Glossary of Legal Terms C
A B D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W
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CALENDAR: list of cases scheduled for hearing in court.
CALLING THE DOCKET: public calling of the docket or list of causes at commencement of a court term.
CAPTION: heading on legal document listing parties, court, case number, and related information.
CASELAW: collection of reported causes that form the body of law within a jurisdiction. Also known as jurisprudence.
CASELOAD: total number of cases filed in a given court or before a given judicial officer for a given period of time.
CAUSA MORTIS GIFT (KAH zuh MOR tis): gift made in expectation of donor's death and upon condition that donor die as anticipated.
CAUSE: lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice.
CAUSE OF ACTION: facts that give rise to a lawsuit.
CAVEAT (KA vee OTT): warning; note of caution.
CEASE AND DESIST ORDER: order of an administrative agency or court prohibiting a person or business from continuing a particular course of conduct.
CERTIORARI (SIR she oh RARE ee): writ issued by appellate court directing lower court to deliver record of case for review. Often referred to as "granting cert."
CHALLENGE: objection, such as when attorney objects at voir dire hearing to seating of a particular person on a jury. May be challenge for cause or peremptory challenge.
CHALLENGE TO THE ARRAY: questioning the qualifications of an entire jury panel, usually on grounds of some legal fault in composition of the panel, e.g., racial discrimination.
CHALLENGE FOR CAUSE: objection to seating of a particular juror for a stated reason, usually bias or prejudice for or against one party in the lawsuit. Judge has discretion to deny challenge. Also known as challenge to the poll.
CHANGE OF VENIRE (veh NI ree; popularly pronounced veh NEER): bringing in a jury from another country to hear a trial, usually because of concerns that pretrial publicity has made empanelling an impartial jury difficult.
CHANGE OF VENUE: moving a lawsuit to another place for trial, usually because pretrial publicity has made empanelling an impartial jury difficult.
CHARACTER EVIDENCE: testimony of witnesses who know the general character and reputation of a person in the community in which that person lives. May be considered by jury as either substantive evidence as to the likelihood of the defendant to commit crime or as corroborating evidence of the credibility of a witness' testimony.
CHARGE: a formal complaint issued accusing an individual of a crime. Compare indictment and information. Also, the judge's instruction to the jury concerning law which applies to the facts of a case.
CIRCUIT COURT: court whose jurisdiction extends over several counties or districts and which holds sessions in all of those areas. Pennsylvania's appellate courts are circuit courts, holding sessions in various locations throughout the Commonwealth.
CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE: evidence which suggests something by implication, from which an inference can be drawn, e.g. physical evidence, such as fingerprints. Also called indirect evidence.
CITATION: reference to source of legal authority. Also, writ issued by a court commanding a person to appear at a specified place and time and do something specified or to give just cause why he/she should not. Also, direction to appear in court, as when a driver receives a citation for a moving or parking violation.
CIVIL ACTIONS: noncriminal cases in which one private party sues another for redress of private or civil rights.
CIVIL PROCEDURE: entire process by which a civil case is tried.
CLASS ACTION: lawsuit brought by one or more persons on behalf of a larger group.
CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE: evidence indicating that which is to be proven is highly probably or reasonably certain. Greater than preponderance of evidence, which is generally the standard applied in civil trials, but less than the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt required in criminal trials.
CLERK OF COURT: officer appointed by court or elected to oversee administrative, nonjudicial activities of the court.
CLOSING ARGUMENT: in a trial, closing statements by counsel to the judge or the jury after evidence has been presented.
CODE: complete, systematic collection of laws.
CODICIL (KOD ih sill): addition to a will.
COGNOVIT ACTIONEM (KOG NO vit ACK she OH nem): "He has confessed the action." Written confession by defendant of plaintiff's claim. Usually upon condition. Authorizes plaintiff's attorney to sign judgment and issue execution.
COLLATERAL: property pledged as security for satisfaction of a debt.
COMMIT: to send a person to prison, asylum, or reformatory pursuant to court order.
COMMON LAW: law arising from tradition and judicial decisions, rather than from laws passed by the legislature. Originated in England and has been followed as law in most American jurisdictions.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: sentencing option whereby offender performs volunteer work for government, non-profit, or community-based organizations.
COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE: legal doctrine by which negligence of plaintiff determines amount plaintiff may recover from defendant.
COMPLAINT: legal document that usually begins a civil lawsuit. States facts and identifies action court is asked to take.
CONCILIATION: form of alternative dispute resolution in which parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps reach a solution. Nonbinding. Similar to mediation, but may be less formal.
CONCUR: to agree, act together, or consent. Compare concurring opinion under opinion.
CONCURRENT SENTENCE: two or more sentences served at same time rather than one after another. Three five-year terms served concurrently add up to no more than five years in prison.
CONDEMNATION: legal process by which government invokes its powers of eminent domain and takes privately owned property for public use, paying owners just compensation. Also, act of judicially pronouncing someone guilty. Usually called conviction.
COFESSION OF JUDGMENT: act of a debtor in permitting judgment to be entered against him/her by a creditor.
CONSECUTIVE SENTENCES: successive sentences, one beginning at the expiration of another. Three five-year terms served consecutively impose a 15-year sentence.
CONSENT DECREE: disposition in juvenile court in which proceedings are suspended and child is continued under supervision in his/her own home under terms and conditions negotiated with probation services and agreed to by all parties concerned. Also, a court decree to which all parties agree.
CONSIDERATION: inducement for which a party enters into a contract.
CONSPIRACY: two or more people joining together for the purpose of committing an unlawful act.
CONTEMPT OF COURT: willful disobedience of judge's command or official court order.
CONTINUANCE: postponement of legal proceeding to a later date.
CONTRACT: legally enforceable agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing.
CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE: legal doctrine that says if plaintiff in a civil action for negligence was also negligent, he/she cannot recover damages from defendant for defendant's negligence. Most jurisdictions have abandoned this doctrine in favor of comparative negligence.
CONVICTION: act of judicially declaring a criminal defendant guilty. Also called condemnation.
COPYRIGHT: right to literary property, giving authors, composers and other creators sole control over how that property is used.
CORPUS DELICTI (COR pus di LICK tye): material substance (body) upon which a crime has been committed, i.e., the physical evidence a crime has been committed, e.g., the body of a homicide victim or broken windows in a vandalized building.
CORROBORATING EVIDENCE: supplementary evidence that strengthens or confirms initial evidence.
COUNT: each offense listed in a complaint, information, or indictment.
COUNTERCLAIM: claim made by defendant against plaintiff in a civil lawsuit, especially in opposition to the plaintiff's claim.
COURT ADMINISTRATOR: officer appointed or elected to oversee administrative, nonjudicial activities of the court.
COURT COSTS: fees and charges charged legally by the court for expenses of the litigation, e.g., filing fees, jury fees, reporter fees. Also, an amount of money that may be awarded to the successful party, recoverable from the losing party, as reimbursement for the cost of the litigation.
COURT OF COMMON PLEAS: intermediate original court in some states, including Pennsylvania, that usually has civil and criminal jurisdiction. In Pennsylvania Common Pleas Court also hear appeals from certain state and most local government agencies and from the minor courts. May also be referred to as trial courts or county courts.
COURT OF RECORD: courts whose proceedings are permanently recorded and which have power to fine or imprison for contempt.
COURT REPORTER: person who records and transcribes verbatim reports of all proceedings in court. Also called a stenographer.
CRIME: type of behavior defined by law as deserving punishment, including imprisonment or fine or both, upon conviction. Crimes are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies.
CRIMES CODE: short title for Title 18 of Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes, "Crimes and Offenses"
CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORD INFORMATION: information collected by criminal justice agencies on individuals with arrest records. Consists of descriptions and notations of arrests, detentions, indictments, or other formal criminal charges, dispositions, sentencing, correctional supervision, and release. Also referred to as a prior record or rap sheet.
CRIMINAL INSANITY: mental condition which renders a person unable to determine right from wrong. Defendants criminally insane cannot be convicted as criminal conduct involves conscious intent to do wrong.
CRIMINAL SUMMONS: order commanding accused to appear in court. May be issued in lieu of arrest warrant for misdemeanors when issuing official believes accused will appear in court without being placed under bail.
CROSS-CLAIM: claim by co-defendants or co-plaintiffs against each other.
CROSS-EXAMINATION: questioning of witness by opponent in a trial.