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NJ Legal Glossary

NJ Legal Glossary Definitions

Adjourn – to postpone or suspend a legal proceeding, either temporarily or indefinitely

Affidavit – a written statement sworn by oath or affirmation

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) – a type of out-of-court process used to help parties come to an agreement with the help of a third party

Appeal – a request made to a higher court to review the decision of a lower court

Appellant – the person who asks the appellate court to review a case by a lower court

Appellee – the person against whom the appeal is being taken

Arbitration – a form of alternative dispute resolution involving the hearing of a dispute by a chosen arbitrator whose decision the parties are bound by

Arrest – the act of seizing someone to take into custody

Attorney-Client Privilege – a privilege held by the client that keeps discussions between clients and attorneys private from the public

Bench Trial – a trial before a judge without a jury

Bench Warrant – a court order issued by a judge from the bench to a law enforcement officer to arrest and bring an individual before the court for failing to appear

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – the burden of proof that must be met in a criminal trial in order to obtain a guilty verdict

Burden of Proof – defines the duty placed upon a party to prove or disprove a disputed fact

Case Law – law created by judicial decision rather than by statute

Certiorari – an order issued from a higher court directing a lower court to send it the record of a particular case so the higher court can review it

Charge – a formal allegation by the state against a person who is suspected of committing a crime

Circumstantial Evidence – evidence that does not directly prove the fact to be decided, but is evidence of another fact from which the truth of the fact in question may be concluded

Civil Lawsuit – a civil action brought before a court in which a victim, plaintiff, claims to be damaged by an offender, defendant, for causing losses such as physical or emotional injury, or property or money losses

Clear and Convincing Evidence – the burden of proof placed on a party in some civil cases, higher than preponderance of the evidence, but not as high as beyond a reasonable doubt

Common Law – laws based on precedents established by the courts

Complaint – the pleading that initiates an action in court

Consent – agreement or permission given voluntarily by a competent person

Contempt of Court – the deliberate failure to comply with the orders of a court of law

Continuance – an order postponing a court proceeding

Corroborating Evidence – also referred to as “supporting evidence”, confirmation or support by additional evidence

Court Reporter – the person responsible for recording everything that is said during a court proceeding or deposition

Cross Examination – the questioning of an opponent's witness at a trial or hearing after the witness' direct examination

Damages – the amount of money which a plaintiff may be awarded in a lawsuit

Decedent – a person who has died, sometimes referred to as the “deceased”

Decision – the judge's final determination in a case (a.k.a. opinion)

Defendant – an individual, company or institution sued or accused in a court of law

Defense Attorney – the lawyer who is representing the defendant in court in either a civil or criminal action

Demonstrative Evidence – evidence presented at trial that is used to illustrate or clarify witness testimony

Deposition – an event in which a party or witness' out-of-court testimony is given under oath and usually recorded by a court reporter

Direct Examination – the initial questioning of a witness in a trial or other proceeding by the party that called the witness to testify, followed by a cross examination

Discovery – procedures used by parties to a lawsuit to obtain pertinent facts and documents before the trial

Disposition – the final result of a civil or criminal case

Docket – the record in which the judge or court clerk notes all of the proceedings and filings in a court case

Elder Abuse – physical or psychological mistreatment of an elder by a caretaker or someone known to the elder

Evidence – testimony, writings, material objects, or other things offered to prove the existence or non existence of a fact

Ex-Parte – on or from one side or party only, sometimes used in reference to the absence of the opposing party

Exhibit – an object or document sought to be introduced as evidence in trial

Expert Witness – a person with specialized education, experience or training who possesses a superior knowledge about a certain subject and can render a specialized opinion about that subject

Foreperson – the juror who coordinates jury deliberations and speaks for the jury in announcing the verdict

Foundation – the necessary factual and legal base for a judge or jury to consider specific evidence

Gag Order – a judge's order directed at the attorneys, witnesses and parties before the court not to publicly discuss the facts of a case

Guardian Ad Litem – an individual who has been appointed by a court to act on the behalf of one of the parties in the lawsuit

Hearing – a court session in which testimony or arguments are offered by attorneys or parties for the purpose of resolving a legal dispute

Hung Jury – a deadlocked jury in a criminal case, in which there is no unanimous verdict and a mistrial is declared

In Camera – hearings conducted in the judge's private chambers or in a courtroom where spectators have been excluded to protect privacy and confidentiality

Interrogatories – formal or written questions that must be answered by a party under the direction of the court, as part of the discovery process

Judgment – a formal decision or determination on a matter by the court

Jury – a group of citizens called to hear a criminal or civil trial and determine the parties' guilt or innocence and damages, if any

Municipal Court – New Jersey court of limited jurisdiction to hear cases concerning motor vehicle and parking tickets, minor criminal offenses, municipal ordinance violations and other offenses (see our pages on Monmouth County Municipal Courts and Ocean County Municipal Courts)

Opinion – the explanation of a court's judgment (a.k.a. decision)

Order – a court's decision on a legal issue

Plaintiff – a person who initiates a case against another in a court of law

Pleading – formal written documents filed with a court on behalf of the parties to a civil or criminal action

Preponderance of the Evidence – the burden of proof required to prevail in a civil lawsuit, requiring that the judge or jury be persuaded that the facts are more probable one way than the other

Request for Production – part of the discovery process in which one attorney asks the other side to produce documents they deem necessary to the case

Restraining Order – a court-ordered restriction from engaging in certain activity (see our page on Restraining Orders)

Retainer – the fee paid to an attorney for his or her professional services, sometimes representing advance payment for anticipated future services

Service – the act of serving the respondent with legal papers, presented either by mail or in person by a County Sheriff's Deputy or a Process Server

Subpoena – a legal summons requiring that one appear in court as a defendant or as a witness to give testimony

Summons – written notice to appear in court either as a defendant or a witness

Superior Court – New Jersey trial court responsible for hearing matters involving criminal, civil and family law

Testimony – oral evidence given under oath by a witness in response to questions asked by attorneys at a trial or deposition

Trial – a formal examination of evidence by a judge or jury in order to decide guilt in a case of criminal or civil proceedings

Verdict – the final decision of a jury after a criminal or civil trial
Witness – a person who testifies under oath in a trial or deposition with useful first-hand or expert evidence

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