparing, managing, and trying cases in the courts.

Attorney-in-fact

A private person (who is not necessarily a lawyer) authorized by another to act in his or her place, either for some particular purpose, as to do a specific act, or for the transaction of business in general, not of legal character. This authority is conferred by an instrument in writing, called a “letter of attorney,” or more commonly “power of attorney.”

Glossary B

Bail

Money or other security (such as a bail bond) provided to the court to temporarily allow a person’s release from jail and assure their appearance in court. “Bail” and “Bond” are often used interchangeably. (Applies mainly to state courts.)

Bail bond

An obligation signed by the accused to secure his or her presence at the trial. This obligation means that the accused may lose money by not properly appearing for the trial. Often referred to simply as “bond.”

Bailiff

An officer of the court responsible for keeping order and maintaining appropriate courtroom decorum and has custody of the jury.

Bankruptcy

Refers to statutes and judicial proceedings involving persons or businesses that cannot pay their debts and seek the assistance of the court in getting a fresh start. Under the protection of the bankruptcy court, debtors may be released from or “discharged” from their debts, perhaps by paying a portion of each debt. Bankruptcy judges preside over these proceedings. The person with the debts is called the debtor and the people or companies to whom the debtor owes money are called creditors.

Bankruptcy Judge

The judge who determines whether a debtor is entitled to a discharge in bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy law

The area of federal law dealing with the handling of bankrupt persons or businesses.

Bar

1. Historically, the partition separating the general public from the space occupied by the judges, lawyers, and other participants in a trial. 2. More commonly, the term means the who body of lawyers.

Bar examination

A state examination taken by prospective lawyers in order to be admitted and licensed to practice law.

Battery

A beating, or wrongful physical violence. The actual threat to use force is an “assault;” the use of it is a battery, which usually includes an assault.

Bench

The seat occupied by the judge. More broadly, the court itself.

Bench trial

(Also known as court trial.) Trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts.

Bench warrant

An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person.

Beneficiary

Someone named to receive property or benefits in a will. In a trust, a person who is to receive benefits from the trust.

Bequeath

To give a gift to someone through a will.

Bequests

Gifts made in a will.

Best evidence

Primary evidence; the best evidence available. Evidence short of this is “secondary.” That is, an original letter is “best evidence,” and a photocopy is “secondary evidence.”

Beyond a reasonable doubt

The standard in a criminal case requiring that the jury be satisfied to a moral certainty that every element of a crime has been proven by the prosecution. This standard of proof does not require that the state establish absolute certainty by eliminating all doubt, but it does require that the evidence be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of the ordinary person.

Bill of particulars

A statement of the details of the charge made against the defendant.

Bind over

To hold a person for trial on bond (bail) or in jail. If the judicial official conducting a hearing finds probable cause to believe the accused committed a crime, the official will bind over the accused, normally by setting bail for the accused’s appearance at trial. (This is a state court procedure.)

Bond

A written agreement by which a person insures he will pay a certain sum of money if he does not perform certain duties property.

Booking

The process of photographing, fingerprinting, and recording identifying data of a suspect. This process follows the arrest.

Bound supplement

A supplement to a book or books to update the service bound in permanent form.

Breach

The breaking or violating of a law, right, or duty, either by commission or omission. The failure of one part to carry out any condition of a contract.

Breach of contract

An unjustified failure to perform when performance is due.

Brief

A written argument by counsel arguing a case, which contains a summary of the facts of the case, pertinent laws, and an argument of how the law applies to the fact situation. Also called a memorandum of law.

Burden of proof

In the law of evidence, the necessity or duty of affirmatively proving a fact or facts in dispute on an issue raised between the parties in a lawsuit. The responsibility of proving a point (the burden of proof). It deals with which side must establish a point or points. (See standard of proof.)

Burglary

The act of illegal entry with the intent to steal.

Business bankruptcy

A proceeding under the Bankruptcy Code filed by a business entity.

Bylaws

Rules or laws adopted by an association or corporation to govern its actions.

Glossary C

Calendar

A list of cases scheduled for hearing in court.

Calling the docket

The public calling of the docket or list of causes at commencement of term of court, for setting a time for trial or entering orders.

Canons of ethics

Standards of ethical conduct for attorneys.

Capacity

Having legal authority or mental ability. Being of sound mind.

Capital crime

A crime punishable by death.

Caption

Heading or introductory party of a pleading.

Case law

Law established by previous decisions of appellate courts, particularly the United States Supreme Court.

Cases

General term for an action, cause, suit, or controversy, at law or in equity; questions contested before a court of justice.

Cause

A lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice.

Cause of action

The fact or facts which give a person a right to relief in court.

Caveat

A warning; a note of caution.

Cease and desist order

An order of an administrative agency or court prohibiting a person or business from continuing a particular course of conduct.

Censure

An official reprimand or condemnation of an attorney.

Certificate of Title

Document issued by Registrar of Titles for real estate registered under the Torrens System, which is considered conclusive evidence of the present ownership and state of the title to the property described therein.

Certification

1. Written attestation. 2. Authorized declaration verifying that an instrument is a true and correct copy of the original.

Certiorari

A writ of review issued by a higher court to a lower court. A means of getting an appellate court to review a lower court’s decision. If an appellate court grants a writ of certiorari, it agrees to take the appeal. (Sometimes referred to as “granting cert.”)

Challenge

An objection, such as when an attorney objects at a hearing to the seating of a particular person on a civil or criminal jury.

Challenge for cause

A request from a party to a judge that a certain prospective juror not be allowed to be a member of a jury because of specified causes or reasons.

Chambers

A judge’s private office. A hearing in chambers takes place in the judge’s office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.

Change of venue

Moving a lawsuit or criminal trial to another place for trial.

Character evidence

The testimony of witnesses who know the general character and reputation of a person in the community in which he or she lives. It may be considered by the jury in a dual respect: (1) as substantive evidence upon the theory that a person of good character and reputation is less likely to commit a crime than one who does not have a good character and reputation, and (2) as corroborative evidence in support of a witness’s testimony as bearing upon credibility.

Charge to the jury

The judge’s instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of the case on trial.

Chattel

An article of personal property.

Chief judge

Presiding or administrative judge in a court.

Child

Offspring of parentage; progeny.

Chronological

Arranged in the order in which events happened; according to date.

Circumstantial evidence

All evidence except eyewitness testimony. One example is physical evidence, such as fingerprints, from which an inference can be drawn.

Citation

A writ or order issued by a court commanding the person named therein to appear at the time and place named; also the written reference to legal authorities, precedents, reported cases, etc., in briefs or other legal documents.

Citators

A set of books which provides the subsequent history of reported decisions through a form of abbreviations or words.

Civil

Relating to private rights and remedies sought by civil actions as contrasted with criminal proceedings.

Civil action

An action brought to enforce or protect private rights.

Civil law

Law based on a series of written codes or laws.

Civil procedure

The rules and process by which a civil case is tried and appealed, including the preparations for trial, the rules of evidence and trial conduct, and the procedure for pursuing appeals.

Claim

A debt owing by a debtor to another person or business. In probate parlance, the term used for debts of the decedent and a procedure that must be followed by a creditor to obtain payment from his estate.

Class action

A lawsuit brought by one or more persons on behalf of a larger group.

Clayton Act

A federal law which is an amendment to the Sherman Act dealing with antitrust regulations and unfair trade practices.

Clean air acts

Federal and state environmental statutes enacted to regulate and control air pollution.

Clear and convincing evidence

Standard of proof commonly used in civil lawsuits and in regulatory agency cases. It governs the amount of proof that must be offered in order for the plaintiff to win the case.

Clemency or executive clemency

Act of grace or mercy by the president or governor to ease the consequences of a criminal act, accusation, or conviction. (Sometimes known as commutation or pardon.)

Clerk of Court

Administrator or chief clerical officer of the court.

Closing argument

The closing statement, by counsel, to the trier of facts after all parties have concluded their presentation of evidence.

Code of Federal Regulations

An annual publication which contains the cumulative executive agency regulations.

Code of Professional Conduct

The rules of conduct that govern the legal profession.

Codicil

An amendment to a will.

Collate

To arrange in order; verify arrangement of pages before binding or fastening; put together.

Collective mark

Trademark or service mark used by members of a cooperative, an association, or other collective group or organization.

Commit

To send a person to prison, asylum, or reformatory by a court order.

Common law

Also case law. Law established by subject matter heard in earlier cases.

Commutation

The reduction of a sentence, as from death to life imprisonment.

Comparative fault

A rule in admiralty law where each vessel involved in a collision is required to pay a share of the total damages in proportion to its percentage of fault.

Comparative negligence

The rule under which negligence is measured by percentage, and damages are diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person seeking recovery.

Competency

A witness’s ability to observe, recall and recount under other what happened. Criminal defendants must also be competent to stand trial; they must understand the nature of the proceedings and have the ability to assist their lawyers.

Complainant

The party who complains or sues; one who applies to the court for legal redress.

Complaint

1. The legal document that usually begins a civil lawsuit. It states the facts and identifies the action the court is asked to take. 2. Formal written charge that a person has committed a criminal offense.

Conciliation

A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps lower tensions, improve communications, and explore possible solutions. Conciliation is similar to mediation, but is may be less formal.

Concurrent jurisdiction

The jurisdiction of two or more courts, each authorized to deal with the same subject matter.

Concurrent sentences

Sentences for more than one crime that are to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other.

Condemnation

The legal process by which the government takes private land for public use, paying the owners a fair price.

Conditional release

A release from custody which imposes regulations on the activities and associations of the defendant. If a defendant fails to meet the conditions, the release is revoked.

Conformed copy

An exact copy of a document on which has been written things that could not or were not copied, i.e., a written signature is replaced on the conformed copy with a notation that it was signed by the parties.

Consecutive sentences

Successive sentences, one beginning at the expiration of another, imposed against a person convicted of two or more violations.

Consent

Agreement; voluntary acceptance of the wish of another.

Conservatorship

Legal right given to a person to manage the property and financial affairs of a person deemed incapable of doing that for himself or herself.

Consideration

The price bargained for and paid for a promise, goods, or real estate.

Conspiracy

A combination of two or more persons formed for the purpose of committing by joint collaboration some unlawful act.

Constitution

The fundamental law of a nation or state which establishes the character and basic principles of the government.

Constitutional law

Law set forth in the Constitution of the United States and the state constitutions.

Consumer bankruptcy

A proceeding under the Bankruptcy Code filed by an individual (or husband and wife) who is not in business.

Contempt of court

Willful disobedience of a judge’s command or of an official court order.

Continuance

Postponement of a legal proceeding to a later date.

Contract

An agreement between two or more persons which creates an obligation to do or not to do a particular thing. A legally enforceable agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing.

Contributory negligence

The rule of law under which an act or omission of plaintiff is a contributing cause of injury and a bar to recovery.

Conveyance

Instrument transferring title of land for one person or group of persons to another.

Conviction

A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.

Corpus delicti

The body (material substance) upon which a crime has been committee, e.g., the corpse of a murdered man or the charred remains of a house burned by an arsonist.

Corroborating evidence

Supplementary evidence that tends to strengthen or confirm the initial evidence.

Costs

An allowance for expenses in prosecuting or defending a suit. Ordinarily this does not include attorney fees.

Counsel

A legal adviser; a term used to refer to lawyers in a case.

Counterclaim

A claim made by the defendant in a civil lawsuit against the plaintiff. In essence, a counter lawsuit within a lawsuit.

Court

A body in government to which the administration of justice is delegated.

Court costs

The expenses of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, other than the attorney fees. An amount of money may be awarded to the successful party (and may be recoverable from the losing party) as reimbursement for court costs.

Court of original jurisdiction

A court where a matter is initiated and heard in the first instance; a trial court.

Court of record

A court in which the proceedings are recorded, transcribed, and maintained as permanent records.

Court reporter

A person who transcribes by shorthand or stenographically takes down testimony during court proceedings, a deposition, or other trial-related proceeding.

Court rules

Regulations governing practice and procedure in the various courts.

Court-appointed attorney

Attorney appointed by the court to represent a defendant, usually with respect to criminal charges and without the defendant having to pay for the representation.

Creditor

A person to whom a debt is owed by another.

Crime

An act in violation of the penal laws of a state or the United States. A positive or negative act in violation of penal law.

Criminal insanity

Lack of mental capacity to do or abstain from doing a particular act; inability to distinguish right from wrong.

Criminal justice system

The network of courts and tribunals which deal with criminal law and its enforcement.

Criminal summons

An order commanding an accused to appear in court.

Cross-claim

A pleading which asserts a claim arising out of the same subject action as the original complaint against a co-party, i.e., one co-defendant cross claims against another co-defendant for contribution for any damages assessed against him.

Cross-examination

The questioning of a witness produced by the other side.

Cumulative sentences

Sentences for two or more crimes to run consecutively, rather than concurrently.

Custody

Detaining of a person by lawful process or authority to assure his or her appearance to any hearing; the jailing or imprisonment of a person convicted of a crime.

Glossary D

Damages

Money awarded by a court to a person injured by the unlawful actor negligence of another person.

Debtor

One who owes a debt to another; a person filing for relief under theBankruptcy Code.

Decision

The opinion of the court in concluding a case at law.

Declaratory judgment

A statutory remedy for judicial determination of a controversy where plaintiff is in doubt about his legal rights.

Decree

An order of the court. A final decree is one that fully and finally disposes of the litigation. (See interlocutory.)

Defamation

That which tends to injure a person’s reputation. (See libel and slander.)

Default

Failure of the defendant to appear and answer the summons and complaint.

Default judgment

A judgment entered against a party who fails to appear in court or respond to the charges.

Defendant

The person defending or denying a suit.

Defense of property

Affirmative defense in criminal law or tort law where force was used to protect one’s property.

Deficient

Incomplete; defective; not sufficient in quantity or force.

Defunct

A corporation no longer operative; having ceased to exist.

Deliberation

The jury’s decision-making process after hearing the evidence and closing arguments and being given the court’s instructions.

Delinquency

The commission of an illegal act by a juvenile.

Demurrer

A pleading filed by the defendant that the complaint as filed is not sufficient to require an answer.

Dependent

One who derives existence and support from another.

Deposition

Testimony of a witness or a party taken under oath outside the courtroom, the transcript of which becomes a part of the court’s file.

Digest

An index or compilation of abstracts of reported cases into one, set forth under proper law topic headings or titles and usually in alphabetical arrangement.

Direct evidence

Proof of facts by witnesses who saw acts done or heard words spoken.

Direct examination

The first questioning of witnesses by the party on whose behalf they are called.

Directed verdict

In a case in which the plaintiff has failed to present on the facts of his case proper evidence for jury consideration, the trial judge may order the entry of a verdict without allowing the jury to consider it.

Disbarment

Form of discipline of a lawyer resulting in the loss (often permanently) of that lawyer’s right to practice law.

Discharge

The name given to the bankruptcy court’s formal discharge of a debtor’s debts. In probate, the release of the estate’s representative from fiduciary responsibility.

Disclaim

To refuse a gift made in a will.

Discovery

The name given pretrial devices for obtaining facts and information about the case.

Dismissal

The termination of a lawsuit.

Disposition

The order of a juvenile court determining what is to be done with a minor already adjudged to be within the court’s jurisdiction. In criminal cases, the settlement of a case.

Dissent

To disagree. An appellate court opinion setting forth the minority view and outlining the disagreement of one or more judges with the decision of the majority.

Dissolution

The termination; process of dissolving or winding up something.

Diversion

The process of removing some minor criminal, traffic, or juvenile cases from the full judicial process, on the condition that the accused undergo some sort of rehabilitation or make restitution for damages.

Diversity of citizenship

The condition when the party on one side of a lawsuit is a citizen of one state and the other party is a citizen of another state; such cases are under the jurisdiction of federal courts.

Docket

An abstract or listing of all pleadings filed in a case; the book containing such entries; trial docket is a list of or calendar of cases to be tried in a certain term.

Docket control

A system for keeping track of deadlines and court dates for both litigation and non-litigation matters.

Domicile

The place where a person has his permanent home to which he intends to return.

Double jeopardy

Putting a person on trial more than once for the same crime. It is forbidden by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Due process of law

The right of all persons to receive the guarantees and safeguards of the law and the judicial process. It includes such constitutional requirements as adequate notice, assistance of counsel, and the rights to remain silent, to a speedy and public trial, to an impartial jury, and to confront and secure witnesses.

Glossary E

Elements of a crime

Specific factors that define a crime which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction: (1) that a crime has actually occurred, (2) that the accused intended the crime to happen, and (3) a timely relationship between the first two factors.

Embezzlement

The fraudulent appropriation by a person to his own use or benefit or property or money entrusted to him by another.

Eminent Domain

The power of the government to take private property for public use through condemnation.

En Banc

All the judges of a court sitting together. Appellate courts can consist of a dozen or more judges, but often they hear cases in panels of three judges. If a case is heard or reheard by the full court, it is heard en banc.

Encyclopedia

A book or series of books arranged alphabetically by topics containing information on areas of law, including citations to support the information.

Enjoin

To order a person to perform, or to abstain and desist from performing a specified act or course of conduct. See injunction. Entity

Entrapment

The act of inducing a person to commit a crime so that a criminal charge will be brought against him.

Entry

A statement of conclusion reached by the court and placed in the court record.

Environment

The conditions, influences, or forces which affect the desirability and value of property, as well as the effect on people’s lives.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

A federal agency created to permit coordinated and environment effective governmental action to preserve the quality of the environment.

Equal Protection of the Law

The guarantee in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that all persons be treated equally by the law.

Equitable action

An action which may be brought for the purpose of restraining the threatened infliction of wrongs or injuries, and the prevention of threatened illegal action. Equity

Equity, courts of

Courts which administer a legal remedy according to the system of equity, as distinguished from courts of common law.

Escheat

The process by which a deceased person’s property goes to the state if no heir can be found.

Escrow

Money or a written instrument such as a deed that, by agreement between two parties, is held by a neutral third party (held in escrow) until all conditions of the agreement are met.

Esquire

In the United States the title commonly appended after the name of an attorney. In English law a title of dignity next above gentleman and below knight. Title also given to barristers at law and others. Abbreviated: Esq.

Estate

A person’s property.

Estate tax

Generally, a tax on the privilege of transferring property to others after a person’s death. In addition to federal estate taxes, many states have their own estate taxes.

Estoppel

An impediment that prevents a person from asserting or doing something contrary to his own previous assertion or act.

Et al

An abbreviation of the Latin et alii, meaning “and others,” ordinarily used in lieu of listing all names of persons involved in a proceeding. Et seq

Ethics

Of or relating to moral action and conduct; professionally right; conforming to professional standards.

Evidence

Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other.

Ex contractu

Arising from a contract. Ex delicto

Ex parte

On behalf of only one party, without notice to any other party. For example, a request for a search warrant is an ex parte proceeding, since the person subject to the search is not notified of the proceeding and is not present at the hearing.

Ex post facto

After the fact, ordinarily used in reference to constitutional prohibition on ex post facto laws. For example, a person cannot be punished for conduct committed before a criminal law was enacted.

Exceptions

Declarations by either side in a civil or criminal case reserving the right to appeal a judge’s ruling upon a motion. Also, in regulatory cases, objections by either side to points made by the other side or to rulings by the agency or one of its hearing officers.

Exclusion of witnesses

An order of the court requiring all witnesses to remain outside the courtroom until each is called to testify, except the plaintiff or defendant. The witnesses are ordered not to discuss their testimony with each other and may be held in contempt if they violate the order.

Exclusionary Rule

The rule preventing illegally obtained evidence to be used in any trial.

Execute

To complete; to sign; to carry out according to its terms.

Executor

A personal representative, named in a will, who administers an estate.

Exempt property

All the property of a debtor which is not attachable under the Bankruptcy Code or the state statute.

Exhibit

A document or other item introduced as evidence during a trial or hearing.

Exonerate

Removal of a charge, responsibility, or duty.

Expert testimony

Testimony given in relation to some scientific, technical or professional matter by experts, i.e., person qualified to speak authoritatively by reason of their special training, skill or familiarity with the subject.

Expungement

The process by which the record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed.

Extradition

The surrender of an accused criminal by one state to the jurisdiction of another.

Extraordinary writ

A writ, often issued by an appellate court, making available remedies not regularly within the powers of lower courts. They include writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition and quo warranto