Probation in the United States A criminal sentence that allows a person to return to the community under supervised release. Probation is an alternative to imprisonment and is applied to almost two-thirds of sentenced offenders in the United States. Control is maintained over the offender by […]

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the United States Definition of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Settlement of civil disputes by means other than trial. The move to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) was prompted by a number of factors, but largely the time, expense, and […]


Verdict in the United States A finding by a jury on a fact question formally submitted to it for deliberation. The verdict is reported to the court and announced. Either party is entitled to request that the jury be polled. This requires that each juror disclose in open court his or her vote. […]


Arbitration in the United States History The common law and statute law of the United States as to arbitration bear a general resemblance to the law of England. Voluntary submissions All controversies of a civil nature, and any question of personal injury on which a suit for damages will […]

Grand Jury

Grand Jury in the United States An investigative body that makes accusations rather than determines guilt. The grand jury evaluates information generated on its own or brought to it by a prosecutor. If the grand jury determines that probable cause exists, it returns an indictment against an […]


Discovery in the United States A procedure used before civil trials that allows one party to obtain information about a case from the opposing party. Discovery assists litigants in civil suits prepare for trial. Evidence is basically gathered in three ways during discovery. The first is by […]


Appeal in the United States A request to an appellate or superior court to review a final judgment made in a lower court. Appellate jurisdiction is the power conferred upon appeals courts to conduct such a review. It empowers the court to set aside or modify the lower court decision. An […]


Tort in the United States Introduction A private or civil injury to a person or property. An injured party may bring suit, but tort actions do not represent a major portion of civil case filings. Rather, such claims are typically resolved prior to the filing of a lawsuit. The potential for […]


Bail in United States Bail Definition (Fr. bailler, to deliver). Those persons who become sureties for the appearance of the defendant in court. The delivery of the defendant to persons who, in the manner prescribed by law, become security for his appearance in court. The word is used both as […]


Jurisdiction in the United States The power of a court to act, including its authority to hear and decide cases. Jurisdiction defines the boundaries within which a particular court may exercise judicial power. Judicial power is specifically conveyed through the assignment of jurisdiction. The […]

Statute Of Limitations

Statute of Limitations in the United States A law that establishes a time period within which legal action must commence. Statutes of limitation are legislative enactments and the operative time limits vary across jurisdictions and by the issue involved. Statutes of limitation typically set […]


Damages in the United States Compensation to a person for injury suffered. Damage (singular) refers to loss or injury to a person by accident or the negligence of another. Damages (plural) refers to the money it will take to repair that damage. Damage may take the form of personal injury in an […]


Deposition in the United States The principal approach to discovery in civil cases. A deposition involves the taking of a statement from a witness who is under oath. The statement is given by the witness in response to a question from an attorney. Both sides to a case are present during a […]


Bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Definition The state or condition of a bankrupt. A state of insolvency (in U.S. law) in which the property of a debtor is taken over by a receiver or trustee in bankruptcy for the benefit of the creditors. See other definition of Bankruptcy in the […]


Interrogatories in the United States A form of pretrial discovery. Interrogatories are a series of written questions sent to an opposing party in a civil action. Interrogatories may also be directed toward witnesses for the opposing party or anyone else having relevant information. […]


Venue in the United States The geographical area or district in which a court may hear a case. Venue refers to the location of a trial. Venue differs from jurisdiction in that the latter defines the authority of a court to hear a matter while the former defines only the place that judicial […]


Evidence in the United States Material presented as proof at a trial. Evidence provides the basis upon which a fact dispute is resolved. Evidence generally takes the form of witness testimony or physical objects such as documents and records. Parties to a dispute are entitled to submit […]


Pleadings in the United States Formal statements of claims and responses by parties to a legal action. The Pleadings become the basis of the questions taken to trial. The civil process commences with the filing of a complaint by the plaintiff. The complaint is answered by the defendant. […]


Judgment in the United States The decision of a court on the issues raised in a legal action. A judgment is the final determination of a court on matters placed before it. The judgment may be based on the court’s own conclusions on the facts or on a jury verdict. The judgment often includes an […]


Counsel in United States Counsel Definition

The counsellors who are associated in the management of a particular cause, or who act as legal advisers in reference to any matter requiring legal knowledge and judgment. The term is used both as a singular and plural noun, to denote one or […]


Statute in the United States Law enacted by the legislative branch of government. Statutes are enacted by legislatures under power authorized and means prescribed by federal and state constitutions. Resolutions adopted by legislative bodies are not considered statutes. Law adopted by […]

Service of Process

Service of Process in the United States Authority Federal law The Federal law governing service of process in civil cases is found in Rule 4, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4(f)(1) F.R.Cv. P. (28 U.S.C. Appendix Rule 4): "(f) Service Upon Individuals in a Foreign Country. […]


Jury in the United States A specific number of citizens called to render a judgment on various issues of fact in a legal proceeding. A jury functions in its most common forms as a grand jury or as a petit, or trial, jury. The grand jury hears evidence and determines whether a person must stand […]


Settlement in the United States Resolution of a dispute by mutual agreement. A settlement is reached after negotiation on the merits and brings about a final disposition of the controversy. A settlement is achieved by the parties before a court actually adjudicates the facts in a case. […]


Mediation in the United States Intervention intended to promote a settlement by a third party in a dispute. Mediation is generally nonadversarial in character and is conducted informally. The process may ultimately produce resolution of the dispute, but it may not be that successful. Instead, […]


Chambers in United States Chambers Definition Rooms or apartments. The private room of the judge. Any hearing before a judge which does not take place during a term of court, or while the judge is sitting in court, or an order issued under such circumstances, is said to be in chambers. The […]

Default Judgment

Default Judgment in the United States Court decision rendered in a civil proceeding where the defendant fails to respond. A default judgment comes after a proceeding for which the defendant has been notified, but chooses not to appear. See Also Ex Parte (Civil Process) Judgment (Civil […]


Hearsay in the United States A statement by a witness repeating the words of another person rather than testifying on the basis of direct knowledge. Hearsay testimony is not based on what a witness sees, hears, or otherwise senses himself or herself. Rather, hearsay repeats what someone else […]

Summary Judgment

Summary Judgment in the United States Decision rendered by a court on a matter before it goes to a jury. A summary judgment is a decision on the merits of a case. A summary judgment is requested on motion by either party to a suit. The motion asserts that there is no substantial fact dispute, […]


Plaintiff in the United States The person who commences or initiates a civil legal action. A plaintiff is also called a complainant because it is the plaintiff who complains about some kind of legal injury and seeks relief through a lawsuit. The counterpart to the plaintiff in a criminal case […]


Complaint in the United States A charging method generally reserved for less serious criminal violations. A complaint may also be used in civil cases in which the assertion of a claim is made to initiate the legal action. In criminal cases, a complaint is submitted to a judicial officer and […]


Indictment in the United States A formal accusation brought by a grand jury. If a grand jury decides by a majority vote to return a true bill; an indictment is issued after consideration of evidence presented by a prosecutor. A true bill represents a grand jury finding that the prosecutor has […]

Federal Jurisdiction

federal Jurisdiction in the United States Jurisdiction, Federal United States Constitution According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled JURISDICTION, FEDERALAs alexander hamilton stressed in the federalist #78, the power and obligation of federal judges […]


Misdemeanor in the United States A misdemeanor is a relatively minor criminal offense. Misdemeanors are generally punished by fine, but can involve detention at a county jail for up to one year. Misdemeanors are defined by each state and will vary somewhat. Some states choose to create […]


Litigation in the United States A lawsuit that is contested in a court. Litigation is a civil legal action initiated for the purpose of enforcing a legal right or securing some kind of legal remedy. Litigation is a controversy that is taken all the way to trial and is decided on the basis of […]

Common Law

Common Law in the United States Common Law Definition That system of law or form of the science of jurisprudence which has prevailed in England and in the United States of America, in contradistinction to other great systems, such as the Roman or civil law. As distinguished from statute […]

Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus in the United States A court order requiring the state to show cause for a person’s detention. Habeas corpus is a Latin term meaning you have the body. Habeas corpus was originally a procedure in English law designed to prevent governmental misconduct, especially the improper […]


Motion in the United States An application that requests an action by a court in favor of the applicant. A motion can be sought at virtually any stage of either a criminal or civil proceeding. Certain motions are more likely at particular points in the process, however. A motion may focus on […]


Subpoena in the United States An order that commands a person to appear at a particular time and place to offer testimony. Subpoenas are most likely to be issued by courts and grand juries, but may also come from legislative bodies or independent commissions. A subpoena duces tecum is a […]


Remand in the United States The sending of a case back to the original trial court after an appeal. The case is remanded when there are matters that require reconsideration under the terms of the appellate court decision. The term remand also applies to a prisoner who is sent back to detention […]


Information in the United States An accusation made by a prosecuting attorney before a court. The information is offered under oath and supports the charges with at least probable cause level evidence. The information is used in almost every state for misdemeanors, but more than half the […]


Mistrial in the United States A trial ended before it arrives at a conclusion. A mistrial occurs in the wake of an extraordinary situation. A mistrial may be declared, for example, because one or more of the jurors cannot continue. More often, a mistrial occurs because of a prejudicial error […]