Glossary of Legal Terms B
A C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W
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BACKLOG: number of pending cases exceeding the capacity of a court which is engaged in acting on other cases.
BAIL: money or other security (such as a bail bond) given to a court to temporarily secure a person's release from custody and assure his/her appearance in court. May be forfeited should individual subsequently fail to appear before the court. Bail and bond are often used interchangeably.
BAIL BOND: (often referred to simply as bond) obligation, signed by accused, to secure his/her presence at trial and which he/she may lose by not properly appearing for trial.
BAILIFF: court attendant who keeps order in the courtroom and has custody of the jury.
BANKRUPTCY: statutes and judicial proceedings involving persons or businesses who cannot pay debts and seek assistance of court in getting a fresh start.
BAR: historically, partition separating general public from space occupied by judges, lawyers, and other participants in a trial. More commonly, the whole body of lawyers. A "case at bar" is a case currently being considered.
BAR EXAMINATION: state examination taken by prospective lawyers in order to be admitted to practice law.
BATTERED CHILD SYNDROME: medical and psychological condition of a child who has suffered continuing injuries not inflicted accidentally and thus are presumed to have been inflicted by someone close to the child.
BATTERED WOMAN SYNDROME: medical and psychological condition of a woman who has been physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused by a spouse or lover. Also called battered wife syndrome or battered spouse syndrome.
BENCH: seat occupied by the judge. More broadly, the court itself.
BENCH TRIAL: trial with no jury, in which the judge decides the facts.
BENCH WARRANT: arrest warrant issued directly by a judge.
BENEFICIARY: someone named to receive benefits from a legal device such as a will, trust, or insurance policy.
BEQUEATH: to give someone a gift through a will.
BEQUESTS: gifts made in a will.
BEST EVIDENCE: primary evidence; best evidence available. Evidence short of this is "secondary". E.g., an original letter is the best evidence; a photocopy is secondary evidence.
BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT: standard in a criminal case requiring the jury to be satisfied "to a moral certainty" that every element of the crime has been proven by prosecution. Does not require state to establish absolute certainty by eliminating all doubt, but does require that evidence be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of the ordinary person.
BIFURCATION: dividing the issues in a case so that one issue can be decided before the others. E.g., a divorce will often be granted before custody, support, and marital property issues are resolved.
BILL: formal written declaration, petition, complaint, or statement. E.g., a declaration of wrong a complainant has suffered is a bill of complaint. Also, a draft of a new or amended law presented to a legislature for action.
BILL OF EVIDENCE: transcript of testimony heard at trial.
BILL OF PARTICULARS: statement detailing charges made against defendant.
BIND OVER: to hold a person for trial on bond (bail) or in jail. If the judicial official conducting the preliminary hearing finds probable cause to believe accused committed a crime, he/she will "bind over" accused, normally by setting bail for accused's appearance at trial.
BINDING INSTRUCTION: instruction in which jury is told that if it finds certain conditions to be true, to find for the plaintiff or defendant, as the case may be.
BLACK LETTER LAWS: informal term encompassing basic principals of law generally accepted by courts or present in statutes of a particular jurisdiction.
BLUE SKY LAWS: state statutes regulating sale of securities.
BOOKING: process of photographing, fingerprinting, and recording identifying data of a suspect following arrest.
BREACH OF CONTRACT: legally inexcusable failure to perform contractual obligation.
BRIEF: written statement prepared by one side in a lawsuit to explain to the court its view of the facts of a case and applicable law.
BURDEN OF PROOF: necessity or duty to prove a fact in a dispute. Not the same as standard of proof. Burden of proof details with which side must establish a point or points; standard of proof indicates degree to which point must be proven.
BURGLARY: breaking into and entering a building with intent to commit a felony.