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An action is an ordinary proceeding in a court of justice, by which a party prosecutes another party for the enforcement or protection of a right, the redress or prevention of a wrong, or the punishment of a public offense. The two kinds of actions are civil and criminal. An action may also be referred to as a lawsuit or case.
The judge will decide when to adjourn (end) the court proceeding
Making a judgment. Used in the context of juvenile court. The court finds that it is proven that a juvenile committed a delinquent act
Admissible Evidence
Evidence that the court allows to be introduced at trial
A written statement of fact made under oath in front of an authorized officer. The affidavit must be signed in the presence of a notary public by the individual making the statement
Person authorized to act on behalf of another person
Statement of claimed fact and is only an allegation until it is proven
To make changes to a document that has already been filed with the court
The written response by a Defendant to a complaint
The review of a decision of a lower court by a higher court. E.g. The Supreme Court would review a decision by the District Court
Appear or Appearance
An action that lets the court know a party will participate in a case. Appear or appearance doesn’t always mean physically coming to court. For example, a summons in a civil action requires the defendant to appear by answering the complaint in writing, not by appearing in court
In a criminal case, the Defendant is advised of the charges and enters a plea of guilty or not guilty
Authentication of Evidence
The party submitting the evidence must demonstrate that it is authentic, or true


Bad Faith
Dishonesty or fraud such as entering into an agreement with no intent to ever living up to the terms of the agreement
A court attendant who keeps order in the courtroom and to see to the needs of the jury
The desk at the front of the courtroom where the judge sits
Bench Trial
A trial where there is no jury and the judge determines the facts, law and the winner of the lawsuit or trial
Person who receives money or property in a will. Person who benefits from a trust
A gift in a will
Where a person fails to perform as they have agreed. They commit a breach of the agreement or contract
Written document filed by a party where the party presents the facts, law and argument of how the facts apply to the law
Burden of Proof
When one party in the case has the responsibility to give more evidence than the other party to convince the judge or jury of their claims


The top of the first page of all papers (called pleadings) that will be part of a court case. The caption includes the North Dakota county, the name of North Dakota state court, the names of all parties, and the case number
A lawsuit
Case Law
When the decision of a case is appealed from a North Dakota state district court to the North Dakota Supreme Court, the Supreme Court writes their opinion to explain how and why they interpreted the laws or rules to decide the appeal the way they did. The opinions are case law and are followed by North Dakota courts deciding later cases with similar facts and issues
Cause of Action
The legal grounds a party relies on to get a verdict against an opponent
Challenge for Cause
During a jury trial, a party can ask the court to excuse any juror that they believe are too biased to be fair and impartial or for some reason can’t perform their duties as a juror
The private office of a judge
Change of Venue
When a civil or criminal case is moved from a state court in one North Dakota county to another state court in a different North Dakota county
When a person responsible for the welfare of a child under 18 years willfully inflicts or allows someone to inflict physical or mental injury to that child
A child under 18 years who has committed an act, which if committed by an adult would be a criminal offense
Deprivation, also called Child in Need of Protection
When a person responsible for the welfare of a child under 18 years fails to provide proper care or control, subsistence or education as required by law.
Neglect and deprived may be used interchangeably
Unruly, also called Child in Need of Services
A child under 18 years who is habitually and without justification absent from school; disobedient of the lawful commands of parents or guardians; or commits an offense only applicable to a child
Circumstantial Evidence
Evidence that is indirect. That implies something occurred but does not directly prove it
Civil Action
A civil action is any action other than a criminal action. A civil action may also be referred to as a civil lawsuit or a civil case.
Clerk of Court
Administrative part of the Court that maintains the Court’s records. All documents that are required to be “filed” are filed with this office
Closing Argument
At the end of a trial a person can summarize the evidence and argue to the judge or jury how the case should be decided
Criminal – formal written charge that a person committed a criminal offense. Civil – document from the plaintiff which states the claims against the defendant
A person appointed by the court to make financial decisions for a protected person
A court-ordered legal arrangement under which a person (a conservator) has the legal right and duty to manage the property and financial affairs of a person (an adult or a minor) the court decides is incapable of doing so for themselves
Contempt of Court
Acts that the judge finds to have been committed in a willful violation of the court’s authority or to interfere with or obstruct the administration of justice
A grant by the court for an extension of time
Attorneys are sometimes referred to as counsel
Court Recorder
Person who records testimony during a court proceedings
Court Reporter
Person who by shorthand or stenograph takes down testimony during court proceedings
After a person’s direct questioning of his/her witness the other side can ask questions about the topics covered during direct questioning
Criminal Action
A criminal action is one prosecuted by the state as a party against a person charged with a public offense for the punishment thereof.


The money that can be recovered in the court by the plaintiff for their loss or injury due to the defendant’s violation of the law
Defendant who was served with a Complaint but does not Answer may be found in default
Default Judgment
If the Defendant does not file an Answer and is found in default the judge may find for the plaintiff
The parties the plaintiffs claim injured them in violation of law (civil) The party that is accused of committing a crime (criminal)
The reasons defendants give for why plaintiffs’ claims against them should be dismissed
An oral question/answer session that occurs before trial and outside the courtroom. One party to a lawsuit asks another person who is under oath questions about issues raised in the lawsuit
Direct Examination
When a party at trial calls their witness and asks them questions
Formal court process where a party asks the other party or non-party for information. Discovery methods include depositions, interrogatories, requests for documents, etc. (Rules regarding Discovery are covered in ND Rules of Evidence)
Dismiss with Prejudice
The court dismisses the case and won’t allow any other case to be filed on the same claim in the future
Dismiss without Prejudice
The court dismisses the case but another case may be filed on the same claim in future
The file maintained by the court for each case. It lists every document filed with the Clerk of Court
The permanent residence of a person


Testimony or exhibits offered at trial for the purpose of establishing the truth or falsity of an allegation
Ex Parte Motion
Motion that is filed without giving notice to the opposing party
Ex Parte
Contact with the judge without giving notice to the other party and without the other party present. You have approached the judge “ex parte”
Documents or other materials presented as evidence at trial
Expert Witness
Person who has scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge that can help the court or jury understand the evidence


Can be proven true or false. For example, who, what, why, when, and where. On the other hand, opinions are views or beliefs that can’t be proven true or false
A crime of a serious nature
Bringing or sending pleadings, motions or briefs to the Clerk of Court’s office and asking that they be filed
Filing Fee
An amount of money, set by law, that a party must pay when filing a documents in an action
Findings of Fact And Conclusions of Law
After a trial or after hearing all of the evidence a judge writes this explaining what facts the judge found to be true and the legal consequences of those facts. These go along with the judge’s written judgment
A false representation of fact on which a person relied and that reliance injures that person
Unworthy of serious consideration


The act of taking a person’s wages to satisfy a judgment
General Jurisdiction
A court of general jurisdiction is one that has the authority to hear all kinds of cases. State District Courts are courts of general jurisdiction
Good Cause
A good reason.
Good Faith
Acting in good faith means having honesty of intentions. E.g. negotiating in good faith means negotiating with an open mind and a sincere desire to reach an agreement
A person appointed by the court to make personal decisions for a protected person
Guardian Ad Litem
A person appointed by the court to look after the interests of a minor or juvenile
A court-ordered legal arrangement under which a person (a guardian) has the legal right and duty to care for another person (an adult or a minor). A guardianship is established by a court because the person subject to guardianship is unable to legally act in their own behalf.


A hearing resembles a trial but is more relaxed. A hearing is generally held in a courtroom and is open to the public. It is a formal meeting of the parties for the purpose of resolving some of the issues before the court
Persons who are entitled to inherit property of the deceased
Hearsay is a statement made by someone other than the person repeating it. E.g. a person swearing that they were told by another that the parties reached an agreement would be hearsay. (See ND Rules of Evidence 801 for a definition of hearsay and also see Rule 803 and Rule 804 for exceptions to the hearsay Rule)


Challenging the accuracy of evidence. A witness may be impeached by questioning the witness to show that he or she is not telling the truth
Something, under established rules of evidence, that cannot be admitted or received into evidence
Incompetent Person
A person who lacks legal capacity to do something, such as testify, due to age or mental deficiency
Needy, poor, impoverished. A defendant in a criminal case that can show this need may be appointed an attorney at public expense
In limine
Latin for “at the beginning” or “at the threshold.” For example, a motion in limine at the beginning of a trial to ask that certain evidence be excluded
Explain, clarify or translate a piece of information that is unclear to the person asking the question. Legal interpretation is explaining, clarifying, or translating a legal text or legal concept
To die without making a will or leaving instructions for disposal of property after death. The heirs and division of property are determined by North Dakota Century Code Chapter 30.1-04
A disputed question of fact


A written order of the judge’s decision or the jury’s verdict and the remedies, if any, that are ordered
Judgment Creditor
The person who is owed money based on a written judgment. The written judgment signed by the court will name the person (or persons) who owe money. The written judgment will also say how much money is owed
Judgment Debtor
The person who owes the money based on a written judgment. The written judgment signed by the court will name the person (or persons) who owe money. The written judgment will also say how much money is owed
The power of the court to inquire into the facts, apply the law, and determine and pronounce judgment. There are two types of jurisdiction: 1) Subject matter jurisdiction is the court’s power to hear and determine the type of case or controversy; and 2) Personal jurisdiction is the court’s power over the parties in a civil action. The court must have both types of jurisdiction
A person selected to be on a jury
Jury Selection
The process by which a jury is chosen. Usually this includes questioning by the attorney/parties and/or the judge. This is also known as voir dire
Jury Trial
Group of citizens that decide the factual issues in a case. The jury weighs the evidence presented by the parties, decides which evidence to believe, and determines what they believe happened. A judge instructs the jury on the law and the jury applies the law to the facts that they have found and then determines who wins the case.


Relationship through blood, marriage, or adoption


Leading Question
A question that suggests to the witness a desired answer
Legal Advice
A recommendation about a legal matter that would affect the rights and responsibilities of the person receiving the recommendation, such as recommending a particular action an individual should take given their set of certain circumstances. Only a lawyer can give legal advice to their client, as part of their lawyer-client relationship
Legal Authority
Either primary or secondary authority. A primary legal authority is a case, statute, regulation, or other authority supported by governmental power (North Dakota Supreme Court opinions, North Dakota Century Code, North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure, North Dakota Constitution). A secondary legal authority is a treatise, law review article, or other source that explains or comments on the law, but isn’t supported by governmental power (American Jurisprudence, North Dakota Law Review)
Legal Information
Explanations about the law and the legal system in general terms that aren’t tailored to an individual’s specific circumstances or case. Providing a general overview of a court process and referring to the court rules or laws that generally apply to the court process is legal information
Legal Research
An essential function of legal representation. The purpose of legal research includes determining legal rights and responsibilities, understanding the legal issue or issues, determining how to get the legal issue to court, finding legal authority to support the legal argument or case, and finding legal authority to challenge the other party’s argument or case
Limited Legal Representation (Unbundling)
An arrangement with an attorney to help you with part of your case while you handle the rest of your case on your own. You pay for the part of the case the attorney handled.
The plaintiff and the defendant both are referred to as the parties or the litigants in the lawsuit
Living Will
Also known as a medical directive or advance directive. It is a written document that states a person’s wishes regarding life-support and other medical treatment, usually when death is imminent


Intentionally harmful or spiteful
Material Fact
A fact that is significant or important in a case
Generally indicates "optional" and a matter of discretion.
A process where a trained neutral third party assists disputing parties to reach their own solution
A minor is a person who has not reached full legal age. For most purposes, a minor is someone under the age of eighteen (18)
A lesser crime punishable by a fine and/or jail time for up to one year
A motion is a request to the Court to issue an order for a specific purpose. E.g. Motion for Continuance
Motion For Summary Judgment
This asks the Court to decide the case without a trial because there are no material facts in dispute
Motion to Amend Judgment
Either party can make this motion to amend the judgment if a mistake was made in the judgment that should be corrected
Motion to Dismiss
This is usually filed by the Defendant to ask the Court to dismiss part or all of the complaint if there are legal problems with how it is written, filed or served
Moving Party
Party who files a motion is the moving party
Municipal Court
A court of a city or municipality that has jurisdiction over all violations of municipal ordinances, except certain violations involving juveniles. Trials in municipal court are before the judge without a jury. In cities with a population of 5,000 or more, the municipal judge is required to be a licensed attorney


Notarial Act
An act that a notarial officer may perform under the law of North Dakota. This includes taking an acknowledgment, administering an oath or affirmation, taking a verification on oath or affirmation, witnessing or attesting a signature, certifying or attesting a copy, and noting a protest of a negotiable instrument
Notarial Officer
A notary public or other individual authorized to perform a notarial act, including a judge, clerk of court, or deputy clerk of court of any court of North Dakota
Notary Public
Public officer who is authorized by the state or federal government to administer oaths and to attest to the authenticity of signatures
Notice of Hearing
A notice of hearing is filed with the motion. It informs all parties in the lawsuit what kind of motion is being filed and the hearing date for the motion and the location of the hearing if one is scheduled.


A formal protest made by a party during a hearing or trial over testimony or evidence that the other side tries to introduce
The person who receives child support or spousal support
The person who owes child support or spousal support
Opening Statement
At the beginning of a trial, each party has an opportunity to make an opening statement. The opening statement generally describes the issues in the case and states what the party expects to prove during trial
Opposing Party
Generally, the party you are suing or are defending against is called the opposing party
When the decision of a case is appealed from a North Dakota state district court to the North Dakota Supreme Court, the Supreme Court writes their opinion to explain how and why they interpreted the laws or rules to decide the appeal the way they did. The opinions are case law and are followed by North Dakota courts deciding later cases with similar facts and issues
Oral Argument
The verbal presentation of a lawyer or pro se party, make to the judge in a court hearing in support of his or her position
A mandate from a superior authority (executive order); a ruling or command made by an administrative authority, especially one resulting from administration adjudication and subject to judicial review and enforcement; or an authoritative command issued by a court (court order)
Law passed by the local legislative branch of government (city council, county commission)
Overrule an Objection
If an objection is made by a party and the judge disagrees with the objection, the judge has “overruled” the objection and the question can be answered or the evidence can be admitted


The plaintiffs and the defendants are referred to as the parties or the litigants in the lawsuit
A person is guilty of perjury if they make a statement under oath that they know to be untrue of false
Personal Service
Delivery of the summons and complaint (or other court document) directly to the person named on the summons and complaint (or other court document)
The person who files the civil lawsuit with the Court
In a criminal case, the defendant’s statement of “guilty” or “not guilty” in answer to the charges
A pleading is a written document stating the facts supporting a legal claim or defense. The most common pleadings are the complaint and answer
Power of Attorney
A document giving a person the right or authority to make binding decisions for another
A court decision in an earlier case with facts and legal issues similar to a dispute currently before a court. Judges will generally follow precedent – they use the principles established in earlier cases to decide new cases that have similar facts and raise similar legal issues. A judge will disregard precedent if a party can show that the earlier case was wrongly decided, or that it’s different in some significant way from the current case
Generally includes all matters and proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates, guardianships, etc. It is also a court procedure where a will is proved to be valid or invalid
Pro Bono
If a lawyer represents a client without charge. The lawyer is said to be representing the client pro bono
Pro per
A term sometimes used to refer to a pro se litigant. It’s a shortened version of the Latin phrase “in propria persona”
Pro se
A party, or litigant, in a lawsuit that represents himself or herself. Proceeding pro se means proceeding without a lawyer
Proof of Service
A document stating how and when service of a summons and complaint or other legal document was made on the other party


Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
An order or judgment issued by a court and approved by a pension plan that divides a pension plan as part of the equitable division of property in a divorce or legal separation case
Quiet Title
A case in which the ownership of real property (real estate) is in dispute, and the court must decide who owns (or has title to) the property. To “quiet title” is to declare that a certain person is the legal owner of the real property in dispute


Rebuttal Testimony
At trial, after the defendants have completed their questioning of their own witnesses, plaintiffs can call additional witnesses solely to challenge or “rebut” testimony given by the defendants’ witnesses. Defendants also have the opportunity to present rebuttal witnesses to “rebut” the testimony of the plaintiff’s’ witnesses
Records Retention and Disposal Schedule
A system or plan covering all records kept by the court system that states what records may be disposed of and when. See Rule 19 of the North Dakota Administrative Rules
Re-direct Examination
After the opposing party has cross-examined a witness, the party who called the witness gets to ask questions about topics covered in the cross examination
A rule issued by an administrative agency under authority granted to the agency by the legislature
Relief from Default Judgment
Getting a default judgment removed or erased. Also called Set Aside Default Judgment and Vacate Default Judgment
An action a court can take to compensate a party that has been injured in some way by the other party’s action.
A written response in opposition to a motion made by the other party, or the answer to a counterclaim made by the other party
The official word-for-word copy of the court proceedings taken by a court reporter or court recorder
Part of the order or judgment of a civil case or part of a sentence in a criminal case. Restitution is to return the property or monetary value of the loss.
When all the evidence a party intends to offer is completed, the party is said to “rest” or “rest his/her case”
Rules of Appellate Procedure
Rules that govern procedure in the Supreme Court of North Dakota
Rules of Civil Procedures
Rules that govern all procedures in civil actions in district court
Rules of Court
Rules that apply to all trial courts of the state in all civil, criminal, and juvenile cases, and to all appellate courts of the state unless there is a supreme Court administrative rule or order that applies
Rules of Criminal Procedure
Rules that govern all practice and procedures in criminal cases in district court and other courts including prosecutions in municipal courts
Rules of Evidence
Rules that govern proceedings in the courts of North Dakota. The rules are to secure fairness, eliminate unjustifiable expense and delay
Rules of Juvenile Procedure
Rules that govern the procedure in all actions conducted under the Uniform Juvenile Court Act. The rules must be administered to protect the best interests of children and to address the unique characteristics and needs of children


Punishment the court may impose on a person in certain situations. E.g. a person refuses to obey a court order, or refuses to respond to discovery requests. A sanction can be monetary or even result in a lawsuit being dismissed
When one party provides a document or copy of a document to the other party according to ND Rules of Civil Procedure on service
Generally indicates "mandatory" and not a matter of discretion.
Special Proceeding
A special proceeding is any remedy other than an action.
Small Claims Court
Cases for recovery of money or an agreement involving fraud, deception, misrepresentation, or false promise when the value does not exceed five thousand dollars
Status Conference
Sometimes called a pre-trial conference. A judge will conduct a hearing to see about the progress of the case or address problems the parties may be having
A law or act passed by the legislature. The North Dakota Century Code (N.D.C.C.) contains North Dakota’s statutes
Statute of Limitations
The amount of time a person has to file a lawsuit after the injury or, in some cases, after the person becomes aware of the cause of the injury
Written agreement signed by all parties
Document issued which requires a person (non-party to appear at a proceeding, hearing or trial
Subpoena Duces Tecum
Document that requires a non-party to produce documents listed in the subpoena duces tecum
Summary Judgment
A decision by the court to end a lawsuit, usually before trial because the evidence shows there is no real dispute about the key facts
A document that must be served with the original complaint in order to start a lawsuit
Sustain (an objection)
If a judge “sustains” an objection by the other party the question cannot be answered or the evidence cannot be admitted


To die leaving a valid will
The person who makes a will
Evidence given by a witness, under oath
An injury or wrong committed, either with or without force, to the person or property of another
The written record taken down by a court reporter or court recorder of what was said in a court proceeding


Unbundling (Limited Legal Representation)
An arrangement with an attorney to help you with part of your case while you handle the rest of your case on your own. You pay for the part of the case the attorney handled


Place where the lawsuit is filed.
When a jury or judge (in a bench trial) decides who wins, the decision is called a verdict
Voir Dire
Jury selection process where each potential juror is asked questions to determine any bias that would prevent the juror from being fair and impartial


To give up a legal right voluntarily, intentionally, and with full knowledge of the consequences
With Prejudice
A case that is dismissed with prejudice cannot be re-charged or re-filed
Without Prejudice
A case that is dismissed without prejudice can be re-charged or re-filed in another complaint
A person with personal knowledge about relevant facts in a case
Witness Box
Chair where witnesses sit when they are testifying in court. Usually to the side of the judge’s bench



Your Honor
When talking to a judge or judicial referee in a court hearing or trial, call the judge or judicial referee “Your Honor”