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Glossary of Legal Terms – C

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From “Calendar” to “Custody”

Calendar
A list of cases scheduled for hearing in court.

Calling the docket
The public calling of the docket or list of causes at commencement of term of court, for setting a time for trial or entering orders.

Canons of ethics
Standards of ethical conduct for attorneys.

Capacity
Having legal authority or mental ability. Being of sound mind.

Capital crime
A crime punishable by death.

Caption
Heading or introductory party of a pleading.

Case law
Law established by previous decisions of appellate courts, particularly the United States Supreme Court.

Cases
General term for an action, cause, suit, or controversy, at law or in equity; questions contested before a court of justice.

Cause
A lawsuit, litigation, or action. Any question, civil or criminal, litigated or contested before a court of justice.

Cause of action
The fact or facts which give a person a right to relief in court.

Caveat
A warning; a note of caution.

Cease and desist order
An order of an administrative agency or court prohibiting a person or business from continuing a particular course of conduct.

Censure
An official reprimand or condemnation of an attorney.

Certificate of Title
Document issued by Registrar of Titles for real estate registered under the Torrens System, which is considered conclusive evidence of the present ownership and state of the title to the property described therein.

Certification
1. Written attestation. 2. Authorized declaration verifying that an instrument is a true and correct copy of the original.

Certiorari
A writ of review issued by a higher court to a lower court. A means of getting an appellate court to review a lower court’s decision. If an appellate court grants a writ of certiorari, it agrees to take the appeal. (Sometimes referred to as “granting cert.”)

Challenge
An objection, such as when an attorney objects at a hearing to the seating of a particular person on a civil or criminal jury.

Challenge for cause
A request from a party to a judge that a certain prospective juror not be allowed to be a member of a jury because of specified causes or reasons.

Chambers
A judge’s private office. A hearing in chambers takes place in the judge’s office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.

Change of venue
Moving a lawsuit or criminal trial to another place for trial.

Character evidence
The testimony of witnesses who know the general character and reputation of a person in the community in which he or she lives. It may be considered by the jury in a dual respect: (1) as substantive evidence upon the theory that a person of good character and reputation is less likely to commit a crime than one who does not have a good character and reputation, and (2) as corroborative evidence in support of a witness’s testimony as bearing upon credibility.

Charge to the jury
The judge’s instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of the case on trial.

Chattel
An article of personal property.

Chief judge
Presiding or administrative judge in a court.

Child
Offspring of parentage; progeny.

Chronological
Arranged in the order in which events happened; according to date.

Circumstantial evidence
All evidence except eyewitness testimony. One example is physical evidence, such as fingerprints, from which an inference can be drawn.

Citation
A writ or order issued by a court commanding the person named therein to appear at the time and place named; also the written reference to legal authorities, precedents, reported cases, etc., in briefs or other legal documents.

Citators
A set of books which provides the subsequent history of reported decisions through a form of abbreviations or words.

Civil
Relating to private rights and remedies sought by civil actions as contrasted with criminal proceedings.

Civil action
An action brought to enforce or protect private rights.

Civil law
Law based on a series of written codes or laws.

Civil procedure
The rules and process by which a civil case is tried and appealed, including the preparations for trial, the rules of evidence and trial conduct, and the procedure for pursuing appeals.

Claim
A debt owing by a debtor to another person or business. In probate parlance, the term used for debts of the decedent and a procedure that must be followed by a creditor to obtain payment from his estate.

Class action
A lawsuit brought by one or more persons on behalf of a larger group.

Clayton Act
A federal law which is an amendment to the Sherman Act dealing with antitrust regulations and unfair trade practices.

Clean air acts
Federal and state environmental statutes enacted to regulate and control air pollution.

Clear and convincing evidence
Standard of proof commonly used in civil lawsuits and in regulatory agency cases. It governs the amount of proof that must be offered in order for the plaintiff to win the case.

Clemency or executive clemency
Act of grace or mercy by the president or governor to ease the consequences of a criminal act, accusation, or conviction. (Sometimes known as commutation or pardon.)

Clerk of Court
Administrator or chief clerical officer of the court.

Closing argument
The closing statement, by counsel, to the trier of facts after all parties have concluded their presentation of evidence.

Code of Federal Regulations
An annual publication which contains the cumulative executive agency regulations.

Code of Professional Conduct
The rules of conduct that govern the legal profession.

Codicil
An amendment to a will.

Collate
To arrange in order; verify arrangement of pages before binding or fastening; put together.

Collective mark
Trademark or service mark used by members of a cooperative, an association, or other collective group or organization.

Commit
To send a person to prison, asylum, or reformatory by a court order.

Common law
Also case law. Law established by subject matter heard in earlier cases.

Commutation
The reduction of a sentence, as from death to life imprisonment.

Comparative fault
A rule in admiralty law where each vessel involved in a collision is required to pay a share of the total damages in proportion to its percentage of fault.

Comparative negligence
The rule under which negligence is measured by percentage, and damages are diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person seeking recovery.

Competency
A witness’s ability to observe, recall and recount under other what happened. Criminal defendants must also be competent to stand trial; they must understand the nature of the proceedings and have the ability to assist their lawyers.

Complainant
The party who complains or sues; one who applies to the court for legal redress.

Complaint
1. The legal document that usually begins a civil lawsuit. It states the facts and identifies the action the court is asked to take. 2. Formal written charge that a person has committed a criminal offense.

Conciliation
A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps lower tensions, improve communications, and explore possible solutions. Conciliation is similar to mediation, but is may be less formal.

Concurrent jurisdiction
The jurisdiction of two or more courts, each authorized to deal with the same subject matter.

Concurrent sentences
Sentences for more than one crime that are to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other.

Condemnation
The legal process by which the government takes private land for public use, paying the owners a fair price.

Conditional release
A release from custody which imposes regulations on the activities and associations of the defendant. If a defendant fails to meet the conditions, the release is revoked.

Conformed copy
An exact copy of a document on which has been written things that could not or were not copied, i.e., a written signature is replaced on the conformed copy with a notation that it was signed by the parties.

Consecutive sentences
Successive sentences, one beginning at the expiration of another, imposed against a person convicted of two or more violations.

Consent
Agreement; voluntary acceptance of the wish of another.

Conservatorship
Legal right given to a person to manage the property and financial affairs of a person deemed incapable of doing that for himself or herself.

Consideration
The price bargained for and paid for a promise, goods, or real estate.

Conspiracy
A combination of two or more persons formed for the purpose of committing by joint collaboration some unlawful act.

Constitution
The fundamental law of a nation or state which establishes the character and basic principles of the government.

Constitutional law
Law set forth in the Constitution of the United States and the state constitutions.

Consumer bankruptcy
A proceeding under the Bankruptcy Code filed by an individual (or husband and wife) who is not in business.

Contempt of court
Willful disobedience of a judge’s command or of an official court order.

Continuance
Postponement of a legal proceeding to a later date.

Contract
An agreement between two or more persons which creates an obligation to do or not to do a particular thing. A legally enforceable agreement between two or more competent parties made either orally or in writing.

Contributory negligence
The rule of law under which an act or omission of plaintiff is a contributing cause of injury and a bar to recovery.

Conveyance
Instrument transferring title of land for one person or group of persons to another.

Conviction
A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.

Corpus delicti
The body (material substance) upon which a crime has been committee, e.g., the corpse of a murdered man or the charred remains of a house burned by an arsonist.

Corroborating evidence
Supplementary evidence that tends to strengthen or confirm the initial evidence.

Costs
An allowance for expenses in prosecuting or defending a suit. Ordinarily this does not include attorney fees.

Counsel
A legal adviser; a term used to refer to lawyers in a case.

Counterclaim
A claim made by the defendant in a civil lawsuit against the plaintiff. In essence, a counter lawsuit within a lawsuit.

Court
A body in government to which the administration of justice is delegated.

Court costs
The expenses of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, other than the attorney fees. An amount of money may be awarded to the successful party (and may be recoverable from the losing party) as reimbursement for court costs.

Court of original jurisdiction
A court where a matter is initiated and heard in the first instance; a trial court.

Court of record
A court in which the proceedings are recorded, transcribed, and maintained as permanent records.

Court reporter
A person who transcribes by shorthand or stenographically takes down testimony during court proceedings, a deposition, or other trial-related proceeding.

Court rules
Regulations governing practice and procedure in the various courts.

Court-appointed attorney
Attorney appointed by the court to represent a defendant, usually with respect to criminal charges and without the defendant having to pay for the representation.

Creditor
A person to whom a debt is owed by another.

Crime
An act in violation of the penal laws of a state or the United States. A positive or negative act in violation of penal law.

Criminal insanity
Lack of mental capacity to do or abstain from doing a particular act; inability to distinguish right from wrong.

Criminal justice system
The network of courts and tribunals which deal with criminal law and its enforcement.
Criminal summons
An order commanding an accused to appear in court.

Cross-claim
A pleading which asserts a claim arising out of the same subject action as the original complaint against a co-party, i.e., one co-defendant cross claims against another co-defendant for contribution for any damages assessed against him.

Cross-examination
The questioning of a witness produced by the other side.
Cumulative sentences
Sentences for two or more crimes to run consecutively, rather than concurrently.

Custody
Detaining of a person by lawful process or authority to assure his or her appearance to any hearing; the jailing or imprisonment of a person convicted of a crime.