Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

Action
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.
Adjourn
The judge will decide when to adjourn (end) the court proceeding
Adjudication
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
Affidavit
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
Agent
Person authorized to act on behalf of another person
Allegation
Statement of claimed fact and is only an allegation until it is proven
Amendment
To make changes to a document that has already been filed with the court
Answer
The written response by a Defendant to a complaint
Appeal
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
Arraignment
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

B

Bad Faith
Dishonesty or fraud such as entering into an agreement with no intent to ever living up to the terms of the agreement
Bailiff
A court attendant who keeps order in the courtroom and to see to the needs of the jury
Bench
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
Beneficiary
Person who receives money or property in a will. Person who benefits from a trust
Bequest
A gift in a will
Breach
Where a person fails to perform as they have agreed. They commit a breach of the agreement or contract
Brief
Written document filed by a party where the party presents the facts, law and argument of how the facts apply to the law

C

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
Chambers
The private office of a judge
Children:
Abuse
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
Delinquent
A child under 18 years who has committed an act, which if committed by an adult would be a criminal offense
Deprivation
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. (See statute for more complete definition)
Neglect
Neglect and deprived may be used interchangeably
Unruly
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 crimninal 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
Complaint
Criminal – formal written charge that a person committed a criminal offense. Civil – document from the plaintiff which states the claims against the defendant
Conservator
A person appointed by the court to make financial decisions for a protected person
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
Continuance
A grant by the court for an extension of time
Counsel
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
Cross-examination
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.

D

Damages
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
Default
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
Defendant
The parties the plaintiffs claim injured them in violation of law (civil) The party that is accused of committing a crime (criminal)
Defenses
The reasons defendants give for why plaintiffs’ claims against them should be dismissed
Deposition
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
Discovery
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)
Docket
The file maintained by the court for each case. It lists every document filed with the Clerk of Court
Domicile
The permanent residence of a person

E

Evidence
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”
Exhibits
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

F

Felony
A crime of a serious nature
Filing
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
Fraud
A false representation of fact on which a person relied and that reliance injures that person
Frivolous
Unworthy of serious consideration

G

Garnishment
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 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
Guardian
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

H

Hearing
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
Heirs
Persons who are entitled to inherit property of the deceased
Heresay
Heresay 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 heresay. (See ND Rules of Evidence 801 for a definition of heresay and also see Rule 803 and 804 for exceptions to the heresay Rule)

I

Impeachment
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
Inadmissible
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
Indigent
Needy, poor, impoverished. A defendant in a criminal case that can show this need may be appointed an attorney at public expense
Issue
A disputed question of fact

J

Judgment
A written order of the judge’s decision or the jury’s verdict and the remedies, if any, that are ordered
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.

K

L

Litigants
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
Leading Question
A question that suggests to the witness a desired answer

M

Malicious
Intentionally harmful or spiteful
Material Fact
A fact that is significant or important in a case
May
Generally indicates "optional" and a matter of discretion.
Mediation
A process where a trained neutral third party assists disputing parties to reach their own solution
Minor
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)
Misdemeanor
A lesser crime punishable by a fine and/or jail time for up to one year
Motion
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

N

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.

O

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
Objection
An objection is a protest about the legal propriety of a question. Objections are made verbally at hearings or trials
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
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

P

Parties
The plaintiffs and the defendants are referred to as the parties or the litigants in the lawsuit
Perjury
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)
Plaintiff
The person who files the civil lawsuit with the Court
Plea
In a criminal case, the defendant’s statement of “guilty” or “not guilty” in answer to the charges
Pleading
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
Probate
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 se
A party 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

Q

R

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
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
Remedies
An action a court can take to compensate a party that has been injured in some way by the other party’s action.
Reply
A written response in opposition to a motion made by the other party, or the answer to a counterclaim made by the other party
Record
The official word-for-word copy of the court proceedings taken by a court reporter or court recorder
Restitution
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.
Rest
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

S

Sanction
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
Serve/Service
When one party provides a document or copy of a document to the other party according to ND Rules of Civil Procedure on service
Shall
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
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
Stipulation
Written agreement signed by all parties
Subpoena
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
Summons
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

T

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

U

V

Venue
Place where the lawsuit is filed.
Verdict
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

W

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
Witness
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

X

Y

Z