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Glossary


C - 4 motion
Motion to dismiss on grounds that there is no prima facie case of guilty (FRCP 3.190(C)(4)
Calendar
List of cases scheduled for hearing in court.
Capias
A writ to the sheriff or other authorized agent to arrest the named person (nationwide).
Capias (instanter)
Issuance of the arrest order with court direction to bring the named person before the court immediately, with no bond.
Capital crime
A crime punishable by death.
Caption
The heading on a legal document listing the parties, the court, the case number, and related information.
Case law
Law established by previous decisions of appellate courts, particularly the Supreme Court.
Cause
A lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice.
Caveat
A warning; a note of caution.
Certified copy
A court document that is authenticated, signed and sealed by the clerk or deputy clerk.
Certiorari
A means of getting an appellate court to review a lower court’s decision. The loser of a case will often ask the appellate court to issue a writ of certiorari, which orders the lower court to convey the record of the case to the appellate court and to certify it as accurate and complete. If an appellate court grants a writ of certiorari, it agrees to take the appeal. This is often referred to as granting cert.
Challenge
Term used in a jury trial when attempting to exclude a potential juror.
Challenge for cause
Objection to the seating of a particular juror for a stated reason (usually bias or prejudice for or against one of the parties in the lawsuit.) The judge has the discretion to deny the challenge. This differs from peremptory challenge.
Chambers
A judge’s private office. A hearing in chambers takes place in the judge’s office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.
Change of venue
Moving a lawsuit or criminal trial to another place for trial.
Charge to the jury
The judge’s instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of the case on trial.
Charges (multiple)
A case with more than one count or offense listed on the court file.
Charging document
A citation, information, indictment, 923.01 or notice to appear, indicating that the named person committed a specific criminal offense or civil infraction.
Chief Judge
Chief Judge - Presiding or administrative judge in a court.
Child Abandonment
A situation in which the parent, legal custodian, or caregiver responsible for the child’s welfare, while being able, makes no provision for the child’s support and no effort to communicate with the child in a situation which is sufficient to evince a willful rejection of parental obligation. See Florida Statute 39.01(1)
Child Abuse
Any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual injury or harm that causes, or is likely to cause, the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions. See Florida Statute 39.01(2)
Child Neglect
When a child is deprived of necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment and the deprivation causes, or is likely to cause, physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. See FLorida Statute 39.01(43)
Circumstantial evidence
All evidence except eyewitness testimony. One example is physical evidence, such as fingerprints, from which an inference can be drawn.
Citation
The summons handed to the defendant indicating the offense committed.
Civil action
Noncriminal cases in which one private individual or business sues another to protect, enforce, or redress private or civil rights.
Civil procedure
The rules and process by which a civil case is tried and appealed, including the preparations for trial, the rules of evidence and trial conduct, and the procedure for pursuing appeals.
Class action
A lawsuit brought by one or more persons on behelf of a larger group.
Clear and convincing evidence
Standard of proof commonly used in civil lawsuits and in regulatory agency cases. It governs the amount of proof that must be offered in order for the plaintiff to win the case.
Clemency or executive clemency
Act of grace or mercy by the president or governor to ease the consequences of a criminal act, accusation, or conviction. It may take the form of commutation or pardon.
Closing argument
The closing statement, by counsel, to the trier of facts after all parties have concluded their presentation of evidence.
Codicil
An amendment to a will.
Commit
To send a person to prison, asylum, or reformatory by a court order.
Common law
The legal system that originated in England and is now in use in the United States. It is based on judicial decisions rather than legislative action.
Community control
A form of probation restricting the defendant’s movements to an extreme degree.
Commutation
The reduction of a sentence, as from death to life imprisonment.
Companion cases or codefendants
More than one person arrested on the same criminal incident.
Comparative negligence
A legal doctrine by which acts of the oppsing parties are compared to determine the liability of each party to the other, making each liable only for his/her percentage of fault. See contributory negligence.
Complainant
The party who complains or sues; one who applies to the court for legal redress. Also called the plaintiff.
Complaint
1. The legal document that usually begins a civil lawsuit. It states the alleged facts and identifies the action the court is asked to take. 2. Formal written charge that a person has committed a criminal offense.
Conciliation
A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps lower tensions, improve communications, and explore possible solutions. Conciliation is similar to mediation, but it may be less formal.
Concurrent sentences
Sentences for more than one crime that are to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other.
Condemnation
The legal process by which the government takes private land for a public use, paying the owners a fair price as determined by the court.
Conflict attorney
One of a pool of attorneys appointed on rotation when a codefendant has the Public Defender.
Consecutive sentences
Successive sentences, one beginning at the expiration of another, imposed against a person convicted of two or more violations.
Conservatorship
Legal right given to a person to manage the property and financial affairs of a person deemed incapable of doing that for himself/herself. (See also guardianship. Conservators have somewhat less responsibility than guardiuans.)
Contempt of court
An act of disrespect to the court, willful disregard of the court’s authority.
Continuance
Deferring a trial or hearing to a later date.
Contract
A legally enforceable agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing.
Contributory negligence
A legal doctrine that says, if the plaintiff in a civil action for negligence also was negligent, he/she cannot recover damages from the defendant for the defendant’s negligence. Most jurisdictions have abandoned the doctrine of contributory negligence in favor of comparative negligence.
Conviction
A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.
Corpus delicti
Body of the crime. The objective proof that a crime has been committed. It sometimes refers to the body of the victim of a homicide or to the charred shell of a burned house, but the term has a broader meaning. For the state to introduce a confession or to convict the accused, it must prove a corpus delicti, that is, the occurrence of a specific injury or loss and a criminal act as the source of that particular injury or loss.
Corroborating evidence
Supplementary evidence that tends to strengthen or confirm the initial evidence.
Counsel
Legal adviser; a term used to refer to lawyers in a case.
Counterclaim
A claim made by the defendant in a civil lawsuit against the plaintiff. In essence, a counter lawsuit within a lawsuit.
Court
Government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Judges sometimes use “court” to refer to themselves in the third person, as in “the court has read the brief.”
Court Administrator/Clerk of Court
An officer appointed by the court or elected to oversee the administrative, nonjudicial activities of the court.
Court costs
The expenses of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, other than the attorneys’ fees. An amount of money may be awarded to the successful party (and may be recoverable from the losing party) as reimbursement for court cost.
Court date notice
A written form (usually mailed) that is used to bring the required person to court.
Court recorder
A deputy clerk who maintains the verbatim record of court proceedings on tape.
Court reporter
A privately employed court person who maintains the verbatim record of court proceedings.
Cross - claim
A claim by codefendants or coplaintiffs against each other and not against persons on the opposite side of the lawsuit.
Cross - examination
The questioning of a witness produced by the other side.

 

Cumulative sentences
Sentences for two or more crimes to run consecutively, rather than concurrently.
Custody
Detaining of a person by lawful process or authority to assure his/her appearance to any hearing; the jailing or imprisonment of a person convicted of a crime.