TBD | Legal Glossary for Pro Se Litigants
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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
A05Abuse of Processcommitting a legal act with an ulterior motive (see frivolous)
A06Actiona judicial proceeding
A07Adjudicationthe legal determination of a claim/case/controversy
A08Administrative Agencya governmental/regulatory body that oversees a set of laws
A09Administrative Law Judgethe hearing officer who makes findings of fact regarding executive action
A10Admissible Evidenceinformation that a Court can use in its adjudication
A11Adverse Inferencewhatever you're hiding must be good/incriminating
A12Advocatesomeone who provides legal assistance to a party
A13Affiantthe author of an affidavit
A14Affidavita sworn written statement under oath
A15Affirmationa sworn acknowledgment of truth (subject to penalties of perjury)
A16Agentsomeone who represents another entity (consider with master-servant)
A17Allegationan assertion of fact that the issuing party intends to prove
A18Alt. Dispute Resolutionthe ways to conclude a suit without trial (eg arbitration, mediation...)
A19Amendalter/update (eg amend a pleading)
A20Ancillary Jurisdictionauthority over an auxiliary claim even if that claim wasn't explicitly stated
A21Apparent Authoritypresumed authority (consider with principal)
A22Appeala request to a higher court to review the decision of a lower court
A23Appearanceshowing up in court to prosecute/defend an action
A24Appellantthe person who filed the appeal
A25Appellatea court that handles appeals
A26Appelleethe appellant's opponent
A27Arbiterthe person who conducts the arbitration hearing; needs courts confirmation
A28Arbitrationa method of alternative dispute resolution which does not require trial
A29Arbitratorthe person who conducts the arbitration hearing; decision is final
A30Attorney-Client Privilegeconfidentiality applied when someone consults with a lawyer (see privilege)
A31Attorney Generalthe top cop
A32Authoritythe power to govern over someone/something
A33Awardthe relief/remedy granted by an arbiter
IDTermShort Definition
B01Bad Faithunderhanded/dishonest/defiant conduct (see misconduct, perjury, sanction)
B02Barprohibit; preclude
B03Bequesta gift/grant/payment/reward
B04Bindingobligatory (usually set by an appellate court opinion)
B05Bona Fide Occupational Qualification(BFOQ); characteristic of a job that requires discrimination
B06Briberygiving a public official money/gifts in order to influence an official act
B07Briefa legal pleading (usually in an appellate case)
B08Burden of Proofan aspect of adjudication that requires a party to produce evidence
IDTermShort Definition
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
C05Cfcompare (latin) (often used in appellate opinions)
C06Chanceryequity (old english term)
C07Circuit Courta judicial court that is comprised of many smaller courts
C08Circumstantial Evidenceindirect information that can be used to infer the material facts
C09Claimfacts that give rise to a court's adjudication
C10Clerkthe person who handles many of the court's clerical duties
C11Coercionforcing someone to do something against their free will
C12Cogentcompelling (usually in the context of a legal argument)
C13Cognizablewithin a court's jurisdiction
C14Collateral Attacka legal action that assails the final judgment of a prior case (eg, habeas corpus)
C15Collateral Estoppelissue preclusion; previously litigated matters cannot be re-litigated
C16Color of Lawofficial capacity or even proxy-official capacity
C17Comitydeferring to another jurisdiction
C18Commerce Clauseclause in Art I. §8 US granting Congress power to regulate interstate commerce
C19Common Lawadjudication based on precedent
C20Competent Substantial Evidenceevidence that is fact-based; open for cross examination; and satisfactory to a reasonable mind.
C21Complainantthe person who initiated legal action (context ≈ administrative agency)
C22Concealmenthiding/destroying material evidence (see spoilation)
C23Conciliationa method of alternative dispute resolution that doesn't require trial
C24Conditiona prerequisite needed to spark a subsequent legal action
C25Confrontation Clausea right for the accused to confront his/her accuser (see 6th Amendment)
C26Consentagreement; often a key element in legal cases
C27Consent Judgmentan agreement between two parties on final judgment (compare settlement)
C28Constitutionfundamental principles of law created by a government
C29Constructionthe way to interpret ambigious statutes
C30Constructive Knowledgea substitute for actual knowledge
C31Contemptdisrepecting or disobeying court orders
C32Contracta legal agreement
C33Contractora party to an agreement (compare independent contractor with servant)
C34Contumacycontemptuous; disrepecting or disobeying court orders
C35Courtpractical expression of the judicial branch of government
C36Counselattorney/lawyer; or - in a different context - to advocate
C37Court of Equitya court that deals with fairness
C38Court of Lawa court that deals with law
C39Court Reporterthe person who transcribes testimony
C40Cross Examinationasking a witness questions [on the stand] after he/she testified
C41Curtilagethe immediate area surrounding a building
IDTermShort Definition
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)
D04De Factobased on fact/practice/tradition (compare with de jure)
D05Defaultfailure to perform a duty
D06Default Judgmentjudgment against a Defendant for that Defendant's failure to answer the complaint
D07Defensedenial/answer/plea disputing the validity of the plaintiff's case
D08DeJurebased on law/rule (compare with de facto)
D09De Minimistrifling/small; not worthy of legal attention
D10Demurrebut a complaint by saying that it is legally insufficient
D11Demurrerformal demur
D12De Novoanew (start a subsequent proceeding as if the first one never happened)
D13Depositiona judicial interrogation of a witness (taken under oath)
D14Dictumadditional, non-binding reasoning in an opinion
D15Direct Evidenceinformation that is not open to interpretation of the material facts
D16Discoverythe process of recovering evidence pertinent to a case
D17Discretionfreedom to choose
D18Discriminationunequal treatment
D19Dismissalterminating a case; usually without adjudicating the merits of it
D20Dispositionclosing a case
D21Disqualificationremoval from a case due to impropriety (also see recusal)
D22District Courta federal court that has territorial jurisdiction
D23Diversity (Citizenship)the rule that says people of different states can litigate in federal court
D24Docketthe record of documents that are before the court
D25Documentinformation submitted to the court (writings/recordings/etc.)
D26Double Jeopardyprosecution/punishment twice for the same offense (also see res judicata)
D27Due Processlegal fairness (characterized by notice and an opportunity to be heard)
IDTermShort Definition
E01En Bancall of the judges (ie, entire bank of judges) - primarily for appellate decisions
E02Enjoinstop/prevent (see injunction)
E03Equal ProtectionFourteenth Amendment clause prohibiting discrimination in the legal system
E05Equitable Estoppelpreventing the harm caused when an authority misleads an individual
E07Erroneousmistakes/misgivings that were committed within one's authority
E08Establishment ClauseFirst Amendment language prohibiting religious legislation
E10Evidenceinformation pertinent to a case
E11Exceptionlegal objection to a ruling
E12Executive Branchthe branch of government that executes/enforces the law
E13Exhibitsinformation submitted as evidence
E14Exigent Circumstancessevere calamity that makes standard procedures more malleable
E15Ex Parteone-sided communication with the Court/Judge
E16Expert Witnesssomeone who testifies about a matter he/she has skill/knowledge of
E17Expressformally disclosed in written/oral format
E18Expressio Unius...Lat.: if it's not expressly written in the statute then it was meant to be excluded
E19Ex Rel.lawsuit initiated by a private individual, but between the government and another individual
E20Extrinsic Fraudfake junk that will infringe upon due process rights to a fair trial
IDTermShort Definition
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
F06First Impressiona case/controversy that no court has encountered until now
F07Forma Pauperispoor person status; access to Court without prepayment of costs/fees
F08Forumthe area for which conduct occurs
F09Forum Non Conveniensa court that is not convenient for the witnesses and/or parties
F10Fraudfake/underhanded junk that is harmful
F11Free Exercise ClauseFirst Amendment language prohibiting government infringment on the right to worship
F12Frivolousa weak claim that cannot be litigated
IDTermShort Definition
G01Good Causerational
G02Good Faithvirtuous, pure, (devoid of frivolity)
G03Gravamenthe main point
IDTermShort Definition
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
H05Holdingbinding, authoritative part of a decision/opinion
IDTermShort Definition
I01Ida continuation of the cited text (abbreviation for latin word "idem")
I03Immunitya preclusion on liability
I04Impliedinferred from facts/circumstances (compare express)
I05Indigentpoor person status; access to Court without prepayment of costs/fees
I06Inferencea preliminary conclusion based on facts/allegations (also see presumption)
I07Inferior Courtthe court whose decisions can be reviewed by an appellate court
I08Infralatin word for below; (antonym to supra)
I09Injunctionpreventative remedy
I10Injuryharm/loss that must be remedied
I11In Limineat the threshold/beginning (see motion in limine)
I12In Rea legal action with only one party (latin for "in the matter of")
I14Interrogatorydiscovery tool that asks an entity questions under oath (usually in writing)
I15Interventionallowing an affected person/organization to enter a lawsuit
I16Intrinsic Fraudfake/underhanded junk that was used in an important ruling
I17Invidiousnasty, vile strain of discrimination
I18Irreparable Harmimminent injury that cannot be remedied with money (eg, wife will kill me)
I19Issuea disputed point/fact
IDTermShort Definition
J01Joinderuniting several causes of action or parties
J02Judgmentfinal decision on the facts and law of a case
J03Judicialpertaining to the application of law
J04Judicial Economyconservation of judicial resources/effort
J05Judicial Estoppelprevention of self-induced contradictions
J06Judicial Immunityprotection against liability for discretionary/jurisdictional acts performed on duty
J07Judicial Noticethe court's recognition of indisputable fact derived from irrefutable sources
J08Judicial Reviewappellate proceeding
J09Jurisdictionpower to adjudicate
J10Jurisdictional Amountthe monetary threshold to invoke jurisdiction
J11Jurisprudencethe science of law
J12Justiciablean issue that a court can remedy, because it meets certain criteria
IDTermShort Definition
K01Kangaroo Courta tribunal that is biased and flimsy with the law
IDTermShort Definition
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
IDTermShort Definition
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
M12Mesnemiddle; as in mesne process (see Rule 1.160 Fla. R. Civ. P.)
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
M17Mootan issue/claim that is no longer active
M18Motionrequest to the court
M19Motion in Liminerequest to exclude prejudicial evidence
IDTermShort Definition
N01Notary Publica person who verifies a person's oath/attestation
N02Noticelegal affirmation of knowledge of an important legal matter
IDTermShort Definition
O01Oatha sworn statement taken under the penalty of perjury
O02Obiter Dictaadditional, non-binding statements made in a court opinion
O03Objectionthe primary form of legal opposition
O04Officera person who has authority in a public domain
O05Omissionto fail to do something (for which you have a duty to complete)
O06Opinionthe Court's explanation of its final decision
O07Ordera court ruling
O08Original Jurisdictionauthority to consider and decide a case in the first instance
O09Overruleto deny an objection; to void a previous judgment
IDTermShort Definition
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
P09Plaintiff in Errorappellant (old-fashioned word)
P10Pleadingsbriefs/documents/motions that form the pillars of a legal dispute
P11Precedentpreviously decided case that acts as authority for disposing of future cases
P13Prep. of Evidencethe standard for adjudication that is loosely based on a 50-50 proposition
P14Presumptiona preliminary conclusion based on facts/allegations (also see inference)
P15Pretrial Conferencea formal meeting to discuss the case
P16Prima Facieat face value; indicating a party's claims merit consideration
P17Principalthe person who acts as the company (also see agent)
P18Privilegea legal sanctuary that prevents disclosure of sacred information
P19Privysurrogate; proxy; (useful term in evaluating res judicata)
P20Pro Bonofree legal representation
P21Proceedingthe succession of events in a legal action
P22Process Servicedelivery of writs and orders to notify an entity of legal matters
P23Prolixityextraneous information in a pleading (see Rule 8 Fed. R. Civ. P.)
P24Pro Perone's own self
P25Pro Seself-represented litigant
P26Prosecutionthe act of suing someone/something
P27Protective Ordera request that a party/non-party be shielded from discovery
P28Public Officialan elected/appointed person holding a public office
IDTermShort Definition
Q01Quashthe annullment of a discovery request
Q02Questions of Lawlegal contentions that do not require an findings of fact (see Standard of Review)
Q03Quid Pro Quotransactional/harassing terms & conditions (I scratch your back, you scratch mine)
Q04Qui Tamtaking legal action on behalf of - and alongside (sometimes) - the government
Q05Quoruma panel of decision-makers
Q06Quo Warrantoan extraordinary writ that asks 'with what authority?'
IDTermShort Definition
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
R06Relation Backa legal operation permitting a recent event to be treated like a past event
R07Relatorthe private individual who initiated the ex rel proceeding
R08Releaseto forfeit a claim/issue (usually within the context of a settlement)
R09Reliefthe solution to the immediate problem (also see remedy)
R10Remandto send back (ie, an appellate court tells a lower court to correct something)
R11Remedythe cure for the alleged wrongdoing
R12Removaltransferring a case from one court to another
R13Renderissuing the final decision/verdict
R14Representativesomeone who acts for another person in a special capacity
R15Requests for Admissiondiscovery tool that asks a party to admit information
R18Res Judicataclaim preclusion; once a cause has been litigated it can't be re-litigated
R19Respondeat Superiorthe parent company/agency (ie, where the buck stops)
R20Respondentthe petitioner's opponent
R21Reviewto reexamine a case/action (usually by an appellate court)
R22Ripenessmaturation of facts that will permit adjudication
R23Ruleguidance on conduct
IDTermShort Definition
S01Sanctionpunish (in other contexts: reward)
S02Scienterguilty conscience
S03Seala stamp that authenticates a legal document
S04Separate but Equallongheld legal tradition commanding racial segregation
S05Servantthe person who takes the employee role (see independent contractor)
S06Settlementamicable resolution of matters
S07Shallmandatory; must. The term denotes a ministerial duty
S08Sham Pleadingan answer/complaint that is wholly false
S09Sovereignthe governing body that has dominion over a case
S10Sovereign Immunitythe government's protection against lawsuits (see 11th Amendment (US))
S11Spoilationhiding/destruction of material evidence (see concealment)
S12Standinga legal/legitimate right to sue/complaint
S13Stare Decisisprecedent
S14Statutea law
S15Statute of Limitationsthe time period in which claims must be made (or be forever barred)
S16Statutory Lawthe statutes created by the legislature
S17Stayto halt proceedings until further notice
S18Strict Constructionusing the literal meanings of statutes and laws
S19Strict Liabilityliability without fault (compare vicarious liability)
S20Strict Scrutinytaking a close look at a rule/statute that will impact fundamental rights
S21Sua Sponteon the court's own volition (a spontaneous act by the court)
S22Subject Matterthe topic for which the claims arise
S23Subpoenawrit commanding someone to appear in court, produce information; or do both.
S24Sui Jurisreaching emancipation/independence
S25Sum Certaindamages that can be calculated accurately (synonym for "liquidated damages")
S26Summary Judgmentfinal decision on the case that precludes the need for a trial/hearing
S27Summonsa writ commanding a defendant to answer to a complaint
S28Suppression of Evidenceblocking information from being used in a litigation
S29Supralatin word for above; (antonym of infra)
S30Supremacy ClauseArt. VI §2 US Constitution (the federal government rules over states)
S31Supreme Courtthe highest court of the land; the court of final review
S32Sustainto approve the request (ie, to approve an objection)
IDTermShort Definition
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)
T05Transcriptwritten record (verbatim) of an official proceeding
T06Traversea pleading that denies the allegations (eg, an answer/response)
T07Trial Courtthe court that adjudicates the facts and laws of a case
T08Tribunalthe governing body that has original jurisdiction
IDTermShort Definition
U01Ultra Viresexcess of authority
U02Unclean Handsactively causing the problem that you took legal action on
U03Unconstitutionalan act that does not conform with the constitution
IDTermShort Definition
V01Vacateto nullify [a prior order]
V02Venuethe place where the issues can be adjudicated
V03Verdictthe final decision handed down by the finder of fact
V04Vexatious Litigationexcessive/frivolous litigation
V05Vicarious Liabilitybeing held accountable for a subordinate's actions (see master-&-servant)
V06Voir Direprocess of evaluating prospective jurors
IDTermShort Definition
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
W05Willfulintentional; connoted with desire to inflict damage (also see wanton)
W06Witnesssomeone who supplies testimonies and/or affidavits
W07Writa legal order compelling someone to act
W08Writ of Prohibitiona legal order directing an officer/governing body to refrain from acting

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