Legal Glossary

Abstract Of Judgment Summary of the court’s final decision. Can be used as a lien if you file it with the county recorder.
Appeal When someone that loses at least part of a case asks a higher court to review the decision and say if it was right.
Adjudication The judge’s decision in a case or action.
Affidavit A written statement that someone swears to under oath in front of someone that is legally authorized, like a notary public.
Agent Someone that has authority to act for another.
Agent For Service The person designated by a business to receive legal papers on its behalf.
Allege To claim that something is true.
Bad Faith Handling something in a dishonest manner.
Best Interest of the Child The standard that courts use to make custody decisions. To make this decision, the court considers factors related to the child’s health, safety, and welfare.
Case Number A number given by the court to identify your specific case.
Citation The court order that tells a person what they are charged with and when to go to court.
Cited When a defendant signs a ticket promising to go to court on a certain day; can be used for any infraction, city or county ordinance, or misdemeanor.
Court Clerk A person chosen by the judges to help manage cases, keep court records, and deal with financial matters.
Certified Copy A copy of a document vouched for as an exact copy by the person responsible for maintaining the original.
Commissioner A person chosen by the court and given the power to hear and make decisions in certain kinds of legal matters.
Concealment Not giving information that one knows should be disclosed.
Conditional Judgment A judgment that only goes into effect if something does or does not take place. Usually this means a person has to do something by a certain date or else they owe the other person money. For example, if you do not cut down your tree within 7 days you have to pay your neighbor $1,000. If you cut down the tree the next day, you do not owe money. If you don’t cut down your tree after a week, you owe the money.
Continuance A request to postpone a court date.
Costs Many court cases involve expenses in addition to attorney’s fees. These expenses are often referred to as "costs" and include filing fees, service of process, witness fees, investigator fees, photocopy and telephone expenses, fees to obtain copies of records, etc.
Damages Money paid to a person who has been injured by the actions of another person.
Debtors Examination A court procedure that a judgment creditor may use to make a judgment debtor provide the information about his or her income and assets.
Declaration A written statement made to the court that the signer swears is true.
Defamation When a person hurts another person’s character or reputation by purposely making false and mean statements about the person.
Default Judgment A court decision in favor of one side when the other side does not answer or go to court on the court date.
Defect A flaw in a product that makes it unusable or harmful.
Discovery The process of gathering information, such as documents or testimony, before a case goes to trial.
Domestic Violence Abusive behavior used by a former or current intimate partner or close family member to hurt or dominate the other person. The abuse may be sexual, physical, emotional, psychological, or financial. The abuse may be an action or a threat.
Engineering Traffic Survey Speed limits can only be enforced using radar when speed limits are determined by an Engineering and Traffic Survey. An Engineering and Traffic Survey is an engineering analysis of the prevailing speeds and a review of the traffic conditions of the roadway.
Evidence Documents, what people say in court, or physical objects used as proof in court.
Emancipation A legal way for children to become adults before they're 18. Once a child is emancipated, his or her parents don't have control of him or her anymore. This can happen in a legal court process, if a minor marries, or joins the military.
Endorsed Filed Copies Copies of court papers that are stamped to show when they were filed.
Felony A serious crime that can be punished by more than 1 year in prison.
File Giving court papers to the court clerk to place in the case file.
False Imprisonment Holding a person against his or her will by force or threats.
Fee Waiver Permission not to pay the court's filing fees. People with very low income can ask the court to allow them to not pay court fees.
Forfeiture The loss of property due to breaking the law.
Fraud An intentional lie told to get a person to act in a way which will harm him or her.
Guarantor A person that promises to be responsible for the debt of another person if that person does not pay the debt on time.
Guardian Ad Litem A person appointed by a judge to look after the interests of a minor or an incapacitated person in a court proceeding.
Hearing Going before a judge to ask him or her to make a decision.
Infraction A minor violation of a law that can't be punished by time in prison.
Interest A fee for using or not paying money. It is usually a percent of the amount of money borrowed or owed.
Judge A specially trained and qualified person who runs a courtroom, decides all legal questions, and decides entire case in areas such as family law where there is no jury.
Judgment The decision of a judge at the end of the case.
Levying Officer A sheriff that is given the power to take, tax or fine a judgment debtor's property.
Legal Duty A legal relationship in which a person owes something to someone. Failing to do this may result in legal liability. For example, parents have legal duty to supervise their children and may get in trouble with the law if they do not.
Legally Competant Being able and qualified to take part in legal proceeding and transactions. Many factors go into deciding if someone is able and qualified, including mental condition, age, and maturity. For example, minors cannot make certain legal decisions due to their age.
Levy When a sheriff enforces a judgment by taking property, for example, money, a car or a house.
Libel Untruthful written material that hurts a person's reputation.
Lien A claim against property that may be used to repay a debt.
Misdemeanor A crime that can be punished by up to 1 year in jail.
Mediation An attempt to resolve a dispute by having a neutral person help the parties reach an agreement.
Misrepresentation Misstating facts to obtain money or a benefits that you are not entitled to have.
Motion An oral or written request to the court to do something specific.
Negligence The failure to do something that a reasonable person would do in a similar situation that can cause harm to a person or their property.
Notary Public A person who authenticates a signature by determining that the person signing is truly the person of that name.
Notice Formal notification to the party that has been sued in a civil case of the fact that the lawsuit has been filed.
Nuisance Something that gets in the way with the use of property by being irritating, offensive, or dangerous. For example, a dog’s loud barking every night late into the night or air pollution may be a nuisance.
Personal Service Delivering court papers to a person in his or her hand. The papers may be placed beside the person if he or she refuses to take them.
Petition The document that starts a lawsuit.
Petitioner The person who first files the lawsuit.
Presume When a court is allowed to assume a fact. In some cases, there are ways to prove that a presumption is untrue.
Proof Of Service The document proving that the other party was properly given copies of the court papers.
Penalty Punishment for breaking a law, may be in the form of a fine, forfeiture of property, or imprisonment.
Penalty Of Perjury When a person swears that what he or she says is true and that he or she will be guilty of a crime if what he or she said is a lie.
Relinquish To give up. In adoption cases, this means the parent voluntarily gives up his or her parental rights.
Respondent The person against whom a legal case was originally filed. If you did not file the petition to start a court case, and you are named in the case, you are the respondent.
Serve Giving court papers to the other party.
Serve And Service Giving court papers to the other party.
Service Of Process The formal delivery of court papers to other parties in a case. The papers must be delivered by someone 18 or older that is not involved in the case and that swears to how and when the papers were delivered.
Summons A written notice to a party that a lawsuit was filed and how to respond.
Slander An untruthful spoken statement that hurts a person's reputation.
Statute Of Limitations The period of time within which a case must be started.
Subpoena A court order requiring an individual to come and talk under oath in court.
Subpoena Duces Tecum A court order requiring a person to bring to court specific documents or other items.
Termination of Parent Rights When a Judge makes a decision to end a parent or legal guardian’s rights or obligations over his or her child or children.
Temporary Judge An attorney that volunteers his or her time to hear and decide cases
Trespass Going on someone’s property without permission.
Vacate To cancel or end an order by the court.
Venue The specific court where a case can be filed.
Without Prejudice A dismissal of a lawsuit without prejudice means the case can be filed again if it is filed within the statute of limitations.
With Prejudice A dismissal of a lawsuit with prejudice means that the same case cannot be filed again.
Wage Garnishment The legal steps to make an employer of a judgment debtor hold back a portion of his or her salary to pay a judgment. Also used to order an employer to transfer parts of future wage payments to pay a debt, like child support.