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Glossary of Legal Terms

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From “Habeas corpus” to “Hypothetical question”

Habeas corpus
The name of a writ having for its object to bring a person before a court.

Harmless error
An error committed during a trial that was corrected or was not serious enough to affect the outcome of a trial and therefore was not sufficiently harmful (prejudicial) to be reversed on appeal.

Headnote
A brief summary of a legal rule or significant facts in a case, which along with other headnotes, precedes the printed opinion in reports.

Hearing
A formal proceeding (generally less formal than a trial) with definite issues of law or of fact to be heard. Hearings are used extensively by legislative and administrative agencies.

Hearing de novo
A full new hearing.

Hearsay
Statements by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. Hearsay is usually not admissible as evidence in court.

Hostile witness
A witness whose testimony is not favorable to the party who calls him or her as a witness. A hostile witness may be asked leading questions and may be cross-examined by the party who calls him or her to the stand.

Hung jury
A jury whose members cannot agree upon a verdict.

Hypothetical question
An imaginary situation, incorporating facts previously admitted into evidence, upon which an expert witness is permitted to give an opinion as to a condition resulting from the situation.