Glossary

Glossary of legal terms used on this site.
Click one of the letters above to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.

A

a/k/a

A short way of saying “also known as” – Example: Sean Doherty a/k/a Shawn Dougherty

Ab Initio

Latin for "from the beginning."

Abandon

to leave with no intention to return.

Absolute Divorce

The final ending of a marriage. Both parties are legally free to remarry.

Adjudicatory Hearing

This is a trial to determine whether or not you are guilty.

Administrative Decision

The published decision of a hearing officer after an administrative agency conducts a hearing. For example, a MD Human Relations Commission hearing examiner’s decision.

Administrator

A person appointed by the court to pay the debts of a deceased person and distribute the remaining property according to law.

Advance Sheet

Paperback publication of recent judicial opinions not yet printed in bound volumes

Affidavit

A written statement made under oath.

Affidavit of Support

A written statement prepared by a local child support office to record the agreement of parents regarding child support payments.

Affirmation

A solemn statement or declaration (or pledge), made under penalty of perjury and without taking an oath. An affirmation does not include a reference to a supreme being or to swearing. It is a substitute for an oath for a person whose conscience does not permit her or him to swear.

Alias Summons

Another summons when the original is not served on the defendant.

Alimony

A payment of support provided by one spouse to the other.

Alternate juror

Sometimes a juror has to be removed from the jury before the end of a trial, for example, if the juror becomes ill. To avoid having to retry the case, extra or “alternate” jurors are selected to hear the case with the jury. Any alternate who does not become a member of the jury during the trial is excused when the jury begins deliberations. An alternate juror must comply with the same requirements that are placed on other jurors. In some counties, grand juries also have alternate jurors.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

ADR is the general term that refers to several methods of settling a legal dispute outside of official court proceedings. Examples are mediation, arbitration, settlement and informal dispute settlement.

Annotation

This refers to published comment on the law. For example, you will find these comments in the same books that contain the actual statutes (laws). Cases, statutes, and regulations are often annotated. An annotation may provide you with historical data, case excerpts, cross-references or cites to law journal articles.

Annulment

A court’s decision that a marriage is void; it never legally existed. It is available only under certain limited circumstances.

Appeal

A legal action where the losing party requests that a higher court review the decision.

Appeallant

Party in a lawsuit who takes an appeal.

Appellee

Party in a lawsuit against whom an appeal is taken.

Arbitration

Arbitration is like a "private trial" and requires both parties to submit the dispute to one or more neutral people, with the goal of reaching a final and binding decision.

One type of alternative dispute resolution. There are two types - binding and non-binding. During arbitration, the parties present their views and offer evidence to a neutral (or impartial) person or panel. The arbitrator(s) decide what is a fair outcome in the dispute and make a decision. The outcome may be a “win-win” or it may be a “win-lose” solution. Sometimes the parties agree in advance that the decision of the arbitrator is legally “binding”. This means that the parties agree that the decision by the arbitrator(s) will be final. In other words, the parties agree not to appeal the decision to a court. If the decision was “binding”, the courts will usually refuse to allow an appeal to be filed. Non-binding arbitration is also called “informal dispute settlement”.

Assignment

A transfer to another of all or part of one's property, interests, or rights.

Attachment

Placing defendant's property in custody of the law before final determination of the lawsuit.

Attachment of Real Estate

A method of collecting the judgment by which the defendant' s real estate is seized. It may then be ordered sold, with the net proceeds used to pay the plaintiff.

Attorney General

The elected official who is the chief legal officer for the State of Maryland. The Attorney General's Office is the legal advisor to Maryland State departments, boards, commissions, officials and institutions. The Office also represents Maryland before State appellate courts and federal courts.

B

Bailiff

The court officer responsible for keeping order in the courtroom during court proceedings. Among other duties, a bailiff attends to the jury when it is deliberating.

Bona fide

In good faith, genuine, without fraud.

Brief

Written argument presented to a court for the purpose of “informing” and “persuading”.

C

Case

A dispute which has been taken to court; a lawsuit.

Case Law

Decisions of federal and state courts about how laws should be applied in specific fact situations. Opinions are reported in various volumes.

Cause of Action

A point of controversy; basis of a legal action.

Certified

A copy is “certified” when the keeper of the records puts a stamp or seal on the copy and “certifies” that it is identical to the original.

Certiorari

A writ issued by a superior to an inferior court, etc. requiring the return of the record and proceedings for review.

Challenge

As related to jury selection, an objection made by a party to either the whole jury panel or to a particular person on the jury panel. A challenge may be for cause (meaning that there is a specified legal basis for the challenge) or peremptory (meaning that the challenge is made without giving a reason).

Challenge for cause

One of the two kinds of challenges (or objections) that can made to a jury panel or to a particular individual on the jury panel. In a challenge for cause, there is a legal reason for the challenge and that reason is given.

Charter

The fundamental law of a municipality or other local government; analogous to a constitution.

Child Support Guidelines

Maryland has child support guidelines which must be followed in awarding child support. The guidelines include a formula for calculating support based on the number of children in the family, and the combined gross income of the adults. (See our Child Support Calculator ) There is a worksheet which each side must fill out. The court will review the figures on the worksheet and apply the guidelines. There are only a few circumstances when the court can award child support higher or lower than the guidelines. See the <a href="http://www.michie.com/maryland/lpext.dll/mdcode/10754/1166b?fn=document-... Code of Maryland, Family Law Article, Sections 12-201 through 12-204</a>.

CINA

"Child in Need of Assistance." If Child Protective Services receives a report that a child is in need of assistance, then the agency will conduct a report to determine if the child has been abused or neglected.

Citation

A reference to a particular authority for a point of law. For example, a citation of case includes the title, volume, and page of the report in which the opinion appears.

Citator

Publication used to trace the history and validity of a legal case by tabulation of some kind.

Civil Action

A case in which a person(s) (the plaintiff(s)) sues another person(s) (the defendant(s)). The plaintiff alleges that the defendant caused the plaintiff to suffer injury or loss, and seeks compensation for that injury or loss.

Civil case
Closing arguments

The part of a trial after all the evidence has been submitted (and in a jury trial, after the judge has instructed the jury) when the attorney for each party argues that party’s position as it relates to the evidence (and in a jury trial, the judge’s instructions). Closing arguments are not evidence.

Code

Laws in force in a particular jurisdiction. They are rewritten and arranged in subject order. It should be noted the words “code”, “revision”, and “consolidation” are frequently used interchangeably to mean the same thing.

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

Contains regulations made by federal administrative agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services. The regulations governing the operation of the agency. The federal agencies carry out the laws passed by Congress.

Collusion

An agreement between two or more persons that one of the parties brings false charges against the other. In a divorce case, the husband and wife may agree to use adultery as a ground in order to obtain a divorce more quickly, knowing full well that adultery was not committed. Collusion is illegal.

Common Law

It is the part of the law that is generally based upon (1) court decisions or (2) long standing practices. This is different from the law created by acts of legislatures such as the Maryland General Assembly or Congress.

Common Law Marriage

A common law marriage comes about when a man and woman who are free to marry agree to live together as husband and wife without the formal ceremony. To be common law married, both spouses must have intended to be husband and wife. Maryland does not recognize common law marriages.

Complainant

The one who files the suit, same as plaintiff.

Complaint

Legal paper that starts a case; the written statement by the plaintiff about about the legal claims against the defendant.

Concurring Opinion

Not a majority or dissenting opinion. A concurring decision is written by a judge who agrees with the decision, but not altogether with the legal reasoning.

Condonation

The act of forgiving one's spouse who has committed an act of wrongdoing that would constitute a ground for divorce. Condonation generally is proven by living and cohabiting with the spouse after learning that the wrongdoing was committed. It often is used as a defense to a divorce.

Confession of judgment

Written consent of tenant that the landlord may have judgment against tenant automatically, this means that there will not be legal proceedings to determine whether the case has merit.

Constitution

The fundamental law of a state or a nation. It creates the branches of government and identifies basic rights and obligations.

Contempt

Failure to follow a court order. One side can request that the court determine that the other side is in contempt and punish him or her.

Continuance

A request to postpone the case to another date. Usually you need a good reason to request that the case be rescheduled.

Contract

[no-glossary]A written or oral agreement between two or more parties.[/no-glossary]

Coroborative Witness

[no-glossary]A person who testifies for you and backs up your story. If you are asking the court to grant a divorce, you must bring to the hearing a witness who can corroborate your grounds for divorce. [/no-glossary]

Corporation

This is one of the ways that a business can be organized. Maryland law allows for the creation of a legal entity that is separate from its owners. When a corporation is formed, it becomes an “artificial legal person”. This new “person” can be sued or can sue others. Often a corporation shields its owners from personal responsibility (“liability”) for the bad acts of the corporation. If you are considering suing a Joe Lemongelli who sold you a defective car, you first need to find out if it was Joe who sold it to you or the artificial legal person (corporation) called Joe’s Lemon Auto Sales. Maybe you should sue them both. This kind of decision is best made with the help of an expert in the law – an attorney.

Counsel

Attorney; lawyer.

Counterclaim

After the plaintiff files a complaint, the defendant can now make a claim against the plaintiff. In small claims court, it usually says that the plaintiff owes the defendant money.

Criminal action

A case in which the state prosecutes a person who is charged with a public offense. The punishment, set by law, is either a fine which goes to the state, or imprisonment, or both.

Criminal case
Cross examination

The questioning of a witness by the opposing party’s lawyer. This usually occurs after direct examination (the initial questioning of a party’s witness by that party’s lawyer).

Cross-claim

When one defendant sues one of the other defendants in the same lawsuit. The cross-claim states that s/he believes the other defendant is responsible for all or part of the money that the plaintiff claims is owed, (by both defendants).

Custody

Refers to the legal arrangements about the person with whom a child will live and how decisions about the child will be made. Custody has two parts: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to the decision-making authority. If a parent is awarded sole legal custody, it means that they alone can make major decisions for the child including, for example, medical/dental and educational decisions. Physical custody refers to where the child lives on a regular basis. If they choose to settle the case, parents can make any custodial arrangement that is in the best interest of the children. If the court must decide custody, the judge will have to determine what is in the best interest of the children.

D

d/b/a

A short way of saying “doing business as” – Example: Attleborough, Levin and Crawdad LLC d/b/a The Virgo Cafe

Damages

The estimated money equivalent for a loss or injury.

Decision

The result reached by a court in resolving a dispute before it; noted by such terms as “affirmed”, “reversed”, “modified”, etc.

Default Judgment

A judgment awarded in favor of the plaintiff when the defendant fails to appear.

Defendant

The person (or persons) a case is brought against.

Deliberations/Deliberate

As related to a jury, the process a jury takes to come to a decision.

Deposition

An important tool used in pretrial discovery where a person gives his or her deposition when he or she, accompanied by an attorney, answers questions put by the other side's attorney regarding the facts of the case. Depositions are under oath and generally take place in an attorney's office. A court reporter is present and everything that is said is recorded.

Deposition De Bene Esse

De bene esse is Latin for "of well being." It means that deposition is done for the time being, or conditionally. Depositions de bene esse are taken when evidence may be needed in a future case, but the person may not be available in the future. For example, a de bene esse deposition might be taken from a person who witnessed a key event but is very ill and may not be able to be examined at trial.

Detinue

This is a type of legal lawsuit. It is common in disputes between sellers and buyers of movable goods. In a detinue action, one side asks the court to order the return of the goods from the other side or that the other side pay appropriate compensation. A similar type of case for return of property is called “replevin”.

Digest

An index to case law arranged by subjects, and case name including brief paragraphs giving the holding of the courts.

Direct examination

The first questioning of a witness, which is done by the party that called the witness to testify.

Discovery

This is the process where each side is allowed to investigate the other side’s case before the trial or hearing. The goal is to gather information that might be used at the hearing. It also will help you to decide if you should negotiate first to try to reach a settlement. You are allowed to question the other side, see materials that they plan to offer and sometimes talk to their witnesses. There are special court rules that must be followed. The rules are different for small claims cases in District Court as compared to the rules for large claims in District Court or for cases in MD Circuit Court.Discovery methods include interrogatories (written questions which one side gives the other side to complete), document requests and depositions (question and answer sessions conducted in person and recorded).

Discriminate

To treat differently, to make a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing.

Disposition Hearing

This is a sentencing proceeding or the hearing where your punishment is decided.

Disqualification/Disqualified

As related to jury service, one of the reasons established by law under which a person who is qualified for jury service is nonetheless not permitted to serve on a jury.

Dissenting Opinion

An explicit disagreement of one or more judges of a court with the decision of the majority of the judges.

Dissolution

The legal end of a marriage.

Distraint

Seizure of personal property.

Distress

The procedure of taking possession of the personal property of another to pay a debt which he owes.

Docket

The calendar of hearings that will be held in the court. It will list the cases scheduled for a particular day or week or month. Court calendars often change at the last minute. It is a good idea to arrive early and to sit in the courtroom where your case will be heard. If your case moves up on the list, you will be there. A docket is also called a “court calendar” or “trial list”.

Docket Number

Number designation assigned to each case filed in a particular court.

Doorman

The grand jury officer who calls witnesses and ensures that only authorized people are in the grand jury room during hearings and deliberations.

E

Escrow

An item being held by a third person (a neutral person) who holds it until the fulfillment of some condition.

Evict

To eject a tenant by a judicial proceeding.

Evidence

Testimony or an exhibit that is used to persuade the jury (or judge in a case tried without a jury) to decide the case in favor of one side or the other.

Exculpatory clause

Provision or clause which excuses someone from responsibility

Excusal/Excused

As related to jury service, being released from jury service for certain reasons established by law, specifically extreme inconvenience, public necessity or undue hardship.

Executor

A person named in a will to dispose of the estate according to the directions in the will.

Exempt/Exemption

As related to jury service, being released from jury service for certain reasons established by law.

Exhibit

A document or other tangible object which is admitted into evidence to prove or disprove an issue in dispute.

Expert Witness

A person who is qualified by special knowledge or experience to give an opinion on the matter in dispute.

F

Fair Market Value

The amount for which an item can be sold on the open market by a willing seller to a willing buyer.

Federal Register (Fed. Reg.)

Publication containing new, adopted and proposed federal regulations.

Filing

Officially giving the Clerk of Court your legal papers and having them recorded.

Foreclosure

A court action, when the mortgagor fails to make payments of the mortgage. A foreclosure terminates the mortgagor's rights to the property. The property then belongs to the mortgagee (usually the bank or Finance company).

Foreperson

The member of the grand jury or trial jury appointed by the judge (or, in some grand juries, elected by the grand jury) to act as the leader of that jury. The grand jury foreperson performs such duties as presiding over deliberations, counting votes, and signing indictments, dismissals and reconsiderations. The trial jury foreperson’s duties include presiding over deliberations and announcing the verdict in the courtroom.

G

Garnishment

A legal proceeding that takes money or property from a person to satisfy a debt.

Garnishment of Property

A procedure whereby the Court has the defendant's bank account seized and the money paid to the plaintiff to satisfy the judgment

Garnishment of Wages

A procedure whereby a portion of the defendant's wages are deducted regularly and paid to the plaintiff to satisfy a judgment.

Generous Juror Program

A program offered by some Maryland counties in which a juror can donate the per diem to the local department of social services. The money is used by the department for the children it serves.

Grand jury

A group of 23 citizens of this State, randomly selected according to law, whose duty is to hear evidence and determine whether there is probable cause to believe that an individual committed a crime. A grand jury also can conduct investigations. The grand jury does not hear both sides of the case and does not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. This is determined by a trial jury if and when there is a trial.

Grounds for Divorce

The legal basis for a divorce. The law sets out specific circumstances under which a divorce will be granted. Before the court will grant a divorce, the person seeking the divorce must prove that those conditions exist.

H

Headnote

Brief paragraph which summarizes the points of law discussed in a decision.

Hearkening (of jury)

One of the two ways that trial jurors are asked whether they agree with a verdict. In hearkening, the jurors are asked in open court and as a group whether they agree with the verdict.

Hearsay

Evidence that is not based on a witness’s personal knowledge but, rather, on what someone else said.

Holding Over

Retaining possession as a tenant after the end of the term.

I

Immunity from prosecution

Protection from prosecution in exchange for testimony that might not otherwise be forthcoming.

In re

"In the matter of" This is often used in the caption (top of page) of legal papers filed in court. It summarizes what or who the legal case is about.

Indictment

A written accusation alleging that a defendant has committed a crime, which is issued by a grand jury and filed in circuit court. The indictment tells the defendant what he or she is being charged with, so the defendant can prepare a defense.

Informal Dispute Settlement

Also sometimes called non-binding arbitration. It is one type of alternative dispute resolution. It is an informal process in which two parties present their views of a dispute to a neutral third party, called a "Hearing Officer," who will make a non-binding decision on how to resolve the dispute. This means that the parties may still file a lawsuit on this case with a court.

Injunction

A court order directing the defendant to do or not to do a particular thing. Failure to obey an injunction constitutes contempt of court, which is punishable by fine or imprisonment.

Instructions
Interrogatories

Written questions designed to discover key facts about an opposing party's case, that a party to a lawsuit asks an opposing party.

Involuntary Separation

The living apart of a married couple for 24 months without agreeing to separate or divorce.

J

Judge

An official of the Judicial branch of government with the authority to preside over and decide cases brought before the court.

Judgment

A court's decision.

Judicial Notice

Act by which a court will recognize the existence of a certain fact without the production of substantiating evidence.

Jurisdiction

The authority of the court to hear a case.

Juror Qualification Form

A form that is sent to prospective jurors whose names are randomly selected from one of the lists used by the county/Baltimore City. It is used to help determine if the recipient is qualified to be a juror. The recipient is required to complete the form and return it to the Jury Office. There are criminal penalties for failing to return the completed form and for intentionally submitting an inaccurate form.

Juror summons

A notice sent to a prospective juror, instructing the prospective juror to report for jury duty on a specific date and time.

Jury

A group of citizens of the State, randomly selected according to law, which sits as either a grand jury or a trial jury.

Jury instructions

The directions given by the trial judge to the trial jury after all the evidence has been presented. These directions inform the jury of the factual questions it must answer, the law it must apply and the procedure it must follow in reaching a verdict.

Jury Office

The office in a circuit court for a county/Baltimore City that administers the court’s jury selection and jury services.

Jury plan

The plan adopted by a circuit court for a county/Baltimore City, in accordance with Maryland law, to govern that court’s jury selection and jury services.

Jury selection

The process for determining the qualified jurors who will serve as the jury (including alternates) for a particular case. A primary element of jury selection is the questioning of qualified jurors by the judge or lawyers. The questioning is done to determine whether a qualified juror has any knowledge of the case, a personal interest in the outcome, or any interest in the case that might make it hard to be impartial. Traditionally, jury selection was known as “voir dire”.

L

Land installment contract

An agreement in which the buyer agrees to buy a dwelling that he will occupy or a lot which will be used for residential purposes, the purchase price will be paid in five or more installments in addition to the down payment, and the seller retains title to the property as security for the buyer's obligation.

Large Group Dispute Resolution Facilitator

Facilitation is often used when there are many interested parties or stakeholders and it differs from mediation. Mediation tends to focus on a single-issue dispute between a small number of people (2-4 or so). The large group dispute resolution facilitator helps a large number of people work out a dispute. In this Directory, we define a "large" group as 6 or more people. The facilitator is part of a joint effect to design and oversee the process of resolving a dispute. The facilitator will help to set up the ground rules for how the dispute will be resolved. The goals of the facilitator are to help the parties to better exchange information; work with the parties to develop a proposed agreement; and help the parties to evaluate the agreement that might lead to a resolution of the problem, or help a group reach a goal or complete a task to the mutual satisfaction of participants.

Law Review

A legal journal published and edited by law school students; legal scholars and students contribute articles.

Lawyer Referral Service

A Bar Association service that provides the name of an attorney who will consult with a party briefly for a reasonable fee.

Lease

An oral or written agreement, express or implied, which creates a landlord-tenant relationship.

Lease option agreement

A lease that contains a clause that gives the tenant some power, either qualified or unqualified, to buy the landlord's interest in the property. A lease option agreement made after July 1, 1971 relating to the purchase of a dwelling, with or without ground rent, must, to be valid, include the following statement in capital letters: THIS IS NOT A CONTRACT TO BUY. In addition, the agreement must contain a clear statement of its purpose and effect concerning the ultimate purchase of the subject property. See <a href="http://www.michie.com/maryland/lpext.dll/mdcode/1dacc/1ddc2/1de33/1de39?... Code, Real Property, Section 8-202</a>.

Lessee

A tenant; one who enjoys the property by virtue of a lease.

Lessor

A landlord; one who grants the lease.

Lien

A charge or claim on property belonging to another, for the satisfaction of a debt or duty.

Limited Divorce

Establishes certain legal responsibilities while the parties are separated but does not end the marriage. See Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law Article, Section 7-102.

Limited Liability Partnership

This is one of the ways that a business can be organized. This is a business owned by two or more partners. However in this type of arrangement, each partner is liable (responsible) only for the negligent (careless) acts that s/he personally commits. S/he is also liable for the negligent (careless) acts of the employees who s/he directly supervises. This means that if a limited liability partnership owns the business that you need to sue, you will need to name the partnership. There will be at least one managing partner who can be held directly responsible.

Liquidated damages

A specific sum of money which has been agreed upon by the parties to a lease (or other contract) as the amount of damages to be paid by a party who has breached the agreement.

M

Marital Property

Includes ALL property acquired during the marriage, even if not titled in both names, with some exceptions. See Annotated Code of Maryland, Family Law Article, Section 8-201(e) for definition and Sections 8-203 through 8-205 for how the court treats marital property.

Master

Hears cases like a judge. A master's decision is reviewed by a judge before becoming final.

Material breach

A breach (violation, failure to perform) which is important, substantial, not trivial.

Mediation

One type of alternative dispute resolution. A neutral person called a “mediator” is a trained professional who helps the disputing parties to find a solution to which all parties can agree. The Mediator's role is to advise the parties and offer suggestions on how to resolve the differences. Both parties involved play an active role and ultimately decide the final outcome of the dispute with the assistance of the Mediator. All parties have to be willing to cooperate in order to find this “win-win” solution to the conflict.

Memorandum Opinion

Brief holding of the whole court with the opinion limited or omitted.

Mortgage

A pledge of specific property as security for the payment of a debt. The mortgagor is the person who pledges the property. The mortgagee accepts the pledge.

Motion

A request to the court.

N

Notice to Quit

A written notice given by landlord to tenant, indicating that tenant must move from the premises at a time designated.

O

Oath

A solemn declaration or statement (or pledge), made under penalty of perjury, in which the person swears to the truth of what is stated or to the faithful performance of what is undertaken. A person whose conscience does not permit her or him to swear can instead affirm.

Oath clerk

The grand jury officer responsible for swearing in witnesses before they testify.

Official Reports

Collections of decisions published by or on behalf of the deciding jurisdiction.

Opening statements

The statements made by the lawyers for each side at the beginning of a trial to the jury (or to the judge in a trial without a jury). The lawyer presents what he or she intends to prove in the trial. Opening statements are not evidence.

Opinion

The official written statement of a case, the court’s decision and its reasons for reaching the decision it did.

Option

The right to make a choice; a purchased privilege which gives the holder the power to make the agreement.

Ordinance

The local legislation of a city, town, village, or county written by the local legislative body.

P

Parties

The opposing sides in a case. In a civil case, the parties are the plaintiff and the defendant. In a criminal case, the parties are the State of Maryland and the defendant

Partnership

This is one of the ways that a business can be organized. It is often an easier way to organize a business. A general partnership involves two or more people who are personally liable (responsible) for all business debts. This means that if a partnership owns the business, you will need to name the partners themselves in the lawsuit.

Pendente Lite

Temporary arrangements for custody, child support, child visitation, alimony, use and possession of the family home, etc., until a final hearing.

Per Curium Opinion

Opinion of the whole court as distinguished from an opinion written by a specific judge.

Per diem

As related to jury service, the payment or reimbursement received by a person for each day he or she is on jury service. The amount varies depending on the jurisdiction and the length of time served.

Peremptory challenge

One of the two kinds of challenges (or objections) that can be made to a person on the jury panel. A peremptory challenge is made without giving a reason.

Personal property

Movable property or possessions, as distinguished from real property.

Personal representative

Usually, the executor or administrator of a deceased person.

Petit jury
Petition

A legal paper that starts a case.

Plaintiff

The person (or persons) who brings a case to court. In a criminal case, the State of Maryland is the plaintiff.

Pleadings

Formal written statements by the parties to a lawsuit indicating their respective claims and defenses which are filed wit the court.

Poll/Polling (of jury)

One of the two ways that trial jurors are asked whether they agree with a verdict. In polling, each individual juror is asked in open court whether he or she agrees with the verdict.

Power of attorney

A document authorizing another person to act as one's agent.

Precedent

An example of authority for a later case which is similar or identical.

Prima Facie

Presumed to be true unless disproved by contrary evidence.

Private Process Server

Any person over 18, not directly involved in the case, who will deliver the Summons and a copy of the plaintiffs Complaint, and later return to the Court an affidavit that he or she has completed service.

Pro Se

Pronounced “Pro Say.” representing yourself in court without an attorney.

Probable cause

In criminal law, reasonable grounds to believe that a person committed a crime.

Prospective juror

A person whose name has been randomly selected from one of the lists used by a county/ Baltimore City to identify residents to call for jury service, and who has not yet been screened for disqualification, excusal or exemption.

Protection Order

Non-criminal order obtained by abused spouse against abusive spouse.

Q

Qualified juror

A prospective juror who is not disqualified, excused or exempted.

Quiet enjoyment

Covenant of quiet enjoyment - assures that the tenant may peaceably enter on the leased premises at the beginning of the lease term and that the landlord will not interfere with tenant's enjoyment of the premises.

R

Real Property

Land or buildings.

Reconcilitation

Married people getting back together.

Record/Record Extract

On appeal, the record consists of a transcript of all or a portion of the proceedings in lower courts, including testimony, pleadings, opinions, etc.

Remand

To send back; return of a case by an appellate court to the trial court for further proceedings.

Renewal of Summons

An attempt to try again to serve the defendant with the Summons and Complaint

Replevin

This is a type of legal lawsuit. It is common in disputes between sellers and buyers of movable goods. In a replevin action, one side asks the court to order the return of the goods from the other side. A similar type of case for return of property is called “detinue”.

Reports

Printed statement of an opinion of the court which is in writing and is published.

Res Judicata

"The thing has been decided". It usually refers to the the legal doctrine that says once a court decision (or other determination) is final, the same parties cannot go to court again about the same issue.

Rescind

To annul, cancel, terminate a contract, including a lease, and to restore the parties to the position they would occupy if no contract had been made.

Resident Agent

A person that a sheriff can walk up to and hand a summons to in order to get jurisdiction over the entity for court. It may or may not be one of the owners or officers. In some cases this can be a Maryland corporation. In all cases the address must be a physical address (no P.O. boxes). “

Respondant

In juvenile court this is the person charged with a crime. In adult court this person is called the "defendant"

Rest

When a lawyer has voluntarily finished presenting the evidence that he or she will present at that stage of the trial.

S

Secretary

The grand jury officer who records indictments, presents them to the foreperson for signature and keeps the grand jury attendance records.

Separation

The living apart of a married couple.

Separation Agreement

An oral or written agreement to live apart, entered into by a married couple.

Sequester

To separate or set apart. As applied to a trial jury, the very rare circumstance in which the jury is kept separate from the public. It is done so that the jury’s unbiased opinion is not jeopardized by outside influences. Sequestration may happen during the entire trial or only when the jury deliberates. Jurors on a sequestered jury spend the night at lodging assigned by the court.

Service

Providing a copy of the papers being filed to the other side.

Settlement

Resolving the dispute, without a judge's ruling, a mutually acceptable out-of-court agreement between the defendant and the plaintiff.

Settlement Conference Facilitator

A settlement conference is part of a court case where the parties and a judge (or neutral third person) meet and try to resolve the case without going through a trial. A settlement conference facilitator is a person who is neutral, that is, a person who does not have a stake in the dispute. A neutral party does not take the side of any of the people who have the dispute. The settlement conference facilitator helps you and the other parties evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their case. The facilitator will sometimes give his or her own views about the merits of the case and what s/he believes would be a reasonable resolution of the conflict. A settlement conference facilitator is often an attorney or a judge.

Spouse

Husband or wife

Squatter

Someone who settles on the property of another, without legal authority to do so and without the consent of the person who has the right of possession of the property.

Standing to Sue

A party's ability to bring a lawsuit in court because that party has a stake in the outcome of the case. In order to demonstrate standing to sue, a party must show that 1) it has suffered or will suffer injury if it does not bring suit, 2) the injury is a result of the defendant's conduct, and 3) a finding in the party's favor is likely to remedy the injury.

Stare Decisis

The doctrine that decisions should stand as precedents for guidance in future cases.

State Prosecutor, Office of

The State Prosecutor investigates violations of certain State laws such as election and public ethics laws. The Office was established in 1976, by amendment to the Maryland Constitution, as an independent unit within the Office of the Attorney General.

State’s Attorney

The attorney elected by the people of a county/Baltimore City to represent the State of Maryland in criminal actions.

Statue of Limitations

Law that requires that all claims must be filed within a certain period of time [usually three (3) years from the time the claim arose]. Contact an attorney to find out whether the Statute of Limitations has "run" on your case. If it has, this would mean that the case will be dismissed without a hearing. A defendant may raise the statute of limitations with the judge at trial to try to have the case dismissed.

Statute

Legislative enactment.

Stipulation

An agreement made between opposing parties prior to a pending hearing or trial. For example, both parties might stipulate to certain facts, and therefore not have to argue those facts in court. After the stipulation is entered into, it is presented to the judge.

Sublease

A lease of the premises granted by one who himself is a tenant of the premises.

Subpeona

A form issued by the court requiring someone to appear in court and testify.

Subpoena duces tecum

A court order requiring the person to appear in court and to bring specified documents or other items.

Summary ejectment

A court proceeding, in which one person goes to court to regain possession of real estate that is held by another. For example, a landlord may request summary ejectment to oust a tenant when there has been a violation of the lease that allows eviction or tenant has failed to pay rent or the lease has expired and the tenant refuses to leave.

Summons

An official court notice telling the person who received it that he or she must appear in court. For a defendant, a summons also provides official notice that he or she is being sued.

T

Testimony

The statements made by a witness on the stand and under oath or affirmation.

Third Party Claim

A claim filed by a defendant who feels that some third party (not yet involved in the case) is responsible and owes him or her money that should be used to satisfy any judgment the plaintiff may win from the defendant.

Tort

Injury caused by negligence or wrongful act of another person, which cannot be classified as a breach of contract.

Transcript

The official record of a legislative, administrative, or court proceeding. It is mainly comprised of the word-for-word testimony of witnesses and arguments by advocates and presiding officers.

Trespass

A wrongful entry, whether with force or peacefully, onto the property of another.

Trial jury

A group of citizens of this State, randomly selected according to law, whose duty is to hear a case in court, make a decision on matters of fact, and return a verdict. In Maryland, there are generally 12 jurors for criminal cases and six jurors for civil cases, not including alternates. A trial jury was traditionally called a “petit jury”.

U

Uncontested Divorce

When the defendant is not going to try to stop the divorce and there are no issues for the court to decide about children, money, or property.

Unofficial Reports

A court report published by a private publisher in addition to the official version done on behalf of deciding jurisdiction.

Unsecured Debts

A debt that is not tied to any item of property. A creditor doesn't have the right to grab property to satisfy the debt if you default. The creditor's only remedy is to sue you and get a judgment.

Use and Possession

The right of the parent who has custody of a minor child of the marriage to remain in the family home for up to three years from the date of divorce, under certain circumstances.

V

Venue

Where the courts in Maryland have jurisdiction, venue refers to the correct court location for a case to be heard. Usually it is the judicial district and location where the defendant lives or does business or is employed or where a corporation has its main office. See Courts & Judicial Proceedings §6-201 for general venue information and §6-203 for case-specific information.

Verdict

The decision of a trial jury or a judge (if the case is tried without a jury) that determines the guilt or innocence of the defendant in a criminal case or the final outcome in a civil case.

Visitation

The right of a separated or divorced parent to visit a child.

Voir dire

A French expression, meaning “to see, to say”; traditionally, the term given to jury selection.

Voluntary Separation

The living apart for 12 months of a married couple who agrees to separate.

W

Warrant of Restitution

An order of the court requiring that a specific person be restored to his original position.

Witness

One who is called to court to testify in order to tell what he or she knows about the case.

Writ of Possession

An order of the court directed to the sheriff, requiring him to enter the property and give possession of it to the person entitled to it by judgment of the court.

Writ of Summons

A form issued by the court directing a party to respond to a complaint, motion, or petition.

Is this legal advice?

This site offers legal information, not legal advice.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options.  However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.  The Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site.  In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. © Maryland State Law Library, 2013.”