Impeachment: The process of calling a witness’s testimony into doubt. For example, if the attorney can show that the witness may have fabricated portions of his testimony, the witness is said to be “impeached;”
Interrogatories: A form of discovery consisting of written questions to be answered in writing and under oath.
Issue: The disputed point between parties in a lawsuit;
Jury: The group of persons selected to hear the evidence in a trial and render a verdict on matters of fact.
Jury instructions: A judge’s directions to the jury before it begins deliberations
Lawsuit: A legal action started by a plaintiff against a defendant based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty which resulted in harm to the plaintiff.
Mistrial: An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again with the selection of a new jury.
Motion: A request by a litigant to a judge for a decision on an issue relating to the case.
Motion in Limine: A pretrial motion requesting the court to prohibit the other side from presenting, or even referring to, evidence on matters said to be so highly prejudicial that no steps taken by the judge can prevent the jury from being unduly influenced.
Opinion: A judge’s written explanation of the decision of the court.
Oral argument: An opportunity for lawyers to summarize their position before the court and also to answer the judges’ questions.
Peremptory challenge: Each side can exclude a certain number of prospective jurors without cause or giving a reason.
Plaintiff: A person or business that files a formal complaint with the court.
Pleadings: Written statements filed with the court that describes a party’s legal or factual assertions about the case.
Pro per: A slang expression sometimes used to refer to a pro se litigant.
Pro se: Representing oneself. Serving as one’s own lawyer.
Record: A written account of the proceedings in a case, including all pleadings, evidence, and exhibits submitted in the course of the case.
Sequester: To separate. Sometimes juries are sequestered from outside influences during their deliberations.
Service of process: The delivery of writs or summonses to the appropriate party.
Settlement: Parties to a lawsuit resolve their dispute without having a trial.
Statute of limitations: The time within which a lawsuit must be filed or a criminal prosecution begun.
Subpoena: A command, issued under a court’s authority, to a witness to appear and give testimony.
Subpoena duces tecum: A command to a witness to appear and produce documents.
Temporary restraining order: Akin to a preliminary injunction, it is a judge’s short-term order forbidding certain actions until a full hearing can be conducted, often referred to as a TRO.
Testimony: Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials or before grand juries.
Tort: A civil, not criminal, wrong. A negligent or intentional injury against a person or property, with the exception of breach of contract.
Transcript: A written, word-for-word record of what was said, either in a trial or a hearing.
Unlawful detainer action: A lawsuit brought by a landlord against a tenant to evict the tenant from rental property – usually for nonpayment of rent.
Venue: The geographic area in which a court has jurisdiction. A change of venue is a change or transfer of a case from one judicial district to another.
Verdict: The decision of a trial jury or a judge that determines the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant, or that determines the final outcome of a civil case.
Voir dire: Jury selection process of questioning prospective jurors, to ascertain their qualifications and determine any basis for challenge.
Witness: A person called upon by either side in a lawsuit to give testimony before the court or jury.
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