TBD | Legal Glossary for Pro Se Litigants
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Legal Glossary

Common Legal Terms that You'll Likely Encounter in your Civil Rights Litigation

IDTermShort Definition
A01Abatementa pause (or a reduction) in a proceeding
A02Abeyancean incomplete state of affairs (compare with abatement)
A03Abrogateto cancel/repeal (usually in the context of legislation)
A04Abuse of Discretionto make arbitrary/unreasonable rulings; reversible on appeal
A05Actiona judicial proceeding
A06Adjudicationthe legal determination of a claim/case/controversy
A07Admissible Evidenceinformation that a Court can use in its adjudication
A08Administrative Agencya governmental/regulatory body that oversees a set of laws
A09Administrative Law Judgethe hearing officer who makes findings of fact regarding executive action
A10Advocatesomeone who provides legal assistance to a party
A11Affiantthe author of an affidavit
A12Affidavita sworn written statement under oath
A13Affirmationa sworn acknowledgment of truth (subject to penalties of perjury)
A14Agentsomeone who represents another entity (consider with master-servant)
A15Allegationan assertion of fact that the issuing party intends to prove
A16Alt. Dispute Resolutionthe ways to conclude a suit without trial (eg arbitration, mediation...)
A17Amendalter/update (eg amend a pleading)
A18Apparent Authoritypresumed authority (consider with principal)
A19Appeala request to a higher court to review the decision of a lower court
A20Appearanceshowing up in court to prosecute/defend an action
A21Appellantthe person who filed the appeal
A22Appellatea court that handles appeals
A23Appelleethe appellant's opponent
A24Arbiterthe person who conducts the arbitration hearing; needs courts confirmation
A25Arbitrationa method of alternative dispute resolution which does not require trial
A26Arbitratorthe person who conducts the arbitration hearing; decision is final
A27Attorney-Client Privilegeconfidentiality applied when someone consults with a lawyer (see privilege)
A28Attorney Generalthe top cop
A29Authoritythe power to govern over someone/something
A30Awardthe relief/remedy granted by an arbiter
B01Bad Faithunderhanded/dishonest/defiant conduct (see misconduct, perjury, sanction)
B02Barprohibit; preclude
B03Bequesta gift/grant/payment/reward
B04Briberygiving a public official money/gifts in order to influence an official act
B05Briefa legal pleading (usually in an appellate case)
B06Burden of Proofan aspect of adjudication that requires a party to produce evidence
C01Calumnyvilification/slander (usually found inside settlement agreements)
C02Casean action/cause/lawsuit
C03Cause of Actiona legal claim stemming from a specific event
C04Certiorari (Writ)a writ that a higher court uses to retrieve info from a lower one
C05Chanceryequity (old english term)
C06Circuit Courta judicial court that is comprised of many smaller courts
C07Circumstantial Evidenceindirect information that can be used to infer the material facts
C08Claimfacts that give rise to a court's adjudication
C09Clerkthe person who handles many of the court's clerical duties
C10Coercionforcing someone to do something against their free will
C11Cogentcompelling (usually in the context of a legal argument)
C12Cognizablewithin a court's jurisdiction
C13Collateral Estoppelissue preclusion; previously litigated matters cannot be re-litigated
C14Color of Lawofficial capacity or even proxy-official capacity
C15Common Lawadjudication based on precedent
C16Complainantthe person who initiated legal action (context ≈ administrative agency)
C17Conciliationa method of alternative dispute resolution that doesn't require trial
C18Conditiona prerequisite needed to spark a subsequent legal action
C19Confrontation Clausea right for the accused to confront his/her accuser (see 6th Amendment)
C20Constitutionfundamental principles of law created by a government
C21Constructive Knowledgea substitute for actual knowledge
C22Consent Judgmentan agreement between two parties on final judgment (compare settlement)
C23Contemptdisrepecting or disobeying court orders
C24Contracta legal agreement
C25Contractora party to an agreement (compare independent contractor with servant)
C26Courtpractical expression of the judicial branch of government
C27Counselattorney/lawyer; or - in a different context - to advocate
C28Court of Equitya court that deals with fairness
C29Court of Lawa court that deals with law
C30Cross Examinationasking a witness questions [on the stand] after he/she testified
C31Curtilagethe immediate area surrounding a building
D01Damagesthe relief sought as a remedy to the alleged wrongdoing
D02Declaratory Judgmenta court order stating the rights a person has in a particular situation
D03Decreea judgment/determination in a court of equity (eg, divorce decree)
D04Defaultfailure to perform a duty
D05Default Judgmentjudgment against a Defendant for that Defendant's failure to answer the complaint
D06Defensedenial/answer/plea disputing the validity of the plaintiff's case
D07De Novoanew (start a subsequent proceeding as if the first one never happened)
D08Depositiona judicial interrogation of a witness (taken under oath)
D09Direct Evidenceinformation that is not open to interpretation of the material facts
D10Discoverythe process of recovering evidence pertinent to a case
D11Discretionfreedom to choose
D12Discriminationunequal treatment
D13Dismissalterminating a case; usually without adjudicating the merits of it
D14Dispositionclosing a case
D15Disqualificationremoval from a case due to impropriety (also see recusal)
D16District Courta federal court that has territorial jurisdiction
D17Diversity (Citizenship)the rule that says people of different states can litigate in federal court
D18Docketthe record of documents that are before the court
D19Documentinformation submitted to the court (writings/recordings/etc.)
D20Double Jeopardyprosecution/punishment twice for the same offense (also see res judicata)
D21Due Processlegal fairness (characterized by notice and an opportunity to be heard)
E01En Bancall of the judges (ie, entire bank of judges) - primarily for appellate decisions
E03Equitable Estoppelpreventing the harm caused when an authority misleads an individual
E05Erroneousmistakes/misgivings that were committed within one's authority
E07Evidenceinformation pertinent to a case
E08Executive Branchthe branch of government that executes/enforces the law
E09Exhibitsinformation submitted as evidence
E10Exigent Circumstancessevere calamity that makes standard procedures more malleable
E11Ex Parteone-sided communication with the Court/Judge
E12Expert Witnesssomeone who testifies about a matter he/she has skill/knowledge of
E13Expressformally disclosed in written/oral format
E14Extrinsic Fraudfake junk that will infringe upon due process rights to a fair trial
F01Fact Finderthe person who makes determinations of fact
F02Federal Courtthe court system that handles federal matters of law
F03Fed. Quest. Jurisdictionwhether the legal controversy is based on a federal law
F04Fed. Tort. Claims Acta legislated waiver of sovereign immunity (see 28 USC §1346)
F05Filingsubmitting documents to the court
F06Forma Pauperispoor person status; access to Court without prepayment of costs/fees
F07Forumthe area for which conduct occurs
F08Fraudfake/underhanded junk that is harmful
F09Frivolousa weak claim that cannot be litigated
G01Good Causerational
G02Good Faithvirtuous, pure, (devoid of frivolity)
G03Gravamenthe main point
H01Harminjury/loss that must be remedied
H02Harmless Erroran error that [probably] didn't impact the outcome of the case
H03Hearinga less formal trial
H04Hearsaythird-party utterances; admissible in DOAH but not in Court
I01Ida continuation of the cited text (abbreviation for latin word "idem")
I02Immunitya preclusion on liability
I03Impliedinferred from facts/circumstances (compare express)
I04Indigentpoor person status; access to Court without prepayment of costs/fees
I05Inferencea preliminary conclusion based on facts/allegations (also see presumption)
I06Inferior Courtthe court whose decisions can be reviewed by an appellate court
I07Infralatin word for below; (antonym to supra)
I08Injunctionpreventative remedy
I09Injuryharm/loss that must be remedied
I10In Limineat the threshold/beginning (see motion in limine)
I12Interrogatorydiscovery tool that asks an entity questions under oath (usually in writing)
I13Interventionallowing an affected person/organization to enter a lawsuit
I14Intrinsic Fraudfake/underhanded junk that was used in an important ruling
I15Irreparable Harmimminent injury that cannot be remedied with money (eg, wife will kill me)
I16Issuea disputed point/fact
J01Joinderuniting several causes of action or parties
J02Judgmentfinal decision on the facts and law of a case
J03Judicialpertaining to the application of law
J04Judicial Estoppelprevention of self-induced contradictions
J05Judicial Immunityprotection against liability for discretionary/jurisdictional acts performed on duty
J06Judicial Noticethe court's recognition of indisputable fact derived from irrefutable sources
J07Judicial Reviewappellate proceeding
J08Jurisdictionpower to adjudicate
J09Jurisdictional Amountthe monetary threshold to invoke jurisdiction
J10Jurisprudencethe science of law
K01Kangaroo Courta tribunal that is biased and flimsy with the law
L01Lachesa defense against stale claims (see tolling and statutes of limitation)
L02Law of the Casethe doctrine which holds that previously decided issues cannot be reopened
L03Lay Witnesssomeone who testifies about stuff he/she has observed
L05Legislationpertaining to the creation of law
L06Liquidated Damagesdamages that can be determined with certainty (synonym for sum certain)
L07Litigationthe practice of suing
M01Magistratea judge who supports another judge during the proceeding
M02Maliceharmful/tortious intent
M03Mandamuswrit directing a public official to complete his/her ministerial duty
M04Mandatea command
M05Manifest Injusticeplain error that infringes someone's rights and impairs a fair proceeding
M06Marshalpublic officer who performs federal court duties (similar to a state Sheriff)
M07Master-and-Servantthe relationship type between an employer and an employee (compare with agent)
M08Materialnecessary, meaningful, pertinent to the adjudication of a matter
M09Mediationa method of alternative dispute resolution which does not result in a decision
M10Memorandumless formal brief
M11Meritthe facts & elements for a cause
M12Ministerial Actmandatory act that a public official must complete
M13Minutesa written/recorded summary of a meeting (see 28-102.002 FAC)
M14Miscarriage of Justicea court's error that impugns a fair proceeding
M15Misconductcorrupt behavior by a public officer
M16Mistrialcrucial error that requires a new trial
M17Motionrequest to the court
M18Motion in Liminerequest to exclude prejudicial evidence
N01Notary Publica person who verifies a person's oath/attestation
N02Noticelegal affirmation of knowledge of an important legal matter
O01Oatha sworn statement taken under the penalty of perjury
O02Objectionthe primary form of legal opposition
O03Officera person who has authority in a public domain
O04Omissionto fail to do something (for which you have a duty to complete)
O05Opinionthe Court's explanation of its final decision
O06Ordera court ruling
O07Original Jurisdictionauthority to consider and decide a case in the first instance
P01Partyindividuals/organizations directly involved in a legal dispute
P02Paupera poor person (see indigent)
P03Pecuniarytangible (refers to losses/damages)
P04Pendent Jurisdictionfederal court's authority to adjudicate state law claims on a federal case
P05Perjurylying under oath
P06Petitiona civil complaint/request
P07Petitionersynonymous with appellant, but signifies a different kind of action
P08Plain Erroran easy-to-see error that impairs a fair trial
P09Pleadingsbriefs/documents/motions that form the pillars of a legal dispute
P10Precedentpreviously decided case that acts as authority for disposing of future cases
P12Prep. of Evidencethe standard for adjudication that is loosely based on a 50-50 proposition
P13Presumptiona preliminary conclusion based on facts/allegations (also see inference)
P14Pretrial Conferencea formal meeting to discuss the case
P15Prima Facieat face value; indicating a party's claims merit consideration
P16Principalthe person who acts as the company (also see agent)
P17Privilegea legal sanctuary that prevents disclosure of sacred information
P18Pro Bonofree legal representation
P19Proceedingthe succession of events in a legal action
P20Process Servicedelivery of writs and orders to notify an entity of legal matters
P21Prolixityextraneous information in a pleading (see Rule 8 Fed. R. Civ. P.)
P22Pro Perone's own self
P23Pro Seself-represented litigant
P24Prosecutionthe act of suing someone/something
P25Protective Ordera request that a party/non-party be shielded from discovery
P26Public Officialan elected/appointed person holding a public office
Q01Quashthe annullment of a discovery request
Q02Questions of Lawlegal contentions that do not require an findings of fact (see Standard of Review)
Q03Qui Tamtaking legal action on behalf of - and alongside (sometimes) - the government
Q04Quoruma panel of decision-makers
Q05Quo Warrantoan extraordinary writ that asks 'with what authority?'
R01Rebuttal Evidenceinformation that contradicts an opponent's claim
R02Recordthe docket and all material submitted to the tribunal/court
R03Recusalthe removal of a judge from a case
R04Redressremedy/relief/solution to a legal woe
R05Rehearingto re-try the issues
R06Releaseto forfeit a claim/issue (usually within the context of a settlement)
R07Reliefthe solution to the immediate problem (also see remedy)
R08Remedythe cure for the alleged wrongdoing
R09Removaltransferring a case from one court to another
R10Renderissuing the final decision/verdict
R11Representativesomeone who acts for another person in a special capacity
R12Requests for Admissiondiscovery tool that asks a party to admit information
R15Res Judicataclaim preclusion; once a cause has been litigated it can't be re-litigated
R16Respondeat Superiorthe parent company/agency (ie, where the buck stops)
R17Respondentthe petitioner's opponent
R18Reviewto reexamine a case/action (usually by an appellate court)
R19Ruleguidance on conduct
S01Sanctionpunish (in other contexts: reward)
S02Scienterguilty conscience
S03Seala stamp that authenticates a legal document
S04Servantthe person who takes the employee role (see independent contractor)
S05Settlementamicable resolution of matters
S06Shallmandatory; must. The term denotes a ministerial duty
S07Sovereignthe governing body that has dominion over a case
S08Sovereign Immunitythe government's protection against lawsuits (see 11th Amendment (US))
S09Standinga legal/legitimate right to sue/complaint
S10Stare Decisisprecedent
S11Statutea law
S12Statute of Limitationsthe time period in which claims must be made (or be forever barred)
S13Statutory Lawthe statutes created by the legislature
S14Stayto halt proceedings until further notice
S15Sua Sponteon the court's own volition (a spontaneous act by the court)
S16Subject Matterthe topic for which the claims arise
S17Subpoenawrit commanding someone to appear in court, produce information; or do both.
S18Sui Jurisreaching emancipation/independence
S19Sum Certaindamages that can be calculated accurately (synonym for "liquidated damages")
S20Summary Judgmentfinal decision on the case that precludes the need for a trial/hearing
S21Summonsa writ commanding a defendant to answer to a complaint
S22Suppression of Evidenceblocking information from being used in a litigation
S23Supralatin word for above; (antonym of infra)
S24Supremacy ClauseArt. VI §2 US Constitution (the federal government rules over states)
S25Supreme Courtthe highest court of the land; the court of final review
S26Sustainto approve the request (ie, to approve an objection
T01Testimonyoral information submitted under oath
T02Tollextend the time to perform an act (see Statute of Limitations)
T03Torta wrong - in the eyes of society (eg. a judge committing perjury)
T04Tortfeasorone who wrongs another (within the confines of society's expectations)
T05Trial Courtthe court that adjudicates the facts and laws of a case
T06Transcriptwritten record (verbatim) of an official proceeding
T07Tribunalthe governing body that has original jurisdiction
U01Ultra Viresexcess of authority
U02Unclean Handsactively causing the problem that you took legal action on
U03Unconstitutionalan act that does not conform with the constitution
V01Venuethe place where the issues can be adjudicated
V02Verdictthe final decision handed down by the finder of fact
V03Vexatious Litigationexcessive/frivolous litigation
V04Vicarious Liabilitybeing held accountable for a subordinate's actions (see master-&-servant)
W01Waiversurrendering a right/requirement
W02Wantonreckless disregard
W03Warrantan order from a judge that permits search/seizure (see 4th Amendment)
W04Weight of the Evidencehow important the information is
W05Witnesssomeone who supplies testimonies and/or affidavits
W06Writa legal order compelling someone to act
W07Writ of Prohibitiona legal order directing an officer/governing body to refrain from acting

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