courts and procedure

A fortiori

Definition

A Latin term meaning literally 'from [the] stronger'. Translated into English and used in the particular context of legal writing, the term often means 'from [the] stronger [argument]'. If a particular fact is true, then one can infer that a...

A priori

Definition

A Latin term meaning "from what comes before."  In legal arguments, a priori generally means that a particular idea is taken as a given.

Ab initio

Definition

A Latin term meaning "from the beginning."  Used to indicate that some fact existed from the start of a relevant time period.

Abrogate

Definitions

To formally annul or repeal a law through an act of the legislature, constitutional authority, or custom. In contract and insurance law, it is to rescind or terminate a contract.

In constitutional law, the abrogation doctrine...

Absentee Ballot

Definition

A paper ballot submitted, before an election day and often by mail, by a voter who is unable to attend the official polling station on election day.  Also called absentee vote.

Absolute Disparity

Definition

A calculation used to analyze a claim that a jury pool did not represent a fair cross-section of the community. Calculated by subtracting the percentage of a group in the jury pool from the percentage of that group in the general population...

Abstract

See alsoAbstract of judgmentAbstract of titleAbstract of trust

Abstract of Judgment

 

See also

Abstract

 

Abuse of Discretion

Definition

A standard of review used by appellate courts to review decisions of lower courts. The appellate court will typically find that the decision was an abuse of discretion if the discretionary decision was made in plain error. 

Overview...

Acceptance of Service

Definition

Agreement by the defendant (or the defendant's attorney) to accept papers or a complaint without having the papers served by a process server or a sheriff.  Acceptance of service is accomplished by signing a "receipt and acknowledgment...

Adhesion Contract (Contract of Adhesion)

Overview

An adhesion contract (also called a "standard form contract" or a "boilerplate contract")  is a contract drafted by one party (usually a business with stronger bargaining power) and signed by another party (usually one...

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

Definition

An independent hearing examiner who presides at an administrative hearing. An ALJ has the power to administer oaths, receive evidence, take testimony, and make initial findings of fact or law. An ALJ’s findings are subject to review...

Admissible Evidence

Definition

Evidence that is formally presented before the trier of fact (i.e., the judge or jury) to consider in deciding the case. The trial court judge determines whether or not the evidence may be proffered. To be admissible in court, the...

Admission

Definition

1) A person's, in particular a party's, statement acknowledging that a certain fact is true or silence after another party's assertion of a fact that, if false, would typically elicit a denial. 2) Admission by a party-opponent: an out-of-...

After-Discovered Evidence

Definition

In a civil or criminal case, evidence that existed at the time of a motion or trial but that could not have been discovered with reasonable diligence prior to a court ruling upon the motion or the trial's completion. Upon later discovery, a...

Allen Charge

Definition

An instruction given by a court to a deadlocked jury to encourage it to continue deliberating until it reaches a verdict. Some states prohibit Allen charges, because they deem them coercive, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their use in...

Amicus Curiae

Latin for "friend of the court." Plural is "amici curiae." Frequently, a person or group who is not a party to an action, but has a strong interest in the matter, will petition the court for permission to submit a brief in the action with the...

Appellate Procedure

Appellate Procedure: An Overview

Appellate procedure consists of the rules and practices by which appellate courts review trial court judgments. Appellate review performs several functions, including correcting errors committed by a trial court,...

Approach

Definition

To move towards the bench in order to have a conversation with the judge and opposing counsel off the record and/or out of the jury's earshot. An attorney or juror (during voir dire) must request to approach the bench, i.e. "Your honor,...

Approach the Witness

Definition

To move towards a witness in order to show him or her a document or exhibit. In some jurisdictions, an attorney must request to approach a witness, i.e. "May I approach the witness?"

Illustrative caselaw

See, e.g. Michaels v. State, 970...

Arm's Length

Definition

Of or relating to transactions between two parties who are independent and do not have a close relationship with each other. Presumably, these parties have equal bargaining power and are not subject to undue pressure or influence from...

Arraignment

Definition

The first step in criminal proceeding where the defendant is brought in front of the court to hear the charges and enter a plea.

Illustrative caselaw

See, e.g. County of Riverside v. McLaughlin 500 U.S. 44 (1991) and Godinez v. Moran,...

Arrest

An arrest is using legal authority to deprive a person of his or her freedom of movement.  An arrest is generally made with an arrest warrant.  An arrest may be made without a warrant if probable cause and exigent circumstances are presented...

Attest

Definition

To testify or confirm that something is true, genuine, or authentic. See attestation. 

Illustrative case law

See, e.g. Keely v. Moore, 196 U.S. 38 (1904).

See alsoAttestation clauseEstates and trusts

Attestation

Definition

Testimony or confirmation that something is true, genuine, or authentic. An attestation is frequently in writing. For example, a witness attests a will by signing it; his or her signature may confirm, inter alia, that he or she...

Attestation Clause

Definition

A clause at the end of a document, in particular a will, which sets forth the legal requirements the document must satisfy, states that those requirements have been met, and is signed by one or more witnesses. An attestation clause...

Attorney

Definition

1) Someone authorized to practice law; a lawyer. Also called attorney-at-law and public attorney.

2) Less commonly, an agent authorized to act on behalf of another person, but not necessarily authorized to practice law, e.g. a person...

Attorney at Law (or Attorney-At-Law)

Definition

Someone authorized to practice law; a lawyer. Also called attorney and public attorney.

Illustrative caselaw

See, e.g. Supreme Court of Virginia v. Consumers Union of U.S., Inc., 446 U.S. 719 (1980).

See alsoAttorney-in-factAttorney...

Attorney Fees

Definition

See attorney's fees (or attorneys' fees).

Attorney General

Definition

The chief law enforcement officer of the federal government or a state. The U.S. Attorney General represents the United States in litigation, oversees federal prosecutors, and advises the President and heads of federal, executive departments...

Attorney of Record

Definition

1) A lawyer who appears in court or receives pleadings and other formal documents on a party's behalf. Also known as counsel of record.

2) In patent and trademark law, a lawyer or agent named in a power of attorney filed by a...

Attorney Work Product

Definition

Written or oral materials prepared by or for an attorney in the course of legal representation, especially in preparation for litigation. Generally, an opposing party may not discover or compel disclosure of work product. In limited...

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