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Glossary of Legal Terms – A

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From “Abatement of action” to “Attorney-in-fact”

Abatement of action
A suit which has been quashed and ended.

Abstract of record
A short, abbreviated form of the case as found in the record.

Abstract of title
A chronological summary of all official records and recorded documents affecting the title to a parcel of real property.

Acceptance
The taking and receiving of anything in good faith with the intention of retaining it.

Accessory
A person who assists in the commission of a crime, either before or after the fact.

Accomplice
1. A partner in a crime. 2. A person who knowingly and voluntarily participates with another in a criminal activity.

Accord
A satisfaction agreed upon between the parties in a lawsuit which bars subsequent actions on the claim.

Accord and satisfaction
A method of discharging a claim upon agreement by the parties to give and accept something in settlement of the claim.

Accretion
The increase or accumulation of land by natural causes, as out of a lake or river.

Accused
The name for the defendant in a criminal case.

Acknowledgment
A formal declaration before an authorized official by the person who executed an instrument that it is his free act and deed; the certificate of the official on such instrument attesting that it was so acknowledged.

Acquittal
The legal certification of the innocence of a person who has been charged with a crime, setting the person free from a charge of guilty by a finding of not guilty.

Acquittal
A release, absolution, or discharge of an obligation or liability. In criminal law the finding of not guilty.

Action Case
Cause, suit, or controversy disputed or contested before a court of justice.

Action in personam
An action against the person, founded on a personal liability. In contrast to action in rem, an action for the recovery of a specific object, usually an item of personal property such as an automobile.

Action in rem
Proceeding “against the thing” as compared to personal actions (in personam). Usually a proceeding where property is involved.

Additur
An increase by a judge in the amount of damages awarded by a jury.

Adjective law
Also, procedural law. That body of law which governs the process of protecting the rights under substantive law.

Adjudication
Giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree. Also the judgment given.

Administrative agencies
Agencies created by the legislative branch of government to administer laws pertaining to specific areas such as taxes, transportation, and labor.

Administrator
1. One who administers the estate of a person who dies without a will. 2. A court official.

Admiralty law
Also, maritime law. That body of law relating to ships, shipping, marine commerce and navigation, transportation of persons or property by sea, etc.

Admissible evidence
Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.

Admission
A statement tending to establish the guilt or liability of the person making the statement.

Admonish
To advise or caution. For example the court may caution or admonish counsel for wrong practices.

Advance sheets
Paperback pamphlets published by law book publishers weekly or monthly which contain reporter cases, including correct volume number and page number. When there are sufficient cases, they are replaced by a bound volume.

Adversary proceeding
One having opposing parties such as a plaintiff and a defendant. Individual lawsuit(s) brought within a bankruptcy proceeding.

Adversary system
The system of trial practice in the United States and some other countries in which each of the opposing, or adversary, parties has the opportunity to present and establish opposing contentions before the court.

Adverse possession
Method of acquiring real property under certain conditions by possession for a statutory period.

Affiant
The person who makes and subscribes an affidavit.

Affidavit
A voluntary, written, or printed declaration of facts, confirmed by oath of the party making it before a person with authority to administer the oath.

Affirmation
A solemn and formal declaration that an affidavit is true. This is substituted for an oath in certain cases.

Affirmative defense
A defense raised in a responsive pleading (answer) relating a new matter as a defense to the complaint; affirmative defenses might include contributory negligence or estopped in civil actions; in criminal cases insanity, duress, or self-defense might be used.

Affirmed
In the practice of appellate courts, the word means that the decision of the trial court is correct.

Aggravated assault
An attempt to cause serious bodily injury to another or purposely, knowingly or recklessly causing such injury, or an attempt to cause or purposely or knowingly cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon.

Aggravated battery
The unlawful use of force against another with unusual or serious consequences such as the use of a dangerous weapon. agent

Agreement
Mutual consent.

Aid and Abet
To actively, knowingly, or intentionally assist another person in the commission or attempted commission of a crime.

Alibi
A defense claim that the accused was somewhere else at the time a crime was committed.

Alien
A foreign-born person who has not qualified as a citizen of the country.

Allegation
A statement of the issues in a written document (a pleading) which a person is prepared to prove in court.

Alteration
Changing or making different.

Alternative dispute resolution
Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement, among others.

American Bar Association
A national association of lawyers whose primary purpose is improvement of lawyers and the administration of justice.

American Law Reports
A publication which reports cases from all United States jurisdictions by subject matter.

amicus curiae
A friend of the court; a nonparty who interposes, with the permission of the court, and volunteers information upon some matter before the court.

Ancillary
A proceeding which is auxiliary or subordinate to another proceeding. In probate, a proceeding in a state where a decedent owned property but was not domiciled.

Annotations
Remarks, notes, case summaries, or commentaries following statutes which describe interpretations of the statute.

Answer
A formal, written statement by the defendant in a lawsuit which answers each allegation contained in the complaint.

Answers to Interrogatories
A formal written statement by a party to a lawsuit which answers each question or interrogatory propounded by the other party. These answers must be acknowledged before a notary public or other person authorized to take acknowledgments.

Antitrust acts
Federal and state statutes to protect trade and commerce from unlawful restraints, price discriminations, price fixing, and monopolies.

Appeal
A proceeding brought to a higher court to review a lower court decision.

Appeal Bond
A guaranty by the appealing party insuring that court costs will be paid.

Appearance
The act of coming into court as a party to a suit either in person or through an attorney.

Appellant
The party appealing a decision or judgment.

Appellate court
A court having jurisdiction to hear appeals and review a trial court’s procedure.

Appellee
The party against whom an appeal is taken.

Appendix
Supplementary materials added to the end of a document.

Arbitration
The hearing of a dispute by an impartial third person or persons (chosen by the parties), whose award the parties agree to accept.

Arbitrator
A private, disinterested person chosen by the parties in arbitration to hear evidence concerning the dispute and to make an award based on the evidence.

Arraignment
The hearing at which the accused is brought before the court to plead to the criminal charge in the indictment. He may plead “guilty,” “not guilty,” or where permitted “nolo contendere.”

Arrest
To take into custody by legal authority.

Assault
Threat to inflict injury with an apparent ability to do so. Also, any intentional display of force that would give the victim reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm.

Assignment
The transfer to another person of any property, real or personal.

Assumption of risk
A doctrine under which a person may not recover for an injury received when he has voluntarily exposed himself to a known danger.

At issue
The time in a lawsuit when the complaining party has stated their claim and the other side has responded with a denial and the matter is ready to be tried.

Attachment
Taking a person’s property to satisfy a court-ordered debt.

Attempt
An endeavor or effort to do an act or accomplish a crime, carries beyond preparation, but lacking execution.

Attorney of record
The principal attorney in a lawsuit, who signs all formal documents relating to the suit.

Attorney-at-law
An advocate, counsel, or official agent employed in preparing, managing, and trying cases in the courts.

Attorney-in-fact
A private person (who is not necessarily a lawyer) authorized by another to act in his or her place, either for some particular purpose, as to do a specific act, or for the transaction of business in general, not of legal character. This authority is conferred by an instrument in writing, called a “letter of attorney,” or more commonly “power of attorney.”