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Legal Terminology

When you have a legal issue, it helps to have an understanding of what the issues are, what the exact claims are, and what you must say or file at every stage of the case. The following is a list of some terminology which might help you better understand your case. To hire an attorney with a full understanding of your case, click to call or email Phillips Law Group and discuss your important legal matter. Communicating with clients and the courts in a clear, concise manner is one reason that Phillips Law Group is among the best law firms in Maryland. In fact, our explanations and consultations with clients are a reason Phillips Law Group is 5-star rated on Google, has a 100% rate of client satisfaction, and is respected by judges, juries, and the opposition.

Important legal terminology

These terms and definitions are for educational purposes only. To have a qualified attorney look at your case and explain it to you, contact us.

Punitive Damages - Damages awarded over and above compensatory damages in order to punish the defendant for malicious, wanton, willful, reckless, oppressive, or fraudulent conduct. Punitive damages are imposed to compensate the Plaintiff for mental anguish, shame, degradation, or other aggravations beyond actual damages.

Proximate Cause - The act that caused an event to occur. A person generally is liable only if an injury was proximately caused by his or her action or by his or her failure to act when he or she had a duty to act.

Quash - To void or vacate a summons, subpoena, etc.

Real Property - Land, buildings, and other improvements affixed to the land.

Reasonable Belief - Probable cause. The facts and circumstances within an arresting officer's knowledge, and of which he or she had reasonably trustworthy information, sufficient in themselves to justify a person of average caution in believing that a crime has been or is being committed. Facts sufficient to justify a warrantless arrest.

Reasonable Doubt - Such a doubt as would cause a careful person to hesitate before acting in matters of importance to himself or herself. law of the case - a ruling made at trial and not challenged on appeal

Reasonable Suspicion - Level of suspicion required to justify law enforcement investigation, but not arrest or search. A lower level of suspicion or evidence than probable cause. An officer has reasonable suspicion when the officer is aware of specific, articulable facts, together with rational inferences from those facts, which, when judged objectively, would lead a reasonable person to believe that some criminal activity occurred or was occurring.

Rebut - To introduce evidence disproving other evidence previously given or reestablishing the credibility of challenged evidence, attorney Douglas Phillips, .

Reasonable Person - a hypothetical person who exercises the qualities of attention, knowledge, intelligence, and judgment that society requires of its members for the protection of their own interest and the interests of others. This term is commonly used in torts, where the test of negligence is based on either a failure to do something that a reasonable person, guided by considerations that ordinarily regulate conduct, would do, or on the doing of something that a reasonable and prudent wise person would not do.

Rendition - Transfer of a fugitive from the asylum state to the demanding state.

Request for Production - formal court process by which one party requests that another produce certain documents or other tangible items.

Rescission - Cancellation of a contract.

Respondent - The person against whom an appeal is taken.

Rest - party is said to rest when it has presented all the evidence it intends to offer.

Res Judicata - thing or matter already decided by a court. A final judgment on the merits is conclusive as to certain rights of the parties and is an absolute bar to a later action involving the same claim, demand, or cause of action. Res judicata bars relitigation of the same cause of action between the same parties where there is a prior judgment. By comparison, collateral estoppel bars relitigation of a particular issue or determinative fact.

Restitution - Either community service or financial reimbursement to the victim imposed by the court for a crime committed Phillips Law Group, attorney Douglas Phillips, .

Retainer - Act of the client in employing counsel or the attorney, also denotes the fee which the client pays when he or she retains the attorney.

Return of service - certificate of affidavit by the person who has served process upon a party to an action, reflecting the date and place of service.

Reversal - action of a higher court in revoking or setting aside a lower court decision.

Revocable Trust - trust that the grantor may change or revoke, maryland drunk driving lawyer, maryland drunk driving attorney. Rebuttal - Evidence that is offered by a party after he has rested his case and after the opponent has rested in order to contradict and explain the opponent's evidence.

Rebuttal Witnesses - Witnesses introduced to explain, repel, counteract, or disprove facts given in evidence by the adverse party.

Record - All the documents and evidence plus transcripts of oral proceedings in a case, Phillips Law Group, .

Recusal - The voluntary action by a judge to remove himself or herself from presiding in a given case because of self-interest, bias, conflict, or prejudice. Also, the process by which a judge is disqualified from a case because a party objects.

Recall Order - Court order recalling a warrant.

Redirect Examination - Opportunity to present rebuttal evidence after one's evidence has been subjected to cross-examination.

Redress - To set right , to remedy , to compensate , to remove the causes of a grievance.

Removal - The transfer of a state case to federal court for trial, maryland drunk driving lawyer, maryland drunk driving attorney.

Replevin - legal action for the recovery of a possession that has been wrongfully taken.

Interrogatories - Written questions asked by one individual in a lawsuit for which the opposing individual must provide written answers.

Intervention - action by which a third person that may be affected by a lawsuit is permitted to become a individual to the suit.

Inter Vivos Gift - gift made during the giver’s life.

Oral Argument - opportunity for lawyers to summarize their positions before the court and also to answer the judges’ questions.

Order - written or oral command from a court directing or forbidding an action.

Ordinance – law adopted by the governing body of a municipality or county. Reply - response by a party to charges raised in a pleading by the other party, Phillips Law Group, maryland drunk driving lawyer, maryland drunk driving attorney.

Revocation of Driver's License - Judicial termination of an individual driver's license and privilege to drive after conviction of DWI. The license shall not be renewed or restored for the duration of the revocation, except that an application for a new license may be presented and acted upon by the division after the expiration of at least one year after date of revocation. This kind of revocation is distinguished from an administrative revocation, in which the Motor Vehicle Division may terminate a driver's license for up to one year.

Revoke - To cancel or nullify a legal document.

Probative Value - Evidence has probative value if it tends to prove an issue. Probative value is evidence that furnishes, establishes, or contributes toward proof, maryland drunk driving lawyer, maryland drunk driving attorney.

Pro Bono Publico - For the public good. Lawyers representing clients without a fee are said to be working pro bono publico.

Property Bond - signature bond secured by mortgage or real property, Phillips Law Group, attorney Douglas Phillips,

Instructions - Judge’s explanation to the jury before it begins deliberations of the questions it must answer and the applicable law governing the case. Also called charge to the jury.

Intangible assets - Nonphysical items that have value, such as stock certificates, bonds, bank accounts, pension benefits and goodwill. Intangible assets must be taken into account in estate planning and divorce.

Interlocutory - Provisional; not final. An interlocutory order or an interlocutory appeal concerns only a part of the issues raised in a lawsuit.

Interpleader – An action in which a third person asks ae Court to determine the rights of others to property held—but not owned—by the third person.

Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict – Judgment entered by order of the court for one individual notwithstanding the jury’s verdict in favor of the other individual. A judgment notwithstanding the verdict may only arise after a motion for a directed verdict.

Motion to Seal - Motion to close records to public scrutiny.

Motion to Suppress - Motion to prevent admission of evidence in a case.

Nolo Contendere - Plea in which the defendant does not admit guilt, but which has the same legal effect as the plea of guilty in a criminal case.

Lapsed Gift - gift made in a will to a person who has died prior to the testator’s death.

Larceny –Theft.

Law - Rules that govern individual and group conduct in a society.

Law Clerks - Persons who assist judges in legal research.

Judgment on the Pleadings – Judgment based on the pleadings alone. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case and one individual is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

Summary Judgment - Judgment given on the basis of pleadings, affidavits, and exhibits presented for the record without any type need for a trial. As with Judgment on the Pleadings, it is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case and one individual is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

Objection - process by which one individual tries to prevent an introduction of evidence or the use of a certain procedure at a hearing. An objection is either sustained allowed or overruled by the judge.

Offense - violation of a municipal ordinance or state statute.

Offer – expression of willingness to enter into a bargain that is definite and certain in its terms and that is communicated to the offeree. Once accepted, the offer is transformed into a contractual obligation.

Offeree – person to whom an offer is made.

Offeror – person making an offer.

Overrule - judge’s decision not to allow an objection. Also, a decision by a higher court finding that a lower court decision was in error

Parens Patriae - The doctrine under which the court protects the interests of a juvenile.

Parol Evidence – Oral evidence.

Parol Evidence Rule – When a written agreement is intended to be a complete and final document, then the terms of the agreement cannot be altered by evidence of oral dealings agreements that purport to change, explain, or contradict the written agreement.

Parole - The supervised conditional release of a prisoner before the expiration of his her sentence. If the parolee observes the conditions, he she need not serve the rest of his her term.

Individual - person, business, organization or government agency involved in the prosecution or defense of a legal proceeding.

Inter Vivos Trust - Another name for living trust.

Opening Statement - first statement made by lawyers for each side, outlining the facts each intends to establish during the trial.

Opinion - judge’s written explanation of the decision of the court or of the majority of judges. A dissenting opinion opposes a majority opinion because of the reasoning and or the principles of law on which the decision is based. A concurring opinion agrees with the decision of the court but offers different reasoning. A per curiam opinion is an unsigned opinion of the court.

Judgment and Sentence - official document of a judge’s disposition of a case committing a defendant to prison.

Intestate - Dying without having a will. doctrine that makes each of the parties who are responsible for an injury liable for all the damages awarded in a lawsuit if the other responsible parties cannot pay.

Joint Tenancy - form of legal co-ownership of property also known as survivorship . At the death of one person, the surviving co-owner becomes sole owner of the property. Tenancy by the entirety is a special form of joint tenancy between a husband and wife Phillips Law Group.

Judge - elected or appointed public official with authority to hear and decide cases in a court of law. A judge Pro Tem is a temporary judge.

Judgment - first disposition of a lawsuit.

Consent Judgment - Occurs when the terms and provisions of a judgment are agreed on by the parties and submitted to the court for its sanction and approval.

Default Judgment - judgment rendered because of the defendant’s failure to answer or appear.

Judicial Review - authority of a court to correct the official actions of other branches of government.

Jurat - Certificate of officer or person who administered an oath.

Jurisdiction - court’s legal power to hear and resolve specific disputes. Jurisdiction is usually gene rely composed of personal jurisdiction over persons and subject matter jurisdiction over types of cases.

Jurisprudence - study of the structure of the legal system. And the law.

Juror Disqualified - Juror who is excused from a trial.

Jury - Persons selected according to law and sworn to inquire into and declare a verdict on matters of fact.

Jury Array - whole body of potential jurors summoned to court from which the jury will be selected. Also called Jury Panel.

Non-jury trial - case tried by a judge.

No Probable Cause – finding that insufficient grounds exist to hold the person who was arrested.

Notice - Formal notification to a party that has been sued that a civil lawsuit has been filed.

Juvenile - Person under 18 years of age.

Kangaroo Court - Trial in which a person’s rights are completely disregarded and in which the result is a foregone conclusion.

Knowingly and Willfully – Voluntarily.

Nuncupative Will - unwritten oral will.

Oaths - Sworn promises required in court, usually administered by the in court clerk.

Jury List - List of jurors empanelled to try a cause or containing the names of all the jurors summoned to attend court.

Jury Polling - The procedure by which each individual juror is asked to affirm his or her verdict in open court at the conclusion of a trial.

Jury Trial - trial in which the jury judges the facts and the judge rules on the law.

Justiciable - Issues and claims that can be properly examined in court.

Nolle Prosequi –Decision by a prosecutor to not to prosecute.

Motion -- Request to a court made before, during, or after a trial

Motion in Limine - Motion not to allow certain evidence that might prejudice the jury.

Negligence - Failure to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable person would exercise under the same set of circumstances.

Next Friend –Person acting without formal appointment as guardian for the benefit of a person of unsound mind not judicially declared incompetent, an infant, or other person under some disability.

No-Contest Clause – Provision in a will that a person who makes a legal challenge to the will’s validity will be disinherited.

No-Fault Proceedings - Civil cases in that parties can resolve their dispute without the formal finding of fault.

Notice of Lis Pendens - Notice to warn all persons that the title to certain property is in litigation, and that if they purchase or lease that property they are in danger of being bound by an adverse judgment.

Nuisance –Unwarranted, unreasonable, or unlawful use of one’s property that annoys, disturbs, or inconveniences another in the use of his or her property.

Nunc Pro Tunc – retroactive order.

Motion to Expunge – motion to delete entries from court records

Intestate Succession - process by which the property of a person who has died without a will passes on to others according to the state’s descent and distribution statutes. If someone dies without a will and the court uses the state’s intestate succession laws, an heir who receives some of the deceased’s property is an intestate heir.

Invoke the Rule - Separate and exclude witnesses other than parties from the courtroom.

Irrevocable Trust - trust that, once it is set up the grantor may not revoke the trust.

Issue - . disputed point in a disagreement between parties in a lawsuit. . To send out officially, as in to issue an order.

Joinder – Combining charges or defendants on the same complaint. Where the crime is committed by two people, both may be charged on one complaint. Joinder also applies in civil cases, where parties and claims may be joined in one complaint.

detinue - at common law, an action to recover personal property

Motion to Mitigate Sentence - Motion to reduce a sentence.

Leading Question - Question that by its own wording suggests the answer desired.

Legal Aid - Professional legal services available to indigent persons.

Leniency - Recommendation for a reduced sentence.

Hearsay: Hearsay consists of out-of-court statements offered for the truth of their contents. For instance, a statement by a third party that the defendant admitted to a crime is hearsay, and is not admissible at trial.

Exceptions to the hearsay rule -- certain statements, while technically hearsay, are admissible in court because they were made under circumstances that experience shows guarantee their reliability. Among these exceptions are statements against interest, such as "I did it," blurts, dying declarations, and legally operative language, like "you can have it."

Pro Se - On one's own behalf, commonly used to refer to a party representing himself or herself in a court action, instead of being represented by an attorney.

Promissory Estoppel - Equitable doctrine allowing the court to enforce a promise even though a valid contract was not formed when a person reasonably acted in reliance on that promise. Promissory Estoppel allows the court to compensate the person for their expenditures and or to avoid the unjust enrichment of the other party. Promissory estoppel often applies to charitable donations.

Reversible Error - error during a trial or hearing sufficiently harmful to justify reversing the judgment of a lower court.

Robbery - Felonious taking of another's property, from his or her person or immediate presence and against his or her will, through force or fear.

Rules of Evidence - Standards governing whether evidence in civil or criminal case is admissible.

Satisfaction of Judgment - Payment of all monies determined to be owed pursuant to a court judgment.

Seal - Clerk of Court's symbol of authenticity.

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