Skip to main content
Skip to main content.

Legal Glossary

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | X | Y | Z


ABANDONMENT: The surrender, relinquishment, disclaimer or cession of property or rights. An action whereby a child is sought to be freed from parental custody and control.

ABATE: To put an end to; to nullify.

ABROGATE: To annul or repeal a former law by the passage of a new one.


Abstract of Judgment (Civil Division): A form which lists the amount of money awarded through judgment or decree, the Court in which the award or order was entered and the date, the names of the judgment debtor and creditor, and other specified information. This document is then recorded, placing a lien against any real property the judgment debtor may have in that county, and providing the judgment creditor an additional means of securing satisfaction of a money judgment.

DMV Abstract (Criminal and Juvenile Traffic Divisions): A form which is completed to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento of the disposition of violations of specified sections of the Vehicle Code and some Penal Code sections.

State Prison Commitment Abstract of Judgment (Criminal Division): Form completed and submitted to the Department of Corrections which lists the count(s), charge(s), and sentence(s) imposed on a defendant when being committed to State Prison.

ACCOMPLICE: A person who knowingly, voluntarily, and with common intent with the principal offender unites in the commission of a crime.

ACCOUNTING: An act or system of making up or settling accounts; a statement of account, or a debit and credit in financial transactions.

ACCUSATION: A formal charge against a person, to the effect that he is guilty of a punishable offense, laid before a Court or magistrate having jurisdiction to inquire into the alleged crime.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: A declaration or avowal of one’s act, or a fact to give it legal validity, especially before a duly qualified public officer.

ACQUITTAL: A setting free from the charge of an offense by verdict, sentence, or other legal process.

ACTION: An ordinary proceeding in a Court of justice by which one party prosecutes another for the enforcement or protection of a right, redress, or prevention of a wrong, or the punishment of a public offense.

AD LITEM: for the suit; for the purposes of the suit; pending the suit. (See ‘GUARDIAN AD LITEM’)

ADD-ON: Used to refer to an additional matter which is being added onto a specific calendar at a time subsequent to the initial preparation of the calendar.

ADDENDUM: A thing added or to be added.

ADDITUR: The power of a trial Court to assess damages or increase the amount of an inadequate award made by jury verdict, as a condition of denial of motion for new trial, with the consent of defendant, whether or not plaintiff consents to such action.

ADJECTIVE LAW: Rules of procedure or administration as distinguished from rules of substantive law.

ADJOURNMENT: The act of a Court in putting off or postponing business or a session until another time or place.

ADMINISTRATOR: A person appointed by the Court to administer (i.e. manage or take charge of) the assets and liabilities of a decedent. Such person may be male (administrator) or female (administratrix). One appointed by the Court to settle the estate of an intestate decedent.

ADMINISTRATOR WITH WILL ANNEXED: One appointed administrator of deceased’s estate after executors named in will have refused to or unable to act as if the will does not name an executor. Administrator of the estate of a testate decedent, but not named in the will to act as such.

ADMINISTRATRIX: A woman who administers, or to whom letters of administration have been granted.

ADMONITION: Any authoritative oral communication or statement by way of advice or caution by the Court to the jury respecting their duty or conduct as jurors, and the purpose for which evidence may be considered.

ADOPTION: A judicial act creating between two persons certain relations, purely civil, or paternity and filiation.

ADVERSE PARTY: A party who, by the pleadings, is arrayed on the opposite side.

ADVERSE POSSESSION: The actual, open, and notorious possession of real property, for a continued period of time, held adversely and in denial and in opposition to the title any other claimant.

AFFIANT: One who makes oath to a statement.

AFFIDAVIT: A written declaration, under oath, made without notice to the adverse party.

AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE: An affidavit intended to clarify the service of a writ, notice, or other document.

AGGRAVATION: Any circumstance attending the commission of a crime which increases its enormity or adds to its injurious consequences.

ALIMONY: (See Spousal Support)

ALLEGATIONS: Charges contained in the accusatory pleading.

AMEND: To change or revise.

ANONYMOUS: When someone’s identity is kept unknown.

ANNULMENT: To nullify, cancel, abolish; to make void by competent authority. An annulment differs from a divorce in that a divorce terminates a legal status whereas an annulment establishes that a marital status never existed.

ANSWER: Formal written statement made by a defendant setting forth the grounds of his defense in a civil matter.

APPEAL: The act of removing a case to a higher Court for review and potential revision of the lower Court’s judicial action.

APPEAL BOND: The Court in its discretion may require the appellant to file a bond or provide other security to ensure the payment of costs on appeal.

APPEARANCE: A coming into Court as a party to a suit, whether as plaintiff, defendant, or intervenor. The filing of a pleading constitutes an appearance.

APPELLANT: The party who takes an appeal from one Court of jurisdiction to another.

APPELLATE COURT: An intermediate reviewing court; not a “trial court.”

ARBITRATION: The submission of a matter to an impartial (third) person chosen by the parties, called an arbitrator, who shall be empowered to render an award, thereby avoiding the formalities, delay, and expense of litigating the cause in the Courts.

ARRAIGNMENT: The hearing at which a defendant is brought before the Court and the charges are read to him/her. At this time, the defendant is asked to enter a plea.

ARREST: To deprive a person of his liberty by legal authority. Taking a person into custody for the purpose of holding him/her to answer on a criminal charge or civil demand.

ASCERTAINED: Determined; proved to be true.

ASSIGNEE: (a) A person to whom a claim, rights, property etc., is transferred; (b) a person appointed to act for another.

ASSIGNMENT: A transfer or making over to another of the whole or any property, real or personal, in possession or in action, or of any estate or right therein.

AT ISSUE (MEMORANDUM): When a case is “at issue,” an answer to the complaint has been filed, and the parties are ready to proceed to trial insomuch as the defendant has formally taken “issue” with the allegations of the complaint. The At Issue Memorandum is the form filed which serves to formally notify the Court that the parties are ready to proceed.

ATTACHMENT: A taking of a person, property, etc., into custody.

ATTACHMENT FOR DEFAULT: A process issued by the Court for the apprehension of a person other than a defendant. (See Attachment) (See Bench Warrant)

ATTESTATION: The act of witnessing an instrument in writing, at the request of the party making the same, and subscribing it as a witness.

ATTESTATION CLAUSE: That clause (e.g. at the end of a will) wherein the witnesses certify that the instrument has been executed before them, and the manner of the execution of same. A certificate certifying as to facts and circumstances attending execution of will.

AUTHENTICATION: The act or mode of giving authority or legal authenticity to a statute, record, or other written instrument, or a certified copy thereof, so as to render it legally admissible in evidence.


^ Back to Top

BAIL: (verb) To free a person arrested or imprisoned, on security being taken for his appearance on a day and a place certain before the Court, which security is called “bail”; to deliver the defendant to persons who become security for his appearance in Court.

BAIL: (noun) The surety or sureties who procure the release of a person under arrest; by becoming responsible for his appearance at the time and place designated. Those persons who become sureties for the appearance of the defendant in Court.

BAIL BOND: A guarantee by a corporate surety that a person will appear at a designated time and place, and a promise to pay a sum of money fixed by the Court if the appearance is not made.

BAILIFF: A Court Attaché who maintains courtroom order, security and jury custody.

BASE TERM: Term of imprisonment selected by the Court, low term, middle term, or high term, pursuant to the Determinate Sentencing Law.

BENCH WARRANT: An order issued at the direction of a judge, whether sitting on the bench or not, for the attachment or arrest of an individual; either in case of contempt, or whether a complaint has been filed, or where an indictment has been found, or where a witness has failed to obey a subpoena.

BENEFICIARY: One who benefits from act of another. With regard to insurance, the person entitled to take proceeds on death of insured.

BEQUEATH: To give personal property by will to another. It is therefore distinguishable from “devise” which is properly used if realty.

BEQUEST: A gift by will of personal property; a legacy, Disposition of realty in will is termed “devise.”

BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT: In a criminal case the Defendant’s guilt must be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you with an abiding conviction that the charge is true.

BLOCKED ACCOUNT: An interest-bearing bank account established for a minor, upon order of the Court, in which money from a settlement award, judgment, or other source is placed. Withdrawal of any portion of the funds from this account is blocked except upon application to the Court, and an order thereon, to protect the interests of the minor until the age of majority is reached.

BONA FIDE: (adjective) Made in good faith; honestly, without fraud or unfair dealing.

BOND: An instrument with a clause, with a sum fixed as a penalty, binding the parties to pay the same, conditioned however, that the payment of the penalty may be avoided by the performance by some one or more of the parties of certain acts.

BOND: (Probate) Obligation of a guarantor to pay a second party upon default by a third party in the performance the third party owes to the second party.

BRIEF: (a) A written summary or condensed statement of a series of ideas or of a document; (b) A written statement prepared by one side in a lawsuit to explain its case; (c) A summary of published opinion in a cause prepared for studying the case.

BURDEN OF PROOF: The necessity of legal duty to prove a fact in dispute. The burden of proof is the obligation of a party to establish by evidence a necessary degree of belief concerning a fact in the mind of the trier of the facts; the burden in proving the issue or issues of a party’s cause. In civil cases, the burden of proof is sustained by a preponderance of the evidence. In criminal cases, burden of proof must be sustained beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty.


^ Back to Top

CALENDAR: The cases set for hearing or trial in a specific department, on a given date and time, are referred to collectively as that department’s calendar.

CALENDARED: A case which has been set for a specific date, time and department, whether for hearing or trial, is said to have been calendared.

CALIFORNIA LABOR CODE: A collection of laws regarding the broad spectrum of activities concerning the relationship between employers and employees.

CALIFORNIA DIVISION OF JUVENILE JUSTICE (DJJ): State Detention Facility designated for juveniles who have been ordered committed by the Juvenile Justice System after due process for violations of more serious offenses and/or longer histories of offenses.

CALIFORNIA RULES OF COURT: The rules that regulate the practices and procedures in state Court.

CALJIC: (California Jury Instructions – Criminal) A book of jury instructions from which the Court and counsel select instructions to be given to the jury in criminal cases.

CAPACITY: Legal capacity is the attribute of a person who can acquire new rights, or transfer rights, or assume duties according to the mere dictates of his/her own will, as manifested in acts, without any restraint or hindrance arising from his status or legal condition.

CASE LAW: A body of law created by judicial decisions.

CAUSE (OF ACTION): The fact or facts which give a person a right to judicial relief. May refer to a specific allegation within a complaint, or used to denote the case as a whole.

CERTIFIED COPY: A copy of a paper which is verified to be a faithful replica of a document which is in the possession of the deputy making the certification. It is signed by the deputy and has an official seal affixed to it.

CHALLENGES: Formal exceptions taken to the personal qualification of a judge about to preside at the trial of a cause, or a juror summoned for the trial of a cause.
A. For Cause: The law sets forth a number of reasons why jurors may be excused “for cause.” For example, a juror who is related to or employed by one of the parties in a case may be excused for cause. There is no limit to the number of for cause challenges that may be used.
B. Peremptory: Each side in a case has a certain number of challenges that can be used without giving a reason. These are called peremptory challenges. Each side may ask the judge to excuse particular jurors. If a juror is excused, this does not imply something bad and does not mean the juror is not competent in any way. It frequently happens that a prospective juror will be excused in a certain case and be accepted in another at a later date. The number of peremptory challenges has been established by the Legislature.

CHANGE OF VENUE: The removal of a suit begun in one county and moved to another county for trial, after a hearing on a motion to grant such.

CHARGE: An accusation or oral charge. A formal complaint, information, or indictment. A count. Accused or arraigned.

CHATTEL: An article of personal property, as opposed to real property. A thing personal and movable. It may refer to animate as well as inanimate property.

CITATION: (a) A form of writ issued by a Court commanding the cite to appear in Court in a specific date and time; (b) A reference to a specific code section or case used in support of a legal argument or opinion; (c) A traffic ticket issued to document alleged violation of a Vehicle Code Section.

CIVIL ACTION: An adversary proceeding for declaration, enforcement, or protection of right, or redress, or prevention of a wrong. A civil lawsuit is called a civil case when it is between two or more individuals or corporations involved in a dispute and usually seeking a judgment awarding monetary damages.

CLAIM OF EXEMPTION: A privilege allowed by law to a judgment debtor, by which he may hold property to a certain amount or certain classes of property, free from all liability to levy on.

CLERICAL ERROR: An unintentional mistake, not involving exercise of discretion, in writing, which may be by clerk, counsel, or Court. (See Nunc Pro Tunc)

CLERK’S TRANSCRIPT (ON APPEAL): Those pleadings, minute orders, affidavits, written opinions of the Court, trial exhibits, etc., designated by the attorneys which have been filed or lodged during the course of the litigation process are put together with the appeal documents and collectively form the Clerk’s Transcript.

CODE: A systematic collection, compendium or revision of laws, rules or regulations. California has official code of all laws in force, published by two publishers, DEERING and WEST.

CODICIL: A supplemental to or an addition to a will; it may explain, modify, add to, subtract from, qualify, alter, restrain, or revoke provisions in existing will. Such does not purport to dispose of entire estate or to contain the entire will of testator, nor does it ordinarily expressly or by necessary implication revoke in total a prior will.

COMMISSION: An authority issuing from a Court, in relation to a cause before it, directing and authorizing a person or persons named to do some act or exercise some special function; usually to take the depositions of witnesses.

COMMITMENT: An order of Court which provides authority to hold in prison or other detention facility a person convicted of a crime or charged with a crime, in the instance of placement into a state mental hospital.

COMMITMENT/JUDGMENT OF DEATH: Court order commanding that a defendant be put to death.

COMMUNITY PROPERTY: Property owned by husband and wife as a kind of marital partnership.

COMMON LAW: The body of law derived from judicial decisions, rather than from statutes or constitutions.

COMPENSATORY DAMAGES: Damages to compensate the injured party for the injury or harm sustained and nothing more.

COMPLAINANT: One who applies to the Court for legal redress. Used interchangeably with “plaintiff.”

COMPLAINT: (a) In civil law, the original or initial pleading by which an action is commenced, or by which a claim for relief is set forth. (b) In criminal law, the complaint is a written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense(s) charged.

COMPULSORY: Compelled; mandated by legal process or by statute.

CONCURRENTLY: At the same time; running together.

CONDEMNATION: The process by which property of a private owner is taken for public use without his/her consent, but upon the award and payment of just compensation, being in the nature of a forced sale.

CONFESSION: A voluntary admission made spontaneously by a person accused of crime, free from the influence of any extraneous disturbing cause, and not influenced by violence, threats or promises.

CONFESSION OF JUDGMENT: The act of a debtor in permitting judgment to be entered against him by a creditor, for a stipulated sum, by a written statement to that effect, without the institution of legal proceedings.

CONFIDENTIAL: A file or record that is not available for public viewing. Authorized viewing set forth in statute and/or Court policy. Files and records so designated should be identified and receive special handling.

CONSANGUINITY: Kinship; blood relationship; the connection or relation of persons descended from the same stock or common ancestors. Consanguinity is distinguished from “affinity” which is the connection existing in consequence of a marriage between each of the married persons and the kindred of the other.

CONSECUTIVELY: Successive; succeeding one another in regular order; to follow in uninterrupted succession.

CONSERVATEE: A person whom the Court has decided is unable to care for himself or herself or to manage his/her own financial affairs, and for whom a conservator has been appointed.

CONSERVATOR: A person or organization appointed by the Court to arrange for a conservatee’s personal care, to manage the conservatee’s finances or both.

CONSERVATOR OF THE ESTATE: A person or organization appointed by the Court to manage the financial affairs of a person whom the Court has decided is unable to do so (the conservatee).

CONSERVATOR OF THE PERSON: A person or organization appointed by the Court to arrange for the personal care of one who is either physically or mentally unable to do so (the conservatee).

CONSERVATORSHIP: A Court proceeding to appoint a manager for the financial affairs or the personal care of one who is either physically or mentally unable to handle either or both.

CONSERVATORSHIP ESTATE: The conservatee’s income and assets.

CONSOLIDATION: The act of joining two or more independent suits set in the same Court which involves common questions of law or fact, for the purpose of a joint hearing or trial.

CONSTITUTION: The fundamental law of our nation that establishes the conception, character, and organization of its sovereign power and the manner of its exercise. Also, the document that contains the guiding rules and principles, the descriptions of the power of the government, and the essential rights of the people of a country or state or other governing collective.

CONTEMPT: A willful disregard of the authority of a Court or judicial or legislative body, or disobedience to its lawful orders.

CONTESTANT: A person who contests the eligibility of a will to be admitted to probate.

CONTRACT: A promissory agreement between two or more persons what creates, modifies, or destroys a legal relation.

CONTROVERSY: A disagreement or a dispute that requires a definitive determination of how the law applies to the facts that are asserted to be true.

CONVICTION: The result of a criminal trial which ends in a judgment or sentence that the defendant is guilty as charged, or guilty of an offense included in that which is charged.

COORDINATION: The act of joining two or more independent suits in different Courts of the same jurisdictional level, which involve common questions of law or fact, for the purpose of joint hearings or trial.

CORPORATION: A group of persons who get a charter granting them as a body certain of the legal powers, rights, privileges, and liabilities of an individual; distinct from those of the individuals making up the group.

COUNSEL: One or more lawyers who represent a client.

COSTS: A pecuniary allowance made to the successful party (and recoverable from the losing party) for expenses incurred in the prosecuting or defending a suit, or a distinct proceeding within of a suit.

COUNT: The allegation or charge in a criminal complaint, indictment or information.

COURT: (a) The judicial branch of government whose function is the application of the laws to controversies brought before it and the public administration of justice; (b) A body organized to administer justice, including both judge and jury; (c) Court (capitalized): the specific individual presiding over a legal proceeding.

COURT TRIAL: A trial in which the trier of fact is the judge; a non-jury trial.

CREDITOR’S CLAIM: A document wherein a creditor demands payment for debt owed by the decedent.

CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS/CRIMINAL CASE: The act of pursuing a criminal trial, where the state charges someone with a crime.

CROSS-COMPLAINT: An action brought by one who is a defendant against a party who is a plaintiff or co-defendant in such suit, upon a cause of action growing out of the same transaction in which there is controversy.

CROSS-EXAMINATION: The examination of a witness upon a trial or hearing, by the party opposed to the one who produced that witness, on the evidence given in chief, to test its truth, to further develop it, or for other purposes.

CUSTODY: The care and keeping of anything. As applied to parental rights over children, embraces the sum of such rights with respect to rearing of a child, including its care. As applied to a person in custody, implies that he/she is detained on authority or kept in charge or control of another in some sort of restraint, so that he/she is not free to come and go at will.


^ Back to Top


DAMAGES: A pecuniary compensation or indemnity, which may be recovered in the Courts by any person who has suffered, loss, detriment, or injury, whether to his person, property, or rights, through the unlawful act or omission or negligence of another.

DEATH WARRANT: Court order setting date for execution.

DECEASED: A dead person.

DECEDENT: A deceased person, especially one who has lately. Etymological, the word denotes a person who is dying, but it has come to be used in law as signifying any deceased person, testate or intestate.

DECEDENT’S ESTATE: Property, both real and personal, which person possesses at the time of his/her death, and title to it descends immediately to his/her heirs upon his/her death subject to the control of the probate Court for the purpose of paying debts and claims and after distribution the estate ceases to exist.

DECREE: A declaration of the Court announcing the legal consequences of the facts found. While often used as a generic term for any judgment or order issued by the Court, it has generally been replaced by the term “judgment.”

DEFAULT: (1) A flexible term for the omission of that which a person ought to do. (2) The failure to plead or otherwise defend an action, by a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought.

DEFAULT JUDGMENT: A judgment entered upon the failure of a party to appear, or plead, or take some required step in the case at the appointed time.

DEFENDANT: The part against whom an action is brought, a warrant is issued, or criminal charges are pending.

DEGREE: Scope of an action or charge.

DEGREE OF PROOF: The amount of proof necessary to prove a case. In a criminal case such proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases the standard is by a preponderance of the evidence.

DELIBERATIONS: The act of weighing and examining the reasons for and against a contemplated act or course of conduct or a choice of acts or means. In the judicial system, commonly used to denote that time at the conclusion of the case when the jury retires to consider the evidence presented and reach their verdict.

DELINQUENT CHILD: (Juvenile) A minor who falls into the provisions of Section 602 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

DEMURRER: A formal response to a pleading which admits the allegations to be true, for the purpose of argument, but attacks the technical merits of the pleading. It imports that the party demurring will stay, and not proceed, until the Court decides whether he/she is bound to do so.

DENY: To give negative answer or reply to. To refuse to grant or accept.

DEPENDENT CHILD: (Juvenile) A minor who falls within the provisions of Section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

DEPOSITION: A written record of oral testimony, in the form of questions and answers, made before a public officer for use in a lawsuit for the purpose of discovery of information, or for the purpose of being read as evidence at a trial, or for both purposes.

DEPUTY: One appointed to substitute for another with power to act in his/her name or on his/her behalf. A Deputy Court Clerk is appointed on behalf of the Clerk of the Court.

DETENTION HEARING: (Juvenile) Hearings conducted within the Juvenile Justice System to determine whether for the protection of the minor or society to determine if it would be better to detain the minor in Juvenile Hall (in Juvenile Delinquency cases) place the child in foster care (Juvenile Dependency cases) or release the minor to their parent(s) and/or legal guardian(s) pending further proceedings. In Juvenile Delinquency cases, the minor is asked to either Admit or Deny the allegations as set forth in the petition. In Juvenile Dependency cases, the parent(s) are asked to either Admit or Deny the allegations as set forth in the petition.

DETERMINATE: (Sentence) Confinement for a fixed period of time as specified by statute.

DIAGNOSTIC STUDY: Tests to determine and recommend appropriate treatment and confinement for defendant.


DISCLAIMER: The repudiation or renunciation of a claim or power vested in a person of which he/she formerly alleged to have. The disavowal, denial, or renunciation of an interest, right, or property imputed to a person or alleged to be his/hers.

DISCOVERY: The disclosure by a party of facts, titles, documents, or other things which are in his/her exclusive knowledge or possession, and which are necessary to the party seeking the discovery as part of a cause of action pending or to be brought in another Court, or as evidence of his rights or title in such proceeding. (also see “LAW AND MOTION”)

DISMISSAL: An order or judgment finally disposing of an action, suit, motion, etc., without a trial of the issues involved.

DISPOSITIONAL HEARING: (Juvenile) Hearing conducted within the Juvenile Justice System after the allegations within the petition have been adjudicated in order to determine the final treatment of the minor. (Sentencing)

DISQUALIFICATION: The condition of having been rendered unfit; as in speaking of the “disqualification” of a judge by reason of his or her interest in the case, of a juror by reason of his or her holding a preconceived opinion, or of a candidate for public office by reason of non-residence, lack of statutory age, previous commission of crime, etc.

DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE: The act of terminating a marriage; divorce; but the term does not include annulment.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The officer elected for the judicial district who is charged with the duty of prosecuting all persons charged with violations of criminal laws.

DIVERSION: A disposition of a criminal defendant, either before or after adjudication of guilt, in which the Court directs the defendant to participate in a work or educational program as part of probation.

DJJ:  See California Division of Juvenile Justice.

DOE: A designation used in a complaint to allow for naming additional defendants at a later date as they are discovered.

DOE AMENDMENT: A form used to amend a “doe” designation for a defendant to an individual’s name upon ascertaining the party’s actual identity.

DOMESTIC LAW: That branch of law dealing with matters of the household or family, including divorce, separation, custody, support and adoptions. (Also called “Family Law”)


^ Back to Top

ELIGIBLE/ELIGIBILITY: (For Jury Service) To be allowed under the law to serve as a juror. Every person who is at least 18 years of age, a citizen of the United States, a resident of the respective county, able to understand the English language, not currently serving on any other jury, is not currently on parole, postrelease community supervision, felony probation, or mandated supervision for the conviction of a felony, is not currently required to register as a sex offender based on a felony conviction, and not currently incarcerated in any prison or jail are eligible to serve as a juror. Eligibility to serve as a grand juror is slightly different. Please review our website for more information.

EMINENT DOMAIN: The power of the state to take private property for public use.

ENDORSEMENT: That which is written on the back of a negotiable instrument; also used with reference to writs, insurance policies, and stock certifications.

ENHANCEMENTS: Allegations which, if proved, add to the punishment for crime(s) alleged and proved to be true either through admission of the Defendant or finding of guilt through the trial process.

EQUITY: A body of jurisprudence, or field of jurisdiction, differing in its origin, theory, and methods from the common law.

ERROR CORAM NOBIS: Error committed in the proceedings “before us”; i.e. error assigned as a ground for reviewing, modifying or vacation of a judgment in the same Court in which it was rendered. A writ to bring before the Court that pronounced judgment, errors in matters of fact which had not been put in issue or passed on and were material to validity and regularity of legal proceeding itself.

ERROR CORAM VOBIS: Error in the proceedings “before you”; words used in a writ of error directed by a Court of review to the Court which tried the cause.

ESTOPPEL: A legal bar to alleging or denying a fact because of one’s own actions or words to the contrary.

ET AL: An abbreviation for et alius meaning, “and another,” in the singular form. In the plural, ET ALS, is the abbreviation for et alii, meaning “and others.” The abbreviation is often affixed to the name of the first person mentioned, where there are several plaintiffs, grants, persons addressed, defendants, etc.

ET SEQ.: An abbreviation for et sequentes (masc/fem. pl.) or et sequential (neut.) meaning, “and the following.” Thus a reference to “Section 300, et seq.” means “Sections 300, and the following sections.”

ET UX.: An abbreviation for et uxor – “and wife.”

ET VIR: A term meaning, “and husband.”

EVIDENCE: Testimony, writings, material objects, or other things offered to the Court to prove the existence or nonexistence of a fact. Proof, either written or unwritten, or allegations at issue between parties. There are many different types of evidence including: DIRECT, INDIRECT, CIRCUMSTANTIAL, SUBSTANTIVE, CORRORBATIVE, INTRINSIC, EXTRINSIC, DERIVATIVE, OR PAROL.

EXEMPTIONS/EXCUSES/POSTPONEMENTS: (for Jury Service) By law, no one who meets the basic criteria is automatically exempted from service. The law does provide for hardship excuses. Hardship is defined by law and includes no reasonable transportation, excessive travel, extreme financial burden, undue risk to physical property, physical or mental impairment or over age 70, public health and safety, or no alternate care for another. If you believe you fall in any of these categories, contact your local jury office. Postponement may be available if you have health problems, a paid vacation, or other personal commitments that cannot be rescheduled at the time you are initially called. If you have already received one postponement during the past 12 months, you will probably have to come to Court and speak to a judge to further delay your service.

EX PARTE: On one side only; by or for one party; done for, on behalf of, or on the application of one party only. An ex parte hearing is one in which the Court hears only one side of the controversy.


EXECUTION SUSPENDED: Stay of punishment actually imposed.

EXEMPLIFICATION: An extremely formal type of certification in which the Clerk of the Court signs the certification of the document or record. The Presiding Judge then signs attesting to the fact of the identity of the Clerk of the Court, and that the signature is authentic. Finally, the Clerk of the Court signs again, this time attesting to the fact that the judge is a Judge of that county’s Superior Court, and that that signature is authentic.

EXHIBIT: A paper, document, or item of physical evidence produced and offered to the Court for inspection during a trial or hearing; on being accepted, the exhibit is marked for identification and may be received into evidence.

EXONERATION: The removal of a burden, charge, responsibility or duty. A bail which is ordered exonerated, is ordered returned to the party who posted it either on his own behalf, or on behalf of another.

EXPERT WITNESS: A person selected by the Court or parties in a cause, because of his/her knowledge, special training, or skill, to examine, estimate, and ascertain things and thereafter testify as to his/her opinion.

EXPUNGE: To destroy; blot out; obliterate; erase; efface designedly; strike out wholly. The act of physically destroying information – including criminal records – in files, computers, or other depositories.


^ Back to Top

FAMILY LAW: That branch of law dealing with matters of the household or family, including divorce, separation, custody, support and adoptions. (Also called “Domestic Law”)

FEE CHECK: Refers to the process of determining if the party seeking to file a document has previously paid the appropriate appearance fee as required. Fee checks may be performed by checking of the actual file, the microfiche, or the computer record.


FELON: A person who has been convicted of a serious criminal offense punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year.

FELONY: A crime which is of relatively serious in nature, for which the maximum penalty can be death or imprisonment in the state penitentiary, regardless of such lesser penalty as may in fact be imposed.

FILE: (1) To deliver a pleading, motion, Court order or other paper to the clerk of the Court for receipt and preservation for purposes of either litigation or safeguarding as required by law; (2) The pleading and documents, either generated by the litigants, a third party, or the Court, which collectively form the record of a case; (3) The placing formal receipt by the clerk of the Court of a document or pleading in an action pending before the Court.

FOREPERSON: At the beginning of deliberations, the jury votes to select one of its members to be the foreperson. The jury foreperson’s duty is to see that discussion during deliberations is carried on in a free and orderly manner, that the case and issues are fully and freely discussed, and that every juror is given a chance to participate in the discussion. As the deliberations conclude, the foreperson counts the votes and completes and signs the verdict form.

FORFEITURE: The loss of property or money due to breach of a legal obligation.


^ Back to Top

GRAND JURY: A body of citizens who are sworn to inquire of public offenses which are committed in or are triable within in the County. The number of grand jurors is determined by the County’s population. Those with a population of less than four million have grand juries composed of 19 members, while counties with populations which exceed this limit have grand juries composed of 23 members.

GRANT: (1) To give or permit as a right or privilege; eg., the Court may grant a motion to file documents after the statutorily prescribed time in certain instances; (2) A conveyance; i.e., a transfer of title by deed or other instrument.

GUARDIAN: (1) A person lawfully invested with the power and charged with the duty of taking care of the person and managing the property and rights of another person, who, for defect of age, understanding, or self-control, is considered incapable of administering his own affairs. (2) One who legally has the care and management of the person, or the estate, or both, of a child during his minority.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM: A special guardian appointed by the Court to prosecute or defend, on behalf of a minor, or incompetent, a suit to which that individual is a party. While acting in this capacity, such guardian is considered an officer of the Court (rather than a party litigant) to represent the interests of the minor or incompetent in the litigation.

GUARDIANSHIP: The office, duty, or authority of a guardian. Also the relation subsisting between guardian and ward.


^ Back to Top

HEARING: Proceedings in open Court in which the parties present to the Court evidence and arguments on a specific issue (for example, an Order to Show Cause hearing or a trial).

HEARSAY: A term applied to that species of testimony given by a witness who relates not what he/she knows personally, but what others have told him/her, or that has been overheard.


^ Back to Top

IMPARTIAL: Without bias, prejudice, or other preconception. The members of a jury should have no opinion about or vested interest in a case at the start of the trial and should base its verdict only on competent legal evidence presented during the trial.

IMPEACHMENT: Attacking the veracity and credibility of a witness with prior inconsistent statements, contradiction of facts, bias or character.

IMPOSITION SUSPENDED: Stay of imposing actual sentence.

INFORMA PAUPERIS: In the character or manner of a pauper. The statutory provision for allowing indigent persons to proceed in their litigation without liability for Court fees and costs.

IN PROPRIA PERSONA: (IN PRO PER) In one’s own proper person; not through or represented by an attorney.

INDETERMINATE: That which is uncertain, or not particularly designated.

INDICTMENT: (1) An accusation in writing found and presented by a grand jury, legally convoked and sworn, to the Court in which it is impaneled, charging that a person therein named has done some act, or been guilty of some omission, which by law is a public offense, punishable on indictment. (2) A formal written accusation originating with a prosecutor and issued by a grand jury against a party charged with a crime.

INDIGENT: One who is needy or poor.

INFORMATION: An accusation exhibited against a person for some criminal offense, without an indictment. A written accusation made by a public prosecutor, without the intervention of a grand jury. (See also: “COMPLAINT(b)")

INJUNCTION: A flexible, discretionary, process of preventative and remedial justice, which is exercised by Courts that have equity powers. Courts issue injunctions when it appears that the ordinary remedy usually provided by the law is not a full, adequate and complete one. Injunctions are preliminary, preventative, provisional, or interlocutory, if they are granted on the filing of a bill, or while the suit is pending, to restrain the party enjoined from doing or continuing to do the acts complained of, until the final hearing or the further order of the Court. They are final, perpetual, or permanent, if they are awarded after the full hearing on the merits, and as a final determination of the rights of the parties.

INSTRUCTION: The guidelines given by the judge at the beginning and at the end of a trial that explain what the law in the case is and how the jurors should evaluate the evidence.

INTEREST: The most general term that can be employed to denote a right, claim, title, or legal share in something. In its application to real estate or things real, it is frequently used in connection with the terms “estate,” “right,” and “title.” More particularly it means a right to have the advantage accruing from anything; any right in nature of property, but less than title.

INTERLINEATION: The act of writing between the lines of an instrument.

INTERPLEADER: When two or more persons claim the same thing of a third, the third party, laying no claim to it, being ignorant of which of the other parties may have rights, and fearing being prejudiced by their proceeding against him/her for recovery, may file an action against them the object of which is to make them litigate their title between themselves rather than with the third party.

INTERLOCUTORY: Incident to a suit still pending. An order or decree made during the course of a case which does not amount to a final decision is termed “interlocutory.”

INTERROGATORIES: Written questions propounded on behalf of one party in an action to another party, or to someone who is not a party, before the trial thereof. The person interrogated must give his answers in writing, and upon oath.


^ Back to Top

JUDGMENT: The determination or decision of a Court; the expression by a judge of the reasons for his or her decision. Judgments may be final, putting an end to the case; interlocutory, given in the progress of a case upon some matter which does not finally determine the case. They may be rendered on confession by the defendant; on default, when the defendant fails to appear, plead, or otherwise defend, within the allotted time; or on the merits, after a full trial.

JUDGMENT CREDITOR: A person in whose favor a judgment for money has been entered, and is not satisfied.

JUDGMENT DEBTOR: A person against whom judgment, determining that he/she should pay a sum of money, stands unsatisfied.

JUDGMENT N.O.V.: (Judgment non obstante verdicto) A judgment notwithstanding the verdict. A judgment rendered upon a motion made after the jury has returned a verdict in which the mover of the motion prevails in showing that he/she is entitled to judgment notwithstanding the verdict returned against him/her by the jury.

JURISDICTION: The authority of a particular Court to hear and decide an action or lawsuit.

JURY: A certain number of people selected according to the law, and sworn to inquire of certain matters of fact, and declare the truth based upon evidence to be laid before them.

JURY INSTRUCTIONS: A direction given by the judge to the jury concerning the law of the case. The judge reads the law as it applies to the case before the jury, which the jury are bound to accept and apply that law, even if they may not agree with the law. Attorneys for both sides normally furnish the judge with suggested instructions. (See: “CALJIC.”)

JURY POOL: The group of prospective qualified jurors appearing for assignment to trial jury panels.

JURY SELECTION: The process by which jurors for a particular trial are selected from the larger group of potential jurors summoned to the Courthouse. The trial court judge sends a request to the jury assembly room for a panel of prospective jurors to begin the jury selection process in his or her courtroom. Once the jurors arrive in the courtroom, the judge and lawyers ask the jurors questions for the purpose of determining whether jurors are free of bias, or prejudice, or whether there exists a matter that might interfere with their ability to be fair and impartial.

JURY SUMMONS: The papers sent to potential jurors that require their attendance in Court for possible service on a jury. California Courts do not summon jurors to the courthouse more than once in any given 12-month period.

JURY TRIAL: Trial of matter or cause before a jury as opposed to trial before judge.

JUS 8715: A “Disposition of Arrest and Court Action” form, (“JUS 8715” being the form number). This form is initiated at the time of arrest, and tracks a defendant through the system, showing the final disposition of the charge(s).




^ Back to Top

L & M: (See “Law and Motion”)

L.P.S.: (See “Lanterman-Petris-Short Act”)

LANTERMAN-PETRIS-SHORT ACT: (Probate) The legislation which sets forth the proceedings for mentally disordered persons.

LAW AND MOTION: Those proceedings prior to and in preparation of trial, wherein questions of law are resolved and disclosure of facts and evidence is made. These matters are commonly referred to as law and motion and discovery proceedings, which include such items as: demurrers to pleadings, motions to depose witnesses, change of venue, requiring production of documents, motions to amend pleadings, motions to strike, motions for summary judgment, etc.

LEAVE OF COURT: Permission obtained from a Court to take some action which, without such permission, would not be allowable; as, to receive an extension of time to answer a complaint.

LETTERS: (Probate) Letters are issued by order of the Court, showing the person named to be the official representative of an estate or person.

LETTERS OF GUARDIANSHIP: Instrument by which a person is empowered to take charge of the person and/or estate of a minor child.

LEVY: (1) To assess, impose, or require a tax. (2) The act of a sheriff in subjecting property to the satisfaction of a Court judgment. (3) The act of a sheriff in subjecting property to the lien of a Court attachment.

LIEN: A charge or encumbrance upon property for payment of a debt; a legal claim.

LIS PENDENS: A pending suit. Jurisdiction, power, or control which Courts acquire over property in suit pending action and until final judgment.

LITIGANT(S): A party to a lawsuit; one engaged in litigation; usually spoken of active parties, not of nominal ones.

LITIGATION: A lawsuit. Legal action, including all proceedings therein. Contest in a Court of law for the purpose of enforcing a right or seeking a remedy. A judicial contest, a judicial controversy, a suit at law.

LODGE: To leave a document, record, or other evidentiary item with the Court for its reference and use during a hearing or trial. At the conclusion of the hearing or trial, the item is returned to the submitting party without filing.


^ Back to Top

MANDAMUS: (See “Writ of Mandamus”)

MECHANIC’S LIEN: A statutory claim created for the purpose of securing priority of payment of the price of the work performed and materials furnished in erecting or raising a building or other structure.

MEMOMRANDUM OF COSTS: A certified, itemized statement of the amount of recoverable costs expended in an action or suit by the prevailing party.

MENTAL INCOMPETENCE: Inability to understand proceedings or assist counsel in a rational manner.

MICROFICHE: The filmed record of a case file. Each document page is filmed and placed in a special jacket which allows ease of viewing.

MICROFILM: The filmed record of a case file. Each document page is filmed onto a reel which is then read through a microfilm reader.

MICROGRAPHICS: The process of filming documents filed with the Clerk of the Court.

MINOR: A person who is under the age of legal competence (under 18 years old); (Juvenile) The subject of a Petition Under Section 602 or Sections 300, et seq., of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

MINOR’S COMPROMISE: (“Compromise of Disputed Claim of Minor” or “Minor’s Comp.”) A case involving a claim by a minor which has been settled. The actual case may or may not have been previously filed with the Court. The parties are appearing at this time to obtain Court approval as to the settlement on behalf of the minor.

MINUTE ORDER: A memorandum of the orders and proceedings of the Court made by the clerk and maintained as a permanent record pursuant to statute.

MISDEMEANOR: Offenses lower than felonies and generally those punishable by penalty, forfeiture, fine or imprisonment otherwise than in the penitentiary. Under federal law, and most state laws, any offense other than a felony is classified as a misdemeanor.

MISTRIAL: A trial that is of no legal effect by reason of supervening events, which cause the judge to terminate the proceedings in the belief that a fair verdict cannot be obtained on account of those events.

MITIGATION: Circumstances which may be considered as extenuating or reducing the degree of moral culpability; (of punishment) A judge may reduce or order a lesser sentence in consideration of such factors as the defendant’s past good behavior, their family situation, or their cooperation with the police.

MOTION: An application made to a Court or judge for purpose of obtaining an order directing some act to be done in favor of the applicant. It is usually made within the framework of an existing action or proceedings and is ordinarily made on notice, but some motions may be made without written notice. One without written notice is called an ex parte motion. Written or oral application to the Court for a ruling or order may be made before, during, or after trial.


^ Back to Top

NEGLIGENCE: The failure to do something which a reasonable person, guided by those ordinary considerations which ordinarily regulate human affairs, would do; or the doing of something which a reasonable and prudent person would not do.

NEW TRIAL: A re-examination of an issue of fact in the same Court after a trial and decision by a jury or Court.

NOLO CONTENDERE: A Latin phrase meaning, “I will not contest it.” In a criminal matter, if the defendant pleads “nolo contendere,” he or she neither admits nor denies the charges. In cases other than those punishable as a felony, while the Court may still impose a fine or a sentence, the “nolo” plea cannot be used against the defendant in a civil action based on the same acts.

NONSUIT: The name of a judgment given against a plaintiff when he/she is unable to prove a case, or when he refuses or neglects to proceed to trial and leaves the issue undetermined. A motion for nonsuit is in the nature of a demurrer to the evidence.

NOTICE: Information given to a person of some act done, or about to be done.

NULLITY: The entire invalidity of a supposed, pretended, or attempted marriage, by reason of relationship or incapacity of the parties or other detrimental impediments. An action seeking a decree declaring such an assumed marriage to be null and void is called a suit of nullity of marriage. It differs from an action for dissolution because the latter supposes the existence of a valid and lawful marriage.

NUNC PRO TUNC: A Latin phrase meaning, “Now for then.” Applied to acts that are allowed to be done after the time when they should have been done. It is a retroactive correction of something that was not done, or done wrong in the past, and applies only to ministerial functions, and not those involving discretion.


^ Back to Top

OATH: A solemn affirmation, declaration, or promise made under a sense of responsibility for the truth of the matter stated.

OJD: (See “Order for Appearance of Judgment Debtor”)

OSC: (See “Order to Show Cause”)

OFF CALENDAR: (“O/C”) No longer scheduled on the Court’s calendar for a particular hearing or trial date.

ONE-TRIAL/ONE-DAY: (For Jury Service) Starting January 1, 2000, most Courts have adopted the one-trial/one-day system. One day or one trial means that prospective jurors only have to come to the Court once. If you are not chosen for a trial, then your term of service is complete. If you do serve on a jury, you will not be required to report for jury service for at least another 12 months. A few counties have different systems, so please contact your local jury office to make sure how your local Court system works.

OPENING STATEMENT: An outline of anticipated proof. Its purpose is to advise the jury or Court of facts relied upon and of issues involved, and to give the jury or Court a general picture of the facts and situations so that the jury or Court will be able to understand the evidence.

OPPOSITION: (1) Act of opposing or resisting. (2) A position confronting another or placing in contract; that which is or furnishes an obstacle to some result.

ORDER: Every direction of a Court or judge made or entered in writing, and not included in a judgment. An application for an order is a motion.

ORDER FOR APPEARANCE OF JUDGMENT DEBTOR: Court order commanding the judgment debtor to appear in Court at a specific date and time, and to submit himself to questioning so that the judgment creditor may ascertain what assets are held which may be levied against so as to allow the judgment creditor to obtain satisfaction on the Court judgment awarded.

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE: Court order commanding a litigant to appear in Court at a specific date and time, and to show cause to the Court’s satisfaction why he or she should not be compelled to perform a certain act (or cease a certain act).

OVERRULE: The act of a Court in rejecting a motion or objection made by a party to a lawsuit.

OWN RECOGNIZANCE: (Release) Defendant is permitted to be at liberty during pendency of a criminal action or proceeding upon written promise to appear as ordered.


^ Back to Top

PARTIES: The persons who take part in the performance of any act, or who are directly interested in any affair, contract, or conveyance; or who are actively concerned in the defense of any legal proceeding.

P.D.: (See “Public Defender”)

P & S: (See “Probation and Sentencing”)

PECUNIARY: Monetary; relating to money; financial; consisting of money or that which can be valued as money.

PENALTY ASSESSMENT: An assessment imposed on fines and bail forfeitures, collected by the Courts according to statute.

PENALTY PHASE: Portion of a trial whereby the trier of fact determines punishment to be imposed.

PENDENTE LITE: Pending the suit; during the actual progress of a suit; during litigation. These orders are most frequently made in dissolution cases after the filing of the suit and prior to trial, to obtain temporary orders for child support, child custody, spousal support, etc.

PENDING: In process; not yet decided.

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA: The mass of individuals who constitute the state of California. In a criminal case, the District Attorney represents the People of the State of California against whom the alleged crime has been committed.

PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE: A challenge which a party is allowed against a certain number of jurors, without assigning cause.

PERJURY: A false statement made willfully and knowingly while under oath in a Court proceeding.

PETITION: (1) A formal, written application to a Court requesting judicial action on a certain matter. (2) An application made to a Court ex parte, or where there are no judicial powers of the Court in relation to some matter which is not the subject for a suit or action, or for authority to do some act which requires the sanction of the Court; as for the appointment of guardian, for leave to sell trust property, etc.

PETITIONER: One who presents a petition to a Court. In legal proceedings begun by petition, the person against whom action or relief is prayed, or who opposes the prayer of the petition, is called the “respondent.”

PLAINTIFF: A person who brings an action; the party who complains or sues in a civil action and is so named on the record. A person who seeks remedial relief for an injury to rights. A person who initiates a lawsuit.

PLEA: The formal response of a defendant to the charge in a civil lawsuit. (2) The defendant’s response to criminal charges. There are six types of pleas: guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere, not guilty by reason of insanity, once in jeopardy, and former judgment of conviction or acquittal. If a defendant refuses to plead or if a defendant corporation fails to appear, the Court shall enter a plea of not guilty.

PLEADING: A written document filed in an action or other legal proceedings, usually with a title which identifies its nature, such as a Complaint, Answer or Motion.

POINTS AND AUTHORITIES: A document used in support of or opposition to a motion containing points; distinct positions or questions of law, and authorities; citations to statutes or judicial decisions which support the legal position contended.

POLLING OF JURY: To examine each juror separately, after a verdict has been given, as to his/her concurrence in the verdict.

POSTPONE: To put off until a later time.

POSTPONEMENT: (Of Jury Service) Permission to put off serving as a juror until a later time. A postponement may be available if you have health problems, a paid vacation, or other personal commitments that cannot be rescheduled at the time you are initially called for jury service.

PRAYER: That portion of a complaint in a civil action which sets forth the requested relief or damages to which the plaintiff deems himself/herself entitled.

PREJUDICIAL: Tending to injure or impair; leading to premature judgment or unwarranted opinion.

PRELIMINARY HEARING: The hearing given to a person accused of a felony, by a judge, to determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe that the act committed is in fact a crime and that the person charged, is responsible for that crime and whether the Defendant should be held for trial

PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION: An injunction granted at the institution of a suit, to restrain the defendant from doing or continuing some act, the right to which is in dispute; and which may either be discharged or made perpetual, according to the result of the controversy, as soon as the rights of the parties are determined.

PREPONDERANCE: (of the evidence) Greater weight of evidence, or the evidence which is more believable and convincing than the other sides, not measured necessarily, by the greater number of witnesses. Evidence which would prove that something is more likely to have occurred than not.

PRE-TRIAL: All-purpose type of conference prior to trial used to narrow issues to be tried, to secure stipulations as to matters and evidence to be heard, and to take all other steps necessary to ad in the disposition of the case.

PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE: Evidence good and sufficient on its face; such evidence in the judgment of law, is sufficient to establish a given fact, or the group or chain of facts constituting the party’s claim or defense, and which if not rebutted or contradicted, will remain sufficient.

PRO HAC VICE: A Latin phrase meaning “for this occasion.” An attorney from out of state wishing to represent a client in California for a specific case will be required to obtain special permission from the Court to act as “counsel pro hac vice.”

PRO PER: (See “In Propria Persona”)

PROBATE:  Final Accounting, Report and Distribution.

PROBATION REPORT: Sets forth history of crime, background of defendant, and recommendations for sentencing. Used as a tool by counsel and the Court for plea negotiations and for sentencing.

PROBATION AND SENTENCING: The hearing held after the conclusion of a criminal proceeding in which the defendant, having been found guilty, is formally sentenced by the Court.

PROCESS: The means of compelling the defendant in an action to appear in Court; or a means whereby a Court compels a compliance with its demands. Also, a writ, summons, or order issued in a judicial proceeding to acquire jurisdiction of a person or his/her property, to expedite the cause or enforce the judgment.

PROCESS SERVER: The individual effecting service of process.

PROOF OF SERVICE: (“POS”) The document filed with the Court to provide formal proof that a pleading was officially served on a party to the action. The document contains an affidavit of the person effecting service showing the date and manner of service, and other requirements as set forth by the Code of Civil Procedure.

PROPOUND: To offer for discussion or consideration.

PROSECUTIONS: Legal proceedings.

PROSPECTIVE: Likely to come about, relating to or effective in the future.

PROTRACTED: Of considerable length; drawn out; extending over a period of time.

PROVE-UP HEARING: A term used to indicate the default hearing at which the plaintiff submits the necessary testimony and/or documentary evidence to prove the case to the Court’s satisfaction in order to obtain an award.

PROXIMATE CAUSE: That which, in a natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by an efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred.

PUBLICATION: Under California law, the publication of a summons is the process of giving it currency as an advertisement in a newspaper, under the conditions prescribed by law, as a means of giving notice of the suit to a defendant upon whom personal service cannot be made.

PUBLIC DEFENDER: An attorney appointed by a Court or employed by a government agency whose work consists primarily in defending indigent defendants in criminal cases.

PUNITIVE DAMAGES: Damages in a civil action which may be recovered in addition to compensatory damages, and which are said to be for sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant. Same as “exemplary damages.”


QUASH: To annul or suppress, e.g., an indictment, a subpoena, or an order; to vacate, to make void.

QUASI: (Latin) As if; almost. Often used to indicate significant similarity or likeness to the word that follows, while denoting that the word that follows must be considered in a flexible sense.


^ Back to Top

RE: In the matter of; in the case of.

REBUTTAL: The introduction of rebutting evidence; the showing that statements of witnesses as to what occurred is not true; that stage of a trial at which such evidence may be introduced; also the rebutting evidence itself.

RECUSE: Remove someone for being prejudiced or otherwise incompetent to act.

REGISTER OF ACTIONS: A series of books which contain a page for each case filed. Each page contains the title of each case, the case number, the date it is commenced, the attorneys of record, fees paid, subsequent proceedings had, and documents filed. Entries in the register of the above information are made under the direction of the Clerk of the Court.

REGISTRATION: Requirement for defendants convicted of certain sex, narcotic and gang offenses to register with the chief of police within the city of the Defendant’s residence or with the sheriff of the county in which the Defendant resides, if the place of residence in unincorporated.

REIMBURSEMENT: Specific payment for out-of pocket expenses.

REINSTITUTE: Reinstate or restore proceedings to the prior criminal mode.

REINSTATED: Placed again in former state or condition.

REMAND: (1) To send a lawsuit back to the same Court from which it came, for trial or other action; (2) To take someone into custody forthwith.

REMITTITUR: (Of Record) The returning or sending back by a Court of appeal of the record and proceedings in a cause, after its decision thereon, to the Court whence the appeal came, in order that the cause may be tried anew (when it is so ordered), or that judgment may be entered in accordance with the decision on appeal, or execution be issued, or any other necessary action be taken in the Court below.

REPORTER’S TRANSCRIPT: The written transcription of the Court reporter’s notes as taken during a hearing. This transcript provides a word-for-word account of the proceedings held.

RES: A thing; an object; a subject matter; a status.

RES IPSA LOQUITUR: The thing speaks for itself. Rebuttable presumption that defendant was negligent, which arises upon proof that instrumentality causing injury was in defendant’s exclusive control, and that the accident was one which ordinarily does not happen in the absence of negligence.

RESPONDENT: A party against whom a motion is filed in the course of a lawsuit; analogous to a defendant or an appellee.

RESPONSE: Formal written statement made by a respondent setting forth the grounds of his reply. Generally denotes the written reply to a motion or petition.

RESTITUTION: Payment to victim or society in money or services for loss, damages, or injury.

RESTITUTION FUND: Fund established pursuant to 13967 of the Government Code to indemnify persons filing claims and to provide assistance for victims and witnesses.

RESTRAINING ORDER: An order which may issue upon the filing of an application for an injunction forbidding the defendant to do the threatened act until a hearing on the application can be had.

REVOKED: Annulled; rescinded; recalled.

ROLL CALL: Calling off a list of names for taking attendance.


^ Back to Top

SATISFACTION OF JUDGMENT: The discharge of an obligation by paying a party what is awarded to him/her by the judgment of the Court or otherwise; thus, a judgment is satisfied by the payment of the amount due to the party who has recovered such judgment, or by his levying the amount.

SEALED FILE: A file which, by Court order, has been ordered sealed and may only be examined by order of that Court and all process, (e.g. microfilm) should be identified by the words “sealed by order of the Court.” Any examination of such files requires an order of the Court.

SEALING OF RECORDS: A procedure whereby a person who was a minor at the time of the commission of the offenses may petition the Court to seal all records in connection with the offense pursuant to Section 781 of the Welfare and Institutions Code in Juvenile Court and under 1203.4 of the Penal Code in adult Court.

SEARCH WARRANT: An order in writing, issued by a magistrate, in the name of the state, directed to a sheriff, constable, or other officer, authorizing search and seizure of any property that constitutes evidence of commission or involvement with a crime.

SENTENCING: The post conviction stage of the criminal justice process in which the defendant is brought before the Court for imposition of punishment to be inflicted.

SEQUESTRATION: (Of Jurors) A sequestered jury is usually housed together in a hotel and prohibited from contacting people outside of the Court. Sequestration rarely occurs and is meant for jurors’ protection. It is used to keep the jurors away from the media during a controversial trial where widespread media coverage could influence the jurors’ deliberation through threats.

SEQUESTERED FILE: A file which, due to public interest, could conceivably be tampered with or mishandled. The file is maintained in a separate area and requires special handling. Could require approval of a superior before any examination may occur.

SERVICE: The exhibition or delivery of a writ, summons and complaint, criminal summons, notice, order, etc., by an authorized person, to a person who is thereby officially notified of some action or proceeding in which he is concerned, and thereby advised or warned of some action of step which he is commanded to take or to cease. Pleadings, motions, orders, etc., after the initial summons are normally served on the party’s attorney unless otherwise ordered by the Court.

SISTER STATE JUDGMENT: Enforcement is being sought in a state of a judgment rendered by a Court of another state. The records and judicial proceedings, when properly authenticated, may then be opened as a new case in the Court which has jurisdiction for purposes of enforcement. These actions are for money judgments and do not include support orders.

SOURCE LIST: the list or lists from which citizens are selected to receive a jury summons. Potential jurors are selected randomly from the voter registration list and the Department of vehicles’ lists of drivers and identification card holders, as required by law.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Allegations which, if proved, warrant the death penalty or life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

STATUTE: An act of the legislature declaring, commanding or prohibiting something; a word used to designate legislatively-created law as distinct from Court-decided or case law.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: (Civil) A statute prescribing limitations to the right of action on certain described causes of action; that is, declaring that no suit shall be maintained on such causes of action unless brought within a specified period after the right accrued. See Code of Civil Procedure, Sec. 335, et seq.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: (Criminal) The limit of time after the commission of the offense within which prosecution must be commenced. See Sections 799 through 802 of the Penal code.

STATUTORY: Relating to a statute; created, defined, or required by a statute.

STIPULATION: (1) A material condition, requirement, or article in an agreement. (2) The name given to any agreement (written or verbal) made by the attorneys engaged on opposite sides of a case.

SUA SPONTE: Upon its own responsibility or motion, as an order, “sua sponte,” made by a Court without prior motion by either party.

SUBPOENA: (Also spelled “Subpoena”) A writ commanding the appearance of a witness or party in Court under a penalty in case of disobedience

SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM: A process by which the Court commands a witness who has some document in his/her possession that is pertinent to the issues of a pending controversy and are ordered to produce said documents at a hearing or trial.

SUBROGATION: The substitution of one person in the place of another with reference to a lawful claim, demand, or right, so that he/she who is substituted succeeds to the rights of the other in relation to the debt or claim, and its rights, remedies, or securities.

SUBSTITUTION OF ATTORNEY: A document filed with the clerk to place the Court on formal notification that there has been a change in the attorney of record for a particular party.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT: A decision of a Court concerning the merits of a lawsuit, which is rendered on the motion of a party, when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with any affidavits, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the party who made the motion is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. A summary judgment may be issued either for the plaintiff or defendant, and is issued as to the entire proceeding. When judgment is issued only as to a portion of the claim, it is called SUMMARY ADJUDICATION OF ISSUES.

SUMMONS: (1) Instrument used to commence a civil action or special proceeding and is a means of acquiring jurisdiction of a party. (2) Upon the filing of the complaint, the clerk is required to issue a summons and deliver it for service to the Marshal or to a person specially appointed to serve it. The summons shall be signed by the clerk, be under the seal of the Court, contain the name of the Court and the names of the parties, be directed to the defendant(s), state the name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney, if any, otherwise the plaintiff’s address, and the time within which the rules require the defendant to appear and defend the action and shall notify the defendant that in case of his failure to do so, a judgment by default will be rendered against him/her for the relief sought in the complaint.

SURETY: One who undertakes to pay money or do any other act in the event that his principal fails therein.

SUSPEND: To stay or delay for a period of time on certain conditions; to cause a process to cease for a period of time; to postpone, as a judicial sentence.

SUSTAIN: To grant, as when a judge sustains an objection to testimony or evidence, he or she agrees with the objection and gives it effect.


^ Back to Top

TAXATION OF COSTS: The process of ascertaining and adding up the amount of costs in an action to which a party is legally entitled, or which are legally chargeable. Adjustment; fixing the amount.

TESTIMONY: Evidence given by a witness under oath.

TRIAL DE NOVO: A trial which is held for a second time as if there had been no former decision.

TRIER OF FACT: (1) Term includes (a) the jury and (b) the Court when the Court is trying an issue of fact other than one relating to the admissibility of evidence. (2) Commonly refers to judge in a jury waived trial, or jury which, in either case, has the exclusive obligation to make findings of fact in contract to rulings of law which must be made by judge.


^ Back to Top

UNABLE TO SERVE: (As a Juror) If you have health problems, a paid vacation, or other personal commitments that cannot be rescheduled at the time you are initially called, a postponement may be available. If you have already received one postponement during the past 12 months, you will probably have to come to Court and speak to a judge to further delay your service.

UNANIMOUS: (Jury Verdict) There are 12 people on a jury trial, except when the parties in civil or misdemeanor cases agree that there may be fewer than 12. After the full jury in a criminal case, or three-fourths of them in a civil case, have agreed upon a verdict, the verdict is considered unanimous and the jury is brought back into the courtroom, where their foreperson reads the verdict. The verdict has to be in writing, signed by the foreperson, and must be read to the jury by the Court clerk or the judge.

UNLAWFUL DETAINER: (1) The unjustifiable retention of the possession of lands by one whose original entry was lawful and of right, but whose right to the possession has terminated and who refuses to quit, as in the case of a tenant holding over after the termination of the lease and in spite of a demand for possession by the landlord. (2) Actions of “unlawful detainer” concern only right of possession or realty, and differ from ejectment in that no ultimate question of title or estate can be determined.


^ Back to Top

VENUE: Venue deals with locality of suit, that is, with question of which Court, or Courts, of those that possess adequate personal and subject matter jurisdiction may hear the specific suit in question.

VERDICT: The formal decision of finding made by a jury and accepted by the Court after their deliberation upon the matters of fact submitted to them.

VOIR DIRE: Translated from the French it means, “to speak the truth.” The term is used synonymously in several different instances: (1) A preliminary examination of a prospective juror, in order to determine his or her qualification to serve as a juror. (2) Occasionally, a preliminary examination of a witness in order to determine his or her capacity to speak the truth or to be qualified as an expert witness.


^ Back to Top

WITNESS: One who can give a firsthand account of something, seen heard or experienced.

WRIT: An order issued from a Court requiring the performance of a specified act, or giving authority to have it done. Writs are either (a) prerogative, when the granting of them is in the discretion of the Court; or (b) of right, when the applicant is entitled as of course.

WRIT OF ATTACHMENT: A writ used to enforce obedience to an order or judgment of the Court; used primarily to seize a debtor’s property in order to secure the debt or a claim of the creditor in the event a judgment is rendered; in most states, including California, attachment is allowed at or after the commencement of the main action until entry of judgment.

WRIT OF EXECUTION: A writ to put in force the judgment or decree of a Court.

WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS: (ad subjiciendum) A writ directed to the person detaining another, and commanding him to produce the body of the prisoner, or person detained. This is the most common form of habeas corpus writ, the purpose of which is to test the legality of the detention or imprisonment; not whether he is guilty or not. Also used in Mental Health cases.

WRIT OF MANDAMUS: A writ which issues from a Court of superior jurisdiction, and is directed to a private or municipal corporation, or any of its officers, or to an executive, administrative or judicial officer, or to an inferior Court, commanding the performance of a particular act therein specified, and belonging to his/her or their public, official, or ministerial duty, or directing the restoration of the complainant to rights or privileges of which he/she has been illegally deprived.

WRIT OF PROHIBITION: A writ which issues from a Court of superior jurisdiction, and is directed to the judge and parties of a suit in an inferior Court, commanding them to cease from the prosecution of the same, upon a suggestion that the cause originally, or some collateral matter arising therein, does not belong to that jurisdiction, but to the cognizance of some other Court.


^ Back to Top


Was this helpful?

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.