Laws Encyclopedia

Laws Encyclopedia

If you would like to prepare for school subjects or simply increase your general knowledge, then enjoy our laws encyclopedia. We tried to focus only on very important terms and definitions. We also kept our terminology very brief so that you absorb the concept more quickly and easily.

Laws Glossary (Page 1)


ABSTRACT OF TITLE: A chronological summary of all official records and recorded documents affecting the title to a parcel of real property.
ABUSE: See domestic violence.
ACCEPTANCE: The taking and receiving of anything in good faith with the intention of retaining it.
ACCOMPLICE: 1. A partner in a crime. 2. A person who knowingly and voluntarily participates with another in a criminal activity.
ACCRETION: The increase or accumulation of land by natural causes, as out of a lake or river.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT: A formal declaration before an authorized official by the person who executed an instrument that it is his free act and deed; the certificate of the official on such instrument attesting that it was so acknowledged.
ACQUIT: The act of freeing a person from the charge of an offense by means of a decision, verdict or other legal process; to discharge.
ACQUITTAL: A jury verdict that a criminal defendant is not guilty, or the finding of a judge that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction.
ACTION: A civil judicial proceeding whereby one party prosecutes another for a wrong done or for protection of a right or prevention of a wrong; requires service of process on adversary party or potentially adversary party.
ACTION CASE: Cause, suit, or controversy disputed or contested before a court of justice.
ACTIVE JUDGE: A judge in the full-time service of the court. Compare to senior judge.
ACTUAL PLACE OF BUSINESS: Any location that the defendant, through regular solicitation or advertisement, has held out as its place of business (sec. 308.6 CPLR).
ACTUARIAL VALUE: Actuarial value is a mathematical calculation, often of the financial condition of a retirement plan.
AD DAMNUM: Clause of a pleading alleging amount of loss or injury.
ADDITUR: An increase by a judge in the amount of damages awarded by a jury.
ADJECTIVE LAW: Also, procedural law. That body of law which governs the process of protecting the rights under substantive law.
ADJOURNMENT: A temporary postponement of the proceedings of a case until a specified future time.
ADJUDICATE: To hear or try and determine judicially.
ADJUDICATION: Giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree. Also the judgment given.
ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES: Agencies created by the legislative branch of government to administer laws pertaining to specific areas such as taxes, transportation, and labor.
ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES COURTS: The federal agency responsible for collecting court statistics, administering the federal courts' budget, and performing many other administrative and programmatic functions, under the direction and supervision of the Judicial Conference of the United States.
ADMINISTRATOR: 1. One who administers the estate of a person who dies without a will. 2. A court official.
ADMIRALTY LAW: Also, maritime law. That body of law relating to ships, shipping, marine commerce and navigation, transportation of persons or property by sea, etc.
ADMISSIBLE: A term used to describe evidence that may be considered by a jury or judge in civil and criminal cases.
ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE: Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.
ADMONISH: To advise or caution. For example the court may caution or admonish counsel for wrong practices.
ADOPTION: A court action in which an adult assumes legal and all other responsibilities for a child, creating a permanent parent-child relationship.
ADVANCE SHEETS: Paperback pamphlets published by law book publishers weekly or monthly which contain reporter cases, including correct volume number and page number. When there are sufficient cases, they are replaced by a bound volume.
ADVERSARY: An opponent. The defendant is the plaintiff's adversary.
ADVERSARY PROCEEDING: A lawsuit arising in or related to a bankruptcy case that begins by filing a complaint with the court, that is, a "trial" that takes place within the context of a bankruptcy case.
ADVERSARY SYSTEM: The system of trial practice in the U.S. and some other countries in which each of the opposing, or adversary, parties has full opportunity to present and establish its opposing contentions before the court.
ADVERSE POSSESSION: Method of acquiring real property under certain conditions by possession for a statutory period.
ADVOCATE: Someone who helps and supports another person. An advocate will "take sides" and promote his or her client's view or interests.
AFFIANT: One who swears to an affidavit; deponent.
AFFIDAVIT: A sworn or affirmed statement made in writing and signed; if sworn, it is notarized.
AFFIDAVIT AND MEMORANDUM: The sworn statement and argument filed with a motion.
AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE: An affidavit intended to certify the service of a writ, notice, or other document.
AFFINITY: Related by marriage; family relation from one's spouse's family.
AFFIRM: An act of declaring something to be true under the penalty of perjury by a person who conscientiously declines to take an oath for religious or other pertinent reasons.
AFFIRMATION: A solemn and formal declaration that an affidavit is true. This is substituted for an oath in certain cases.
AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE: A claim the defendant would make in his or her answer that attacks the plaintiff's legal right to bring an action, as opposed to attacking the truth of a claim raised in the complaint. The defendant's goal in raising an affirmative defense is to stop the case from moving ahead because it is legally improper. If you don't raise an affirmative defense in your answer for the court to consider, you may lose the opportunity to raise it later in the case. See the Answer to Divorce with Children form for examples of some affirmative defenses.
AFFIRMED: In the practice of appellate courts, the word means that the decision of the trial court is correct.
AGREEMENT: A complete understanding between both sides. You can agree one issue or many. If you reach an agreement with the other side on all issues, you can ask the judge for a hearing to put your agreement on the record.
AID AND ABET: To actively, knowingly, or intentionally assist another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime.
ALIEN: A foreign-born person who has not qualified as a citizen of the country.
ALIMONY: Money paid by a divorced husband or wife to the ex-spouse for personal support. In Alaska, this is generally called spousal support, and is only awarded under certain circumstances.
ALLEGATION: A statement of the issues in a written document (a pleading) which a person is prepared to prove in court.
ALLEGE: To assert a fact in a pleading.
ALTERATION: Changing or making different.
ALTERNATE JUROR: A juror selected as substitute in case another juror must leave the jury panel.
ALTERNATE PAYEE: A retirement plan participant's spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent who has a right to receive all, or a portion of the participant's retirement benefits under a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).
ALTERNATE SERVICE: Normally, when you start a case you are required to serve the defendant by process server or certified mail/restricted delivery/return receipt. But, sometimes you can't find the defendant so you can ask the court for permission to serve the defendant in a different way - by publishing notice of the case in a newspaper or posting at a shelter or some other location the defendant is known to go.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION: Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement, among others.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (ADR): A procedure for settling a dispute outside the courtroom. Most forms of ADR are not binding, and involve referral of the case to a neutral party such as an arbitrator or mediator.
AMEND: To change, improve, or correct a document that has already been filed with the court.
AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION: A national association of lawyers whose primary purpose is improvement of lawyers and the administration of justice.
AMERICAN LAW REPORTS: A publication which reports cases from all United States jurisdictions by subject matter.
AMICUS CURIAE: A Friend of the Court. A non-party to a proceeding that the Court permits to present its views.
ANCILLARY: A proceeding which is auxiliary or subordinate to another proceeding. In probate, a proceeding in a state where a decedent owned property but was not domiciled.
ANNOTATIONS: Remarks, notes, case summaries, or commentaries following statutes which describe interpretations of the statute.
ANNUITY: A contract sold by an insurance company designed to provide payments to the holder of the annuity at specified regular time periods, usually after retirement.
ANNUL: To make void, as to dissolve the bonds of marriage.
ANNULMENT: In some states, courts will grant an annulment of a marriage which declares that a marriage was never valid. In Alaska there is no court action called an annulment, but a court may declare a marriage void for specific reasons.
ANSWER: A formal, written statement by the defendant in a lawsuit which answers each allegation contained in the complaint.
ANSWERS TO INTERROGATORIES: A formal written statement by a party to a lawsuit which answers each question or interrogatory propounded by the other party. These answers must be acknowledged before a notary public or other person authorized to take acknowledgments.
ANTITRUST ACTS: Federal and state statutes to protect trade and commerce from unlawful restraints, price discriminations, price fixing, and monopolies.
APPEAL: A losing party may ask a higher court to review a lower court's decision - this is called "taking an appeal." Appeals normally focus on questions of law as applied in the case, not questions of fact.
APPEAL BOND: A guaranty by the appealing party insuring that court costs will be paid.
APPEARANCE: The act of coming into court as a party to a suit either in person or through an attorney.
APPELLANT: The party who appeals a district court's decision, usually seeking reversal of that decision.
APPELLATE: About appeals; an appellate court has the power to review the judgment of a lower court (trial court) or tribunal. For example, the U.S. circuit courts of appeals review the decisions of the U.S. district courts.
APPELLATE COURT: A court having jurisdiction to hear appeals and review a trial court's procedure.
APPELLEE: (See respondent) The party against whom an appeal is taken.
APPENDIX: Supplementary materials added to the end of a document.
ARBITRATION: In arbitration, a neutral third party called an arbitrator hears arguments, reviews evidence and makes a decision. This is different from mediation, where the parties, not the mediator, make the decisions. There are two kinds of arbitration: binding and non-binding. Binding arbitration - parties agree in advance that they will follow the decision of the arbitrator. Non-binding arbitration - parties agree in advance that they will be advised by the arbitrator's decision, but do not have to follow it.
ARBITRATOR: A private, disinterested person chosen by the parties in arbitration to hear evidence concerning the dispute and to make an award based on the evidence.
ARGUMENT: A reason given in proof or rebuttal.
ARRAIGNMENT: A proceeding in which a criminal defendant is brought into court, told of the charges in an indictment or information, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.
ARREARS: Money owed that is unpaid and overdue. Generally, you will hear this term as it relates to past due child support. Your current, or on-going child support obligation does not become an arrearage until after it is overdue. When you have an arrearage, CSSD may garnish much more than your on-going amount to try to pay off the arrearage and sometimes this can get very confusing to figure out what is going on. If you have a CSSD case, they will collect the money for you. However, there are collection procedures that would allow you to get the debtor's PFD, wages etc.
ARREST: To take into custody by legal authority.
ARTICLE III JUDGE: A federal judge who is appointed for life, during "good behavior," under Article III of the Constitution. Article III judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
ASSAULT: Threat to inflict injury with an apparent ability to do so. Also, any intentional display of force that would give the victim reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm.
ASSETS: Money, property, and money-related rights that you own.
ASSIGNMENT: The transfer to another person of any property, real or personal.
ASSUME: An agreement to continue performing duties under a contract or lease.
ASSUMPTION OF RISK: A doctrine under which a person may not recover for an injury received when he has voluntarily exposed himself to a known danger.
AT ISSUE: The time in a lawsuit when the complaining party has stated their claim and the other side has responded with a denial and the matter is ready to be tried.
ATTACHMENT: Taking a person's property to satisfy a court-ordered debt.
ATTESTATION: The act of witnessing an instrument in writing at the request of the party making the same, and subscribing it as a witness.
ATTORNEY: A person who is authorized to act formally for another person. The two most common ways you'll hear this word used is for an attorney-at-law and a power-of-attorney. Attorneys-at-Law are lawyers, who are specially licensed and trained. A power-of-attorney is a trusted person you have authorized in a special way to handle selected business and personal affairs for you.
ATTORNEY OF RECORD: Attorney whose name appears in the permanent records or files of a case.
ATTORNEY-AT-LAW: An advocate, counsel, or official agent employed in preparing, managing, and trying cases in the courts.
ATTORNEY-IN-FACT: A private person (who is not necessarily a lawyer) authorized by another to act in his or her place, either for some particular purpose, as to do a specific act, or for the transaction of business in general, not of legal character. This authority is conferred by an instrument in writing, called a "letter of attorney," or more commonly "power of attorney.".
AUTOMATIC STAY: An injunction that automatically stops lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments, and most collection activities against the debtor the moment a bankruptcy petition is filed.
AWARD: A decision of an Arbitrator.
BAIL: Money or other security (such as a bail bond) provided to the court to temporarily allow a person's release from jail and assure their appearance in court. "Bail" and "Bond" are often used interchangeably. (Applies mainly to state courts.).
BAIL BOND: An obligation signed by the accused to secure his or her presence at the trial. This obligation means that the accused may lose money by not properly appearing for the trial. Often referred to simply as "bond.".
BAILIFF: An officer of the court responsible for keeping order and maintaining appropriate courtroom decorum and has custody of the jury.
BANKRUPTCY: A legal procedure for dealing with debt problems of individuals and businesses; specifically, a case filed under one of the chapters of title 11 of the United States Code (the Bankruptcy Code).
BANKRUPTCY ADMINISTRATOR: An officer of the Judiciary serving in the judicial districts of Alabama and North Carolina who, like the United States trustee, is responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and trustees; monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring creditors' committees; monitoring fee applications; and performing other statutory duties.

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