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Category Archives for Legal Terms


Acquittal A jury verdict that a criminal defendant is not guilty, or the finding of a judge that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction. Action A legal demand for a right asserted by instituting a case in court. Active Judge A judge in the full-time service of the court. Compare to senior judge. […]

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Bail The release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime, under specified conditions designed to assure that person’s appearance in court when required. Also can refer to the amount of bond money posted as a financial condition of pretrial release. Bankruptcy A legal procedure for dealing with debt problems of individuals and […]

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Capital Offense A crime punishable by death. Caption The heading of a pleading or case file, indicating the parties, the court, case number and other pertinent information. Case File A complete collection of every document filed in court in a case. Case Law The law as established in previous court decisions. A synonym for legal […]

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Damages Money that a defendant pays a plaintiff in a civil case if the plaintiff has won. Damages may be compensatory (for loss or injury) or punitive (to punish and deter future misconduct). Debtor A person who has filed a petition for relief under the Bankruptcy Code. Decedent A deceased person. Defendant An individual (or […]

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En Banc French, meaning “on the bench.” All judges of an appellate court sitting together to hear a case, as opposed to the routine disposition by panels of three judges. In the Ninth Circuit, an en banc panel consists of 11 randomly selected judges. Enjoin To require an individual to refrain or to perform an […]

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Face Sheet Filing A bankruptcy case filed either without schedules or with incomplete schedules listing few creditors and debts. (Face sheet filings are often made for the purpose of delaying an eviction or foreclosure.) False Arrest An unlawful physical restraint of an individual. Family Farmer An individual, individual and spouse, corporation, or partnership engaged in […]

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Garnishment A method of satisfying an outstanding debt or judgment by seizing property or credits of the debtor held by a third party. Guardian Ad Litem A person appointed by the court to look after the interests of an infant or an incompetent. Guardianship A legal arrangement by which one person (a guardian) has the […]

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Habeas Corpus Latin, meaning “you have the body.” A writ of habeas corpus generally is a judicial order forcing law enforcement authorities to produce a prisoner they are holding, and to justify the prisoner’s continued confinement. Federal judges receive petitions for a writ of habeas corpus from state prison inmates who say their state prosecutions […]

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Impeachment 1. 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;” 2. The constitutional process whereby the House of Representatives may “impeach” (accuse of misconduct) high officers of the federal government, […]

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Joint Administration A court-approved mechanism under which two or more cases can be administered together. (Assuming no conflicts of interest, these separate businesses or individuals can pool their resources, hire the same professionals, etc.) Joint Petition One bankruptcy petition filed by a husband and wife together. Judge An official of the Judicial branch with authority […]

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