Glossary of Legal Terms – M

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From “Magistrate” to “Mutual assent”

Magistrate
Judicial officer exercising some of the functions of a judge. It also refers in a general way to a judge.

Malfeasance
The commission of an unlawful act.

Malicious prosecution
An action instituted with intention of injuring the defendant and without probable cause, and which terminates in favor of the person prosecuted.

Malpractice
Any professional misconduct.

Mandamus
A writ by which a court commands the performance of a particular act.

Manslaughter
The unlawful killing of another without intent to kill; either voluntary (upon a sudden impulse); or involuntary (during the commission of an unlawful act not ordinarily expected to result in great bodily harm).

Marshal
The executive officer of the federal court.

Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Directory
A publication of several volumes which contains names, addresses, specialties, and rating of United States lawyers; also includes digests of state and foreign statutory law.

Material evidence
Evidence which is relevant to the issues in a case.

Mediation
A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps them agree on a settlement.

Memorandum
An informal note or instrument embodying something the parties desire to have in written evidence.

Memorialized
In writing.

Mens rea
Literally in Latin, “guilty mind.” The intent required to commit the crime. It is a prerequisite to conviction for a crime involving a moral wrong, but it is not a prerequisite to conviction for an act that is a crime only because a statute designates it to be a crime, e.g., overtime parking.

Merger
The absorption of one thing or right into another.

Minor
A person under the age of legal competence.

Minute book
A book maintained by the courtroom deputy (bailiff), which contains minute entries of all hearings and trial conducted by the judge.

Minutes
Memorandum of a transaction or proceeding.

Miranda warning
Requirement that police tell a suspect in their custody of his or her constitutional rights before they question him or her. So named as a result of the Miranda v. Arizona ruling by the United States Supreme Court.

Misdemeanor
A criminal offense lesser than a felony and generally punishable by fine or by imprisonment other than in a penitentiary.

Misfeasance
Improper performance of an act which a person might lawfully do.

Mistrial
An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again from the selection of the jury.

Mitigating circumstances
Those which do not constitute a justification or excuse for an offense but which may be considered as reasons for reducing the degree of blame.

Mitigation
A reduction, abatement, or diminution of a penalty or punishment imposed by law.

Mittimus
The name of an order in writing, issuing from a court and directing the sheriff or other officer to convey a person to a prison, asylum, or reformatory, and directing the jailer or other appropriate official to receive and safely keep the person until his or her fate shall be determined by due course of law.

Moot
A moot case or a moot point is one not subject to a judicial determination because it involves an abstract question or a pretended controversy that has not yet actually arisen or has already passed. Mootness usually refers to a court’s refusal to consider a case because the issue involved has been resolved prior to the court’s decision, leaving nothing that would be affected by the court’s decision.

Motion
An application made to a court or judge which requests a ruling or order in favor of the applicant.

Motion in Limine
A motion made by counsel requesting that information which might be prejudicial not be allowed to be heard in a case.

Murder
The unlawful killing of a human being with deliberate intent to kill: (1) murder in the first degree is characterized by premeditation; (2) murder in the second degree is characterized by a sudden and instantaneous intent to kill or to cause injury without caring whether the injury kills or not.

Mutual assent
A meeting of the minds; agreement.

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