Legal Dictionary


General Legal Dictionary

NOTICE: This dictionary of legal words and phrases is provided to you by the Clermont County Common Pleas Court to help you better understand your legal problem and obtain quality legal assistance for your situation. THIS DICTIONARY IS NOT INTENDED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE ADVICE OF AN ATTORNEY. THE JUDGES AND COURT STAFF CANNOT GIVE YOU LEGAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD NEVER RELY ON THESE VERY BASIC DEFINITIONS TO MAKE LEGAL DECISIONS. Please use this dictionary to better understand legal words and make informed decisions about selecting a qualified attorney to advise and assist you.

In addition to this dictionary, the Supreme Court of Ohio now has an on-line dictionary of legal terms. You can reach that dictionary by clicking here.

Adjudicated, (adjudication)—To be decided by a court of law after a formal legal process, to have already been legally determined as a result of a legal proceeding.

Administrative appeal—A review of a decision of a state or local board or commission by a trial court to check for legal or procedural errors.

Affidavit—A document setting out certain facts and signed under oath by the person swearing to the accuracy of the facts. There can be legal penalties for submitting a false affidavit.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) —The use of legal methods other than a trial to resolve disputes or court cases. These methods include mediation, arbitration, and summary jury trial.

Appeal—A review of a lower court ruling or decision by a higher court. An appeal is decided on briefs and oral argument of counsel. No new evidence is taken on appeal.

Appellant—The party that starts the appeal process by filing a notice of appeal to get a review for error in a higher court.

Appellee—The party that responds to an appeal once an appellant has started the appeal process.

Answer—A legal document filed with a court in response to a complaint. An answer sets out the defendant’s legal position on the factual allegations and can set up legal defenses. Failure to file an answer can result in default.

Arbitration—The process of deciding a dispute or case with an informal hearing before a single neutral party or a panel of neutrals under relaxed rules of evidence and procedure. In an arbitration, the arbitrator or the panel of arbitrators makes a decision on who wins and who loses the case.

Attachment—A legal process after a judgment where assets (cars, bank accounts, personal property, etc.) are seized by government officials as payment for a debt.

Arraignment—The first appearance in court in a criminal case, where the defendant formally knows the charges against him, enters a plea, has bond set, and if needed, has an attorney appointed. An individual scheduled for arraignment should consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Arrearage—The amount that is past-due on a series of monthly payments, such as a lease, credit card payments, or a mortgage.

Arrest—Taking an individual into government custody, usually for the commission of a crime. Certain constitutional rights are triggered upon arrest. An individual who is arrested should consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Assignment—To legally transfer property or some other right to another person or entity. For instance, a mortgage can be assigned from one bank to another.

Attachment—A legal process after a judgment where assets (cars, bank accounts, personal property, etc.) are seized by government officials as payment for a debt.

Bail—Allowing a criminal defendant to be free prior to trial upon providing certain security to the court that the defendant will appear for trial. Bail can be cash posted with the clerk of courts, a bond provided by a bail bond company, or a personal promise to appear.

Bailiff—A court officer who assists a judge with scheduling, jurors, court proceedings, paperwork, etc.

Bankruptcy—A process in federal court where a person or corporation that cannot pay its debts receives court protection from creditors, and the court eventually distributes assets to pay the creditors in an orderly fashion. The Clermont County Common Pleas Court does not handle bankruptcy cases.

Bench trial—A trial to a judge or magistrate without a jury.

Beneficiary—A person or entity entitled to the proceeds of a will, trust, or life insurance policy.

Binding arbitration—An arbitration where the decision of the arbitrator(s) is final and cannot be challenged in court.

Bond (both bail and security) —(1) An obligation of a bonding company to a court ensuring that a criminal defendant will appear for trial, (2) A promise by an insurance company to pay a certain amount if a company or person fails to perform a contractual obligation, frequently used in construction.

Citation—A traffic ticket or other notice that a low level offense has been committed, and that the alleged offender must appear in court. Also, a reference to a legal source, usually a published decision of a higher court, as in a citation to an Ohio Supreme Court case.

Codicil (see also will)—A written addition to a will added after the original will is initially signed.

Cognovit judgment—A legal judgment obtained in court based on a contract provision where one party (the debtor) gives up their right to trial and allows the creditor to automatically win a judgment.

Common law—The process of developing legal rules through years of court decisions, extending all the way back to medieval England. The legal principles in an earlier decision become binding on a subsequent court through precedent, the respect for earlier case law.

Common Pleas Court—The general jurisdiction trial court on Ohio, which handles bigger civil cases, adult felony crimes, and all other cases not handled by another, more specialized court.

Compensatory damages—Damages sought by a plaintiff for actual harm and out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of a legal wrong, such as medical bills, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.

Complaint—The legal document (or pleading) filed by a plaintiff with a court to start a case. A complaint states the factual and legal grounds for plaintiff’s claims, states the legal relief that plaintiff seeks, and gives notice to the court and all parties of the nature of the case.

Consortium—The legal right each spouse has to the companionship and services of the other. Consortium can be an element of damages when one spouse is seriously injured.

Contempt (also contempt of court)—Showing disrespect for or obstructing the business of a court or orders of a judge. Contempt can be punishable by a monetary fine, time in jail, or both.

A binding legal obligation for two or more parties who agree to exchange certain things of value, such as money, property, work, promises to do things in the future, etc. A contract can be written or oral and still be binding.

Conversion—Taking the personal property of another and improperly using it or making it your own.

Copyright—A legal protection issued by the United States government, allowing the creator of a new artistic or literary work to have a monopoly on the work’s use for a fixed period of years. A person concerned with a copyright problem should consult with an intellectual property attorney. The Clermont County Common Pleas Court does not handle copyright cases.

Court—A government body given the legal power to hear and decide cases, impose criminal penalties (if authorized), and issue orders and other rulings.

Court of Appeals—A higher level court that reviews the final decisions of trial court for legal error. A case generally only goes to a court of appeals after a verdict or other major decision of a trial court.

Court of record—A court of sufficient power and stature to make legal rulings and issue binding decisions.

DBA (doing business as)—A legal abbreviation for Doing Business As, meaning that a person or entity is using a different name to transact commerce instead of their official or legal name.

Debtor (see also judgment debtor)—A party who owes money to another party, called a creditor.

Default (see also answer, default judgment) —A situation (like a forfeit in sports) where one party to a case wins because the defending party did not appear in court to defend the case. A default usually occurs when a defendant fails to file an answer in court within a certain time after a complaint is filed. In order to avoid a default, a party served with a complaint should consult with an attorney who litigates.

Defendant—A person, corporation, or other entity subject to the legal claims of another (called the plaintiff) in a lawsuit.

Deed—A formal legal document transferring an interest in land from one party to another. Deeds have specific legal requirements for form and how they must be signed to be official. A party should consult a real estate attorney to make sure a deed is prepared properly.

Deed in lieu of foreclosure—A voluntary turn over of real property by an owner to a mortgage holder in order to avoid the adverse consequences of a foreclosure suit or a foreclosure sale.

Defamation—A public attack on someone else’s good character or reputation based on false statements or writings (see libel, slander)

Deficiency judgment—The amount of money still due to a creditor on a defaulted loan after property is sold at auction or sheriff’s sale, where the money raised at the sale does not fully cover the amount owed. Deficiency judgments are frequently the subject of discussion in mortgage foreclosure cases.

Deposition—Legal testimony outside of court where a witness under oath answers questions posed by an attorney in the presence of a court reporter. A deposition is usually used after suit is filed and before trial to educate the attorneys and parties about the facts of the case.

Deportation—The legal removal from a county of a foreign individual, usually an illegal alien. Anyone faced with deportation should consult an immigration attorney promptly.

Discovery—The process after a suit is filed and before trial where the attorneys and parties learn about the facts of the case, usually through depositions of witnesses, exchange of documents, written questions called interrogatories, examinations by experts, etc.

Taking adverse action against an individual based on something other than merit, such as race, gender, religion, county of origin, etc. Anyone faced with discrimination in the workplace or allegations of discrimination should consult with an employment attorney.

Dissolution of marriage—The termination of a marriage by the agreement of the spouses, with the final approval of the Domestic Relations Court. Anyone considering or facing a dissolution should consult with a family law attorney. The Clermont County Common Pleas Court General Division does not handle dissolution cases.

District Court (United States District Court) —A court created and empowered by the federal government to hear cases involving federal issues, such a patents, immigration, federal crimes, cases between individuals living in different states, and other special matters.

Divorce—The termination of a marriage by order of the Domestic Relations Court, sometimes after a trial and sometimes after a negotiated agreement between the spouses. Anyone considering or facing a divorce should consult with a family law attorney. The Clermont County Common Pleas Court General Division does not handle divorce cases.

Domestic Relations Court—A specialized court which handles divorce and dissolution, custody and support issues, and matters involving children. Anyone considering or facing a case in domestic relations court should consult with a family law attorney.

Dower or dower rights—
The rights that one spouse has in the real property of the other spouse.

Employment at will—An employment circumstance where both the employee and the employer can terminate the employment relationship at any time for no reason. An individual concerned with an employment at will situation or termination from employment at will should consult with an employment law attorney.

Eminent domain—The legal process where government can take private property for reasonable compensation and use that property for public purposes such as roads, bridges, power lines, etc.

Equity—The branch of the legal system dealing with injunctions, trusts, and other matters not involving a jury.

Escrow—The process of setting aside money, documents, or property for a future transfer when a particular event or condition happens. Also used with mortgages to make sure monthly payments are made for taxes and insurance.

Eviction—The legal process for removing a tenant from leased or rented property.

Evidence—Facts, presented through testimony of witnesses and documents, which a court considers to make its decision.

Expungement—A legal proceeding to remove an earlier criminal conviction from a person’s permanent record. Ohio has a statute that specifies the requirements for getting an expungement.

FE and D (see also eviction)—Short for Forcible Entry and Detainer, an old English legal phrase now referred to as eviction.

Federal court (see also United States District Court) —The court system operated by the United States government for the consideration of federal issues such as patent law, immigration, bankruptcy, federal crimes, etc.

Felony—The most serious level of crimes (as opposed to misdemeanors) with punishments ranging from six months in prison up to the death penalty. Any individual facing a felony charge should consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Findings—Decisions made by a judge or magistrate on what the facts are in a particular court case, based on the evidence presented.

Forbearance—The voluntary agreement by a creditor to delay collection of a debt from someone who owes them money, frequently used in mortgage foreclosures where a lender will allow a homeowner to pay a past-due amount later in the course of a mortgage.

Foreclosure—A lawsuit where a lender-mortgage holder can take a debtor-owner’s real estate for non-payment of the mortgage debt. Anyone faced with a foreclosure suit should consult with a real estate attorney or an attorney who litigates.

Fraud—The deliberate misleading of a party to a transaction through the use of false statements where the person making the statements knows that they are false.

Garnishment—The legal process for collecting a debt, where a court seizes wages and/or money in a bank account, and after a hearing turns it over to the creditor. Anyone facing garnishment should consult with an attorney.

Grand Jury—A group of citizens empowered by a court to hear preliminary evidence and decide if a crime has been committed. If the grand jury decides that there is enough evidence to believe that an individual has committed a crime, it issues an indictment. An individual who is the subject of grand jury proceedings or an indictment should consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Habeas corpus (see also writ)—A court order requiring government officials to bring an individual in their custody in prison or jail before the court so that the court can consider whether the custody is legally proper.

Health care power of attorney (see also power of attorney)—A legal document giving one person the power to make decisions about the health care of another.

Hearing—A court proceeding where the attorneys or parties present evidence or legal arguments or both, so that a court has enough information to make a decision.

Heir (see also will, probate)—An individual designated in a will of a deceased person to receive some or all of the deceased person’s property. Probate court supervises the process of who is a proper heir and how the assets are distributed.

Indictment (see also grand jury)—A legal document issued by a grand jury charging an individual or individuals with a crime, usually a felony. A person named in an indictment should consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Indigent—Not having enough income or assets to be able to afford an attorney in a court case. In criminal cases, a person who is indigent has the right to have an attorney appointed by the court to defend them. (There is no right to counsel for an indigent defendant in a civil case).

Injunction—A court order requiring a person or entity to do some specified action, or not do a certain prohibited action. A party who violates an injunction can be punished for contempt of court.

Interrogatories—Written questions to a person, to be answered under oath as part of discovery before trial.

Intellectual property—The legal right to have and use products of mental or creative effort, such a patents on inventions, copyrights to artistic works, trade secrets, trademark rights to particular products, etc. Anyone concerned about their property rights in those areas should consult an intellectual property attorney.

Judgment—A final decision or order of a court, usually in the form of a decision stating that one party owes another party money.

Judgment debtor—The losing party in a court case who owes the other party the amount of money specified in the court’s judgment.

Judgment debtor examination—A court proceeding where an attorney for a judgment creditor gets to ask questions about the judgment debtor’s assets (property, bank accounts, cars, etc.) as part of an effort to find a way to have the judgment paid off.

Judgment lien—A legal claim or obligation on property in favor of a judgment creditor against the judgment debtor who owns the property and owes the judgment creditor money.

Jury duty—The legal obligation of citizen to come to a trial court to sit as jurors and decide criminal and civil cases.

Jurisdiction—The legal power and authority of a court to act and issue orders and decisions in a geographic area (such as a county) or in a legal subject matter area (such as bankruptcy or family law) or both.

Juvenile court—The branch of the Domestic Relations Court that handles cases involving children under 18 years old who are accused of crimes, are neglected by their parents, are abused by anyone, or are dependant on others for their well being.

Law—The rules governing the operation of a state or nation and the conduct of society. Law can be created as legislation by Congress or the Ohio General Assembly, or as the rulings of courts in prior cases.

Law Library—A collection of books and other sources of legal information, such as computer access to online legal materials, maintained for the benefit of judges, attorneys, and the public. The Clermont County Law Library is on the second floor of the Clermont County Courthouse, 270 East Main Street, Batavia. The phone number is (513)-732-7109.

Lawyer—An individual with specialized training in the law and legal procedures authorized to represent others in court proceedings, to prepare legal documents, and to give legal advice.

Lawyers’ Referral Service—A public service of the Clermont County Bar Association which will direct individuals who seek the assistance of an attorney to an attorney with experience in the particular area of law needed. The Clermont County Lawyers’ Referral Service can be reached at (513)-732-2050.

Liability—The condition of being legally responsible to someone else for legal wrongdoing. A person can be criminally liable if they have committed a crime, or civilly liable if they have been negligent or in breach of a contract.

Libel—Defamation of another person through false written statements attacking their character or reputation.

Lien—A legal claim on property, either real estate or personal property, held by one person against the owner of the property, usually for security of a payment, or as a result of a contract, such as a mortgage, or a court judgment, such as a judgment lien.

Litigation—The legal process of filing a case in court, investigating the facts, presenting factual and legal arguments before a court or jury, and arguing in favor of a particular outcome.

Living will—A legal document giving directions to your family and/or doctors on what your preferences are in the event you can not make health
care decisions for yourself.

Loan modification—An agreement between a mortgage lender and a homeowner to change the payment terms of a mortgage, usually used to settle a pending foreclosure case.

Magistrate—A judicial officer appointed (not elected) by a court to perform certain judicial functions, such as trials, hearings, deciding motions, seating juries, etc.

Malpractice—Negligence by a professional person, such as an engineer, accountant, attorney, architect, or doctor. A person considering or subject to a possible malpractice claim should consult with an attorney who litigates.

Mandatory—Required by law, contract, or court order.

Mayor’s court—A low level trial court in a city, usually for hearing and deciding traffic cases.

Mechanic’s lien—A legal claim on real property to secure a debt for work performed on that property or materials supplied to that property and not paid for.

Mediation—A process for settling cases or resolving disputes though a reasonable discussion and negotiation process where the parties are assisted by a neutral, called a mediator. The mediator does not make a decision, but helps the parties through diplomacy and dialogue. A person considering using mediation to resolve a dispute should consider using someone trained and experienced as a mediator. Someone asked to participate in mediation should consult with an attorney and may bring that attorney to the mediation conference.

Misdemeanor—A lower level crime, involving punishments of up to one year in jail. Anyone facing a misdemeanor charge should consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Mitigate damages—A legal principle requiring an injured party to take steps to avoid making damages caused by a defendant worse.

Moot—A case is said to be moot when something outside the case has occurred which eliminates the dispute, such as a party ending a case to recover property by voluntarily giving the property back. Moot should not be confused with mute, meaning to remain silent.

Motion—A formal request to a court, whether in writing or orally, for a particular ruling or result.

Motion for summary judgment—A type of motion made to a court to get an early ruling on the case or part of a case based on there being no factual dispute and clear law. A motion for summary judgment by a plaintiff, if successful, can lead to a foreclosure or other adverse ruling for a defendant.

Motion to dismiss—A motion to a court, usually made by a defendant, to have the court end the case based on a factual or legal deficiency in plaintiff’s claim.

Motion to quash—A motion to a court made to stop the legal effect of a subpoena, so that the subject of the subpoena does not have to provide evidence to the court or the opposing party.

Municipal Court—A trial court with jurisdiction to handle traffic and misdemeanor cases, and civil cases under $15,000.

Negligence—A legal wrong caused by a party failing to take reasonable steps to avoid injury to another person.

Novation—An amendment to a contract agreed to by the parties to that contract after it was initially created.

Ordinance—A rule of law enacted by a city government and enforceable only within the city limits.

Party—A person, corporation, or other legal entity formally involved in a court case.

Patent—A legal protection issued by the United States government, allowing the inventor of a new product or process to have a monopoly on its use for a fixed period of years. A person concerned with a patent problem should consult with an intellectual property attorney. The Clermont County Common Pleas Court does not handle patent cases.

Personal property—Things that are subject to a person’s ownership rights not including land. Examples of personal property would be cars, money, furniture, clothing, stocks and other investments, tools, and household goods.

Petition (see also complaint)—A legal document filed with a court to start a case, usually in a divorce case or when seeking a writ from that court, setting out the legal claims of the party who filed it.

Petitioner—The party who files a petition with a court seeking a specific court order or writ. Frequently used in civil protection order cases to describe the party seeking a CPO.

Plaintiff—A person, corporation, or other entity that starts a court case by filing a complaint and setting out their legal claims for recovery.

Pleadings—Legal documents filed in court, consisting of complaints or petitions, answers, cross claims, counterclaims, and third party complaints, which inform the court and the parties of the claims and defenses that the parties are raising.

Power of attorney—The legal transfer of decision-making power from one person to another, also the document that formalizes that transfer.

Precedent (see also common law)—A rule of law created by an earlier ruling or rulings of a higher court in a similar case or cases. Court should follow precedent in making decisions to insure consistency and equality between cases.

Privilege—The legal ability not to do something. The attorney-client privilege in general means that what is said by a client to an attorney and the advice revived from that attorney is not subject to later disclosure, except under very special circumstances. The attorney-client privilege allows you to speak very candidly and openly about your legal problem to an attorney.

Pro se—Representing one’s self in court without an attorney. Certain courts such as Small Claims Court encourage pro se parties to present their cases. Anyone with a case in Municipal, Common Pleas, Domestic Relations, or Federal Courts should obtain the services of an attorney because of the risk of making a legal mistake that will harm their case.

Probate—The legal process of handling the estate of a deceased person, involving identifying that person’s assets, paying their debts, and distributing the remaining property to the deceased person’s heirs.

Probate Court—The specialized court that handles the estates of deceased people, protects individuals who need guardians, handles name changes, and supervises trusts. A person involved with a probate proceeding or with an estate should consult with a probate attorney.

Probation (community control)—The legal supervision of a criminal defendant after conviction, where the defendant does not go to jail or prison, but is allowed to remain free under strict conditions for behavior.

Property—The collection of legal rights that a person has in land or things, including the rights to sell, use, rent, loan, keep, and prevent others from taking the property.

Protective order—An order issued by a court requiring someone named in that order to not take a certain action toward the person seeking the order. A protective order can prevent a party to a case from getting discovery from another, or require a person to stop stalking or harassing another. This anti-stalking order is sometimes called a CPO (civil protective order).

Punitive damages—Money damages imposed by a court or jury intended to punish a wrongdoer for socially bad conduct, such as fraud, recklessness, malice, or violation of certain statutes.

Quiet enjoyment—The legal right of a property owner or a tenant to use their property free from the interference of others.

Quit claim; also quitclaim deed—To legally transfer all the property rights that a person has in land, without specifying what those rights are or guaranteeing that those rights exist. A quitclaim deed has different legal language that a warranty deed and offers the recipient less protection from the claims of others. An individual concerned about a quit claim deed should consult with a real estate attorney.

Real estate—Land or real property, including the buildings on the land.

Real estate contract—A binding legal agreement to buy or sell land, which must be in writing. Anyone concerned about a real estate contract should consult with an attorney who does real estate work.

Real property (see also real estate)—The legal ownership interest in land and buildings (as opposed to ownership in movable things such as cars or money).

Remedy—A legal correction to a problem, such as a judgment ordering one party to pay another money, or an order directing a party to do or not do certain things.

Resident—A person who lives in certain legally defined area, such as a county or state. The law sometimes treats residents and non-residents of states differently.

Respondent—The party who defends against a petition filed in court. Frequently used in civil protection order cases to describe the person who would be the subject of a CPO.

Restitution—The court ordered repayment by a criminal defendant to the victim of a crime of damages and costs incurred because of the criminal offense.

Restraining order—An order issued by a court requiring a party to stop taking certain actions, sometimes issued to stop one person from harassing or stalking another.

Retainer—A pre-payment of legal fees to begin the attorney-client relationship. An attorney deposits a retainer in a special trust account and only draws on those funds as work is performed. Any unused or unearned funds from a retainer are returned to the client at the end of the legal work.

Settlement—The resolution of a case by agreement between the parties, usually reached through negotiation or in mediation.

Sheriff—A law enforcement official responsible for court-related duties (both civil and criminal) in a particular county.

Sheriff’s sale—The public auction of property, usually real estate, to recover money to pay a court judgment.

Short sale—A type of agreed pre-sale in which a mortgage holder lets the borrower sell property for less than the full amount owed and accepts the proceeds of the sale as full satisfaction of the mortgage debt.

Slander—An attack on another person’s reputation or good character by false oral statements.

Small claims court—A specialized court, part of the Municipal Court, for hearing and deciding cases under $6,000 in value, where parties may represent themselves.

Special damages—Damages sought by a plaintiff for actual out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of a legal wrong, such as medical bills, property damage, lost wages, etc.

Statute—A rule of law enacted by state government and uniformly enforceable throughout the state.

Statute of Frauds—A law requiring certain contracts to be in writing, such as real estate contracts, promises to do something more than one year in the future, or promises to pay someone else’s debts.

Statute of Limitations—A state law requiring that a lawsuit be filed within a set period of time, usually measured in years, or else the right to sue is lost forever. The period of time varies with the type of suit.

Subpoena—A legal order requiring a person to provide testimony and/or documents in a legal proceeding.

Subrogation—The legal principle that allows someone (usually an insurance company) who pays money or benefits to an injured party to recover some or all of those payments when the wrongdoer who caused the injury pays a settlement or judgment.

Summary judgment—A legal ruling made by a court on a motion by a party which determines whether or not there are sufficient facts and/or appropriate law to allow a claim or defense to go forward to trial. Summary judgment is used to streamline a case by removing claims or defenses that have no legal or factual basis, and can be used where appropriate to end an entire case that is not properly supported by facts or law.

Summons—A legal document issued by a clerk of courts informing a defendant that a complaint or petition has been filed against them and indicating that an answer must be filed within 28 days in Ohio. A party who fails to respond to a summons and complaint faces a possible default judgment. An individual receiving a summons and complaint should consult immediately with an attorney who handles litigation.

Supreme court—The highest appellate court in a court system, such as the Supreme Court of Ohio, or the United States Supreme Court. A decision of a supreme court is the last word on the law in that jurisdiction, and becomes a rule of law that is precedent for future cases and lower courts.

Suspension—The legal stop of a right to do something, usually the court ordered suspension of a driver’s license.

Tax lien—A legal claim on land or other property caused by unpaid taxes, whether local, state, or federal.

Taxation—The collection of money from citizens by a local, state or federal government to pay for the services that those governments provide, such as police, fire, courts, highways, military forces, and social benefits. A person with a problem involving past due taxes should consult with a tax attorney.

Tort—A legal wrong not involving a contract or a crime, such as negligence, defamation, battery, or malpractice.

Trial—A formal legal proceeding involving the presentation of evidence and legal arguments to a judge or jury for the purposes of getting a decision or verdict.

Trial court—A government body set up to decide cases by having the parties file pleadings and motions, conducting trials, hearings and other proceedings, and issuing rulings and decisions.

Trust—A legal arrangement where one party, the donor, deposits money or other assets with a third party, called a trustee, to be held for the benefit or care of another person, the beneficiary. A person considering creating a trust should consult with an estate-planning attorney.

Trustee (see also trust)—A third party holding money or assets given by one person (the donor) for the benefit of a different party (the beneficiary).

Underinsured—Not having enough insurance coverage for a particular activity, usually driving a motor vehicle. A person who is injured by an underinsured driver should have coverage with their own insurance company, called underinsured motorists coverage. Anyone with a question about insurance coverage should consult with an insurance attorney or a personal injury attorney.

Uninsured—Not having insurance coverage for a particular activity, usually driving a motor vehicle. A person who is injured by an uninsured driver should have coverage with their own insurance company, called uninsured motorists coverage. Anyone with a question about insurance coverage should consult with an insurance attorney or a personal injury attorney.

Usury—The charging or collection of an unreasonable high or illegal interest rate on money loaned.

Variance—A legal exception to a zoning requirement granted by a board of zoning appeals or other government body to meet special or unique circumstances facing a property owner. A property owner with a zoning or variance issue should consult with a real estate attorney.

Verdict—A legal decision by a jury based on evidence and law after a trial. A verdict is usually the basis of a court judgment in favor of one party against another.

Warrant—A court order that police or the sheriff arrest an individual, generally for the commission of a crime or violation of a court order. A person subject to an arrest warrant should consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Warranty—A legal promise. A party to a deed can give a warranty that they have good title to the property, or a company can give a warranty that they will repair or replace their product if there is a defect.

Warranty deed—A legal document transferring ownership of real estate that contains a legal promise that the party making the transfer has good title to the real estate and will protect the new owner from later challenges to that good title.

Will—A legal document setting out a person’s wishes for the distribution of their property after they die. There are specific legal formalities that must be properly handled to make a will effective. A person considering a will should consult with an estate-planning attorney.

With prejudice—A phrase used in dismissing a case from court meaning that the claim can never be brought back to court again.

Without prejudice—A phrase used in dismissing a case from court meaning that the claim could be brought back to court again in the future.

Witness—A person who knows something about a case who testifies in court or in a deposition about those facts.

Workers compensation—A system for paying medical bills and lost wages to people injured while on the job. Workers compensation does not involve the determination of fault or negligence. A person or business concerned with a work place injury issue should consult with a workers compensation attorney.

Writ—A formal court order, usually issued at the end of a case directing a party to do or not do something.

Wrongful death—The legal wrong of causing the death of another person through negligence. A family concerned about a possible wrongful death claim should consult with a personal injury attorney.

Wrongful termination (see also employment at will)—The improper removal of an employee from a job in breach of a contract or for discriminatory reasons. A person or corporation concerned about possible wrongful termination should consult with an employment law attorney.

Zoning—The legal process for regulating buildings and land use in a city or other local government unit for the betterment of all people in the community. A property owner with a zoning or variance issue should consult with a real estate attorney.