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Second Judicial District Court

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Glossary of Legal Terms

From the list below, click the first letter of the legal term you would like to see.  

A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T U V W 

Abuse of Process

A legal theory alleging improper use by the defendant of a court process, such as a subpoena or lawsuit.


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


To free from accusation; to clear; to pronounce not guilty.


proceeding in a court of law by which one party sues to secure the protection of a right or the prevention of a wrong.

Action In Personam

suit or legal proceeding against the person founded on a personal liability.

Action In Rem

suit or legal proceeding directed against specific property.


Closing of open court usually for lunch, close of the day or recess.


Giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree by a court of law.


Oral advice by a judge to a jury or defendant.

Adversary System

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

Advocate (n.)

A counselor in a judicial proceeding; one who pleads the cause of another, an attorney. Also advocator.

Advocate (v.)

To support, defend or plead in favor of another in a judicial proceeding.


A written statement sworn to before a notary public or another person possessing authority to administer an oath.


Make a formal declaration in place of an oath.

Affirmative Defense

In criminal law, a defense asserted by a defendant, who has the burden of producing the evidence to support it. In civil cases, an affirmative defense may be asserted by a defendant or by a plaintiff in opposition to a counterclaim. An affirmative defense must be established by a preponderance of the evidence and the party asserting it has the burden of proof.


One who is authorized to act for another. Similar to a servant for the purposes of the rule of respondent superior, under which a principal may be held liable for the wrongful acts or omissions of his/her agents or servants.


Term used to indicate another name by which a person is known ie.) a/k/a (Also Known As), d/b/a (Doing Business As), f/ka (Formerly Known As), n/k/a (Now Known As)

Alias Process

Any process identical to the original but issued upon request of party after the original process was issued because the original was not returned, was returned without service, or was improperly served.


An assertion made by a party which must be proved or supported with evidence.


  1. To affirm or declare positively but without proof.
  2. To give as reason, excuse or support.


Suspected; temporarily presumed; supposed.


Court’s inquiry if there is any legal cause why sentence should not be imposed.


To change or modify in an attempt to improve, correct or update.


Differs conceptually from a divorce in that a divorce terminates a legal status, whereas an annulment establishes that a marital status never existed.


The pleading filed by a defendant responding to the allegations of a plaintiff’s petition/complaint.


A procedure in which a party to a legal proceeding seeks the reversal or modification by a higher court of a judgment or final order of a lower court or administrative agency.

Appeal Bond

A sum of money posted by an appellant.


Appearing in court as an attorney, a plaintiff or a defendant in an action.


One who appeals a court decision.


The party against whom an appeal is taken.


Having the power to hear appeals and to reverse court decisions; refers to a court of review rather than one with trial jurisdiction.


The act of making a request for something, such as opening documents in a civil probate matter or Children’s Court matter.

Appointed Counsel

An attorney appointed by the court to represent an indigent defendant in a criminal case.


One selected and bound by principles of law to decide on a controversy; referee; also arbitrator.


Determination of a controversy by a third party chosen by the two opposing parties who agree to abide by the decision of the third party.


To bring one charged with a crime to court to answer the charge made against him or her.


Criminal defendant’s initial appearance in court held for the purpose of informing the defendant of the charges, allowing the defendant to state an answer to the charges, setting bail and appointing an attorney if necessary.


Apprehension or detention of a person by a law enforcement officer.


The crime of attempting to kill or cause serious physical injury to another person.

At Issue

Whenever the parties to a suit come to a point in the pleadings where the disputed issues are defined, they are said to be “at issue” and ready for trial.


Legal seizure of a person or property; the writ ordering seizure. Clerks use the word “attachment” as additional paper(s) attached to original filing. These are sometimes marked as exhibits.


The act of witnessing the execution of a written instrument and subscribing or signing it as a witness.

Attorney General

Chief legal officer for the state.

Attorney of Record

An attorney whose name appears in the permanent records or files of a case, as representing a party.


An act to give legal authenticity to a record so that the record is legally admissible in evidence; certified copies of public records are self-authenticating and a certified copy is an authenticated copy that needs further verification.

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Bail Bond

A written guarantee that a party will appear in court when ordered, or risk losing the value of the bond.


A court officer whose duties are to keep order in the courtroom and to have custody of the jury.


Bench; the place where a court permanently or regularly sits.

Bench Warrant

A process issued by the court, or “from the bench,” for the arrest of a person.


As it relates to trust beneficiaries, includes a person who has any present or future interest, vested or contingent, and also includes the owner of an interest by assignment or other transfer and, as it relates to a charitable trust, includes any person entitled to enforce the trust.

Bench Trial

Trial held before judge sitting without a jury.


A gift of personal property made in a Will. A bequest may be of a specific item, or may consist of all of the testator’s personal property.

Bill of Attainder

A special legislative act pronouncing a specified person guilty of an alleged crime without trial, and sentencing him to death or attainder.

Binding Instruction

Instruction to the jury that if it finds certain conditions to be true, it must find for the plaintiff, or the defendant, as the case may be.

Bind Over

To hold for trial or for further inquiry. Bind over usually refers to the action in which an accused is held for trial following a preliminary hearing in a criminal case.


A certificate or evidence of a debt on which the issuing company or governmental body promises to pay the bondholders.

Bond, Cash

Clerk deposits based on an order from the judge to put into registry or savings securing money owed or property in a Civil case.

Bond, Replevin

A bond executed to indemnify the officer who executed a writ of replevin and to indemnify the defendant or person from whose custody the property was taken for such damages as he may sustain. Generally money is NOT deposited; this is based on documents from the attorney.


A written or printed document prepared by counsel to file in court, usually setting forth both facts and law in support of a party’s position in a case.

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The schedule of proceedings before a court at a particular time or session.


Assigning and scheduling of court appearances.

Calling the Docket

The public calling of the docket or list of cases for setting a time for trial, ruling on motion or entering orders.


The heading or introductory clause which shows the names of the parties, the name of the court, and the number of the case.


Any action or special proceeding.

Case Law

Law whose principles are derived from court decisions.


A civil or criminal action, suit or litigation. Often used interchangeably with “case.”

Certificate as to the State of the Record or Non-Appearance

A statement by the clerk as to whether a defendant/respondent was served; date served; and that defendant/respondent has failed to answer within the time allowed by rule.

Certificate of Default

A term no longer used. See Certificate as to the State of the Record.

Certiorari (ser-shi-o-ra’ ri)

An original writ commanding judges or officers of inferior courts to certify or to return records of proceedings in a cause for judicial review.

Certified Copy

A copy of a document with a certificate attesting that the copy is a true and correct copy of a document on file.

Challenge For Cause

Term used mainly in juror challenges; a CAUSE specific reason for removing the prospective juror, e.g. prospective juror is related to one of the parties.


The private office or room of a judge.

Change of Venue

The procedure for removing a case from a court in one county or judicial circuit to the appropriate court in another county or judicial circuit, because of inability to get an impartial hearing due to publicity, public feeling, etc. Generally, a party is entitled to only one change of venue in a case.

Charge Jury

The giving of instructions on law by the judge to the jury at the end of a trial.

Child Custody

Decided in Family Court about the care, control and maintenance of a child which may be awarded to one of the parents as in a divorce or separation proceeding.

Civil Action

A lawsuit based on a private wrong, as distinguished from a crime, or to enforce rights through remedies of a private or non-penal nature. All legal proceedings which are not criminal actions are civil actions.


  1. A summons to a misdemeanant calling for appearance in court;
  2. A reference in a brief to a previous court decision, statute or other authoritative writing.


  1. In civil cases, the statement of relief desired;
  2. In respect to estates of decedents and protected persons, includes liabilities of the decedent or protected person whether arising in contract, in tort or otherwise, and liabilities of the estate which arise at or after the death of the decedent or after the appointment of a conservator, including funeral expenses and expenses of administration. The term does not include estate or inheritance taxes demands or disputes regarding title of a decedent or protected person to specific assets alleged to be included in the estate.


Anyone who asserts a right, demand or claim.

Class Action

A lawsuit filed by a small group of plaintiffs on behalf of themselves and numerous other persons in a similar situation.


Deputy of court who files pleadings, motions, judgments, etc, issues process and keeps records of court proceedings. Functions and duties of clerks of court are usually specified by statute or court rules.


A collection, compendium or revision of laws systematically arranged into chapters, table of contents and index and promulgated by legislative authority.


A supplement or an addition to a Will.


To send a person to prison, to an asylum, a workhouse, or a reformatory by lawful authority.

Common Law

Law which derives its authority from usages and customs of immemorial antiquity, or from the judgments and decrees of courts. Also called “case law.”

“Common Law” Marriage

A “marriage” of man and woman who live together without the formalities or legalities of marriage; is not recognized in New Mexico.


The change of a punishment from a greater degree as from death to life imprisonment. Also the process of releasing (by action of the governor) a prisoner from prison early by reduction of his or her sentence.

Comparative Negligence

The doctrine by which acts of opposing parties are compared in the degrees of negligence, frequently on a percentage basis.

Compensatory Damages

Damages awarded the injured party to make up or compensate for only the injury sustained; damages awarded to replace the loss caused by a wrong committed.


In the law of evidence, the presence of those characteristics which render a witness legally fit and qualified to give testimony. In probate law, the ability of a person to manage and care for himself and his own affairs.


Synonymous with “plaintiff.”


The first pleading on the part of the plaintiff in a civil action, setting out the plaintiff’s claims. In criminal law, the initial charge filed by the prosecuting attorney or a complainant against an accused in a felony case.

Compulsory Process

Process to compel the attendance in court of one wanted as a witness. Process includes subpoena plus warrant for arrest if they are needed.

Conclusions of Law

A statement of the rules of law as applied to the facts of a particular case. In some cases, judges are required to make “findings of fact and conclusions of law.”


To agree or act together.

Concurrent Sentence

Sentences for more than one crime in which the time of each is to be served together, rather than successively.


To pronounce guilty. Also to appropriate property for public use by power of eminent domain. Also to declare a building unfit for use.


The process by which property of a private owner is taken for public use, without his consent, but upon reward and payment of just compensation; also eminent domain.


A statement acknowledging guilt which is made by a person charged with a crime.


The governmental taking of private property without payment.

Conformed Copy

A copy which exactly corresponds to the original, e.g. a photo copy.

Consecutive Sentence

When one sentence of confinement is to follow another in point of time, the second sentence is deemed to be consecutive. May also be applied to suspended sentences.

Consent Decree

Agreement by defendant to cease activities asserted by government to be illegal. Also a decree in an equity case entered by consent of both parties.


A person who is appointed by a court to manage the estate of a protected person.


The joining of two or more separate lawsuits for trial purposes.


Willful disregard or disobedience of a public authority.

Contempt of Court

Any act which embarrasses, hinders or obstructs the court or which lessens the court’s authority or its dignity; may have either civil or criminal penalties. There are two kinds of contempt; direct and indirect. Direct contempt are those committed in the immediate presence of the court; and indirect is the term chiefly used with reference to the failure or refusal to obey a lawful order.


A postponement granted by the court in a legal proceeding. Under general practice, a continuance may only be granted for good cause, such as illness or counsel or a party, or the unavailability of a witness, or by agreement of the parties.


An oral or written agreement between two or more parties which is enforceable by law.

Contributory Negligence

An act or omission by a plaintiff which amounts to a failure to use that degree of care which is prescribed for those circumstances which, combined with the defendant’s negligence, is the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.


To come together or cause to assemble in court.


A legal theory and action based on the improper use by a defendant, for his or her own benefit, of personal property belonging to the plaintiff.


To condemn or find one guilty of a criminal charge; to pronounce an accused person guilty as charged.


A judgment of guilty upon a plea of guilty at the end of trial finding the defendant guilty.

Corpus Delicti

The body (material substance) upon which a crime has been committed, e.g., the corpse of a murdered person, the charred remains of a burned house.

Corroborating Evidence

Additional evidence so that evidence already given and tending to strengthen or confirm it.

Cost Bill

A certificate filed by the prevailing party in a lawsuit to reflect the costs being claimed against the losing party.

Cost Bond

A bond given by a party to an action which acts as an assurance that if the outcome of a case is not favorable such costs as may be awarded against the party will be paid.


Monies necessarily expended in the course of a lawsuit, beginning with the docketing or filing fee, and may include services fees, witness fees, deposition costs, etc. The costs normally must be paid by the losing party in a lawsuit.

Counsel of Record

All attorneys involved in a lawsuit who have formally appeared therein.


When a plaintiff claims more than one ground for recovery, each ground is stated separately. Each separate part is known as a count in the petition. In criminal law, when more than one charge is made against the defendant in the same information or indictment, each charge is stated as a separate count.


A claim by a defendant against a plaintiff in response to a complaint.

Court Monitor

A person who takes audio recording of proceeding during court proceedings.

Court of Original Jurisdiction

A court with the power to review the proceedings and judgments of lower courts.

Court Registry

A term used to denote the clerk’s bank account in which money is deposited by litigants and held until further order of the court.

Court Reporter

A trained stenographer who keeps a verbatim report of oral proceedings during court proceedings and prepares a transcript of the case when required.

Courts of Record

Those courts whose proceedings are permanently recorded and which have the power to fine or imprison for contempt. Courts not of record are those of lesser authority whose proceedings are not permanently recorded.

Criminal Cases

Cases tried by the state against an accused in felonious matters.

Criminal Insanity

The lack of mental capacity to do or abstain from doing a particular act. The inability to distinguish right from wrong.


A claim filed by one defendant against another defendant in the same lawsuit, seeking some affirmative relief, and related to the same factual situation raised in the plaintiff’s petition.


The questioning of a witness in a trial, or in the taking of a deposition, by a party opposed to the party which called the witness.

Cumulative Sentence

Any sentence which is to take effect after the expiration of a prior sentence. (See consecutive sentence)


The care, guarding and safe keeping of a thing; confinement. Example: Custody of children under 18 years in dissolution of marriage.

Custody Status

Whether defendant is in custody, released on bail or released on own recognizance.

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Pecuniary (money) compensation which may be recovered in the courts by any party which has suffered loss, detriment, or injury to person, property or rights, through unlawful act or negligence of another.

De Novo

Anew, fresh. A “trial de novo” is the retrial of a case, usually at the next highest court level.


A deceased person.

Declaratory Judgment

A judgment which declares the rights of the parties or expresses the opinion of the court on the question of law, without ordering anything be done.


A decision or order of the court in a non-jury case. A final decree is one which fully and finally disposes of the litigation; an interlocutory decree is provisional or preliminary decree which is not final.


The offense of injuring a person’s reputation. Includes libel and slander.


A “default” in an action at law occurs when a defendant fails to plead within the time allowed or fails to appear at the trial.

Default Judgment

Judgment entered by court against party in default.


The party against whom a civil or criminal action is brought.


The sworn testimony of a witness taken outside of court and transcribed by a reporter. Depositions are a discovery tool for lawyers, but can be used at trial to impeach a witness’s testimony or can be read to the jury if the witness is unavailable.


A gift of real property made in a Will.

Direct Evidence

Proof of facts by witnesses who saw acts done or heard words spoken; distinguished from circumstantial evidence, which is called indirect.

Directed Verdict

A verdict reached by the judge, taking a decision from the jury, because the party with the burden of proof has not produced sufficient evidence to prove its case, e.g., the state failing to prove a criminal case will suffer a directed verdict of acquittal in favor of the defendant. Also, an instruction by the judge to the jury to return a specific verdict.


The term applied to various procedures which enable the parties to a lawsuit to learn the factual details of the opposing side’s case. Includes written interrogatories, depositions, production of documents, etc.

Dismissal With Prejudice

The dismissal of a lawsuit or claim which prohibits the party from bringing another action on the same claim or cause. Usually the court must approve a dismissal with prejudice.

Dismissal Without Prejudice

The voluntary dismissal of a lawsuit or claim by a party, preserving the right to bring the claim at a later time if desired. A case normally can be dismissed without prejudice at any time before trial, and without court approval.

Dissolution of Marriage

The act of terminating a marriage; divorce; does not include annulment.


The removal of a judge from presiding in a case by affidavit of a party to the action.


Final settlement or result of a case, whether by dismissal, judgment, etc.


The legal separation of man and wife, effected by the judgment or decree of a court, and either totally dissolving the marriage relation, or suspending its effects so far as concerns the cohabitation of the parties.


A brief entry made into the formal record of proceedings of a case; can be manual or computerized.

Docket Number

The numerical designation assigned to each case by a court; also known as the case number.


Registering all the activity in a case, e.g., court appearances and papers filed on a docket sheet.

Domestic Relations

Branch or discipline of the law which deals with matters of the household or family, including divorce, separation, custody and support.

Double Jeopardy

Common-law and constitutional prohibition against more than one prosecution for the same crime, transaction or omission.

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In family law or children’s law, the time when a child becomes legally free from parental control, occurring automatically upon reaching the age of majority (18 for most purposes.) It may occur earlier when the child is married, or when he or she is abandoned by parents and becomes self-supporting.

Eminent Domain

The power to take private property for public use.

En Banc

On the bench; all judges of a court sitting together.


To require a person, by writ of injunction from a court of equity, to perform or to abstain or desist from some act.


The act of officers or agents of a government in inducing a person to commit a crime not contemplated by him or her, for the purpose of instituting a criminal prosecution against him or her.


A legal remedy based on a system of fairness natural right or justice, as distinguished from remedies based on the common law.


A mistaken judgment or incorrect belief as to the existence or effect of matters of fact, or a false or mistaken conception or application of the law.


In American law, the right of the state to an estate for which there is no person legally qualified to inherit or claim the estate.


The written agreement between two parties that a third person will hold a deed, money or the like, to be delivered to one of the parties to a transaction when certain conditions or contingencies are met.


A collective term meaning all property owned by a person, including real and personal property, and other legal rights.


A party is prevented by its own act from claiming a right which is detrimental to another party who was entitled to rely on such conduct and acted thereon.

Et Al

An abbreviation of et alii, meaning “and others.”

Et Seq

An abbreviation for et sequentes, or et sequentia, meaning “and the following.”

Et Ux

An abbreviation for et uxor; literally, “and wife.”


  1. The act of expelling by legal process.
  2. The recovery of property by judicial process.


All types of information (written, verbal, material objects) which may be presented in a trial or other hearing.


The formal interrogation of a witness; inquiry, investigation, questioning of.

Examination, Cross

The questioning of an opposing witness during a trial or hearing.

Examination, Direct

  1. The first questioning in a trial of a witness by the party that called the witness.
  2. The questioning of a witness by the party that called the witness, conducted after cross-examination, to rehabilitate the witness or amplify matters discussed in cross-examination.

Examination, Rebuttal

The introduction of new evidence to contradict the evidence and affirmative defenses presented by the opposing party.


Peremptory challenge to a district judge. See NMRA, 1-088.1


Carrying out a court judgment; a writ empowering an officer to enforce a judgment.


A person named by a testator/testatrix to carry out the provisions of a Will. Called a “Personal Representative” in New Mexico.

Exemplified Copy

An official and certified copy of a document from public records.

Ex Parte

By or for one party; done on the application of one party only, usually without notice to the other party.


A document or item which is formally introduced in court and which, when accepted is made part of the case file.


To relieve or exculpate someone of a debt.


The surrender from one state to another of a person the second state wants to criminally prosecute.

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False Arrest

The act of depriving one of liberty by unlawful physical restraint.


A crime of graver nature than a misdemeanor. Generally, an offense punishable by death or imprisonment in penitentiary in excess of one year. Classes of felonies and authorized terms are: for class A felony, a term of years not less then ten years and not to exceed thirty years, or life imprisonment; for class B felony, a term of years not less than five years and not to exceed fifteen years; for class C felony, a term of years not to exceed seven years; for a class D felony a term of years not to exceed five years.


A term derived from Roman law meaning a person who stands in a special relation of trust, confidence, or responsibility in his or her obligations to others.


A record of the court. In general, “file”, “filing” denotes acceptance, for official custody by the clerk’s office of a document by affixing the court filing stamp which shows the name of the court, clerk and the date and time of filing; this document will then be docketed and fastened in the proper court file containing all pleadings, summons and subpoenas pertaining to that case. File can also refer to the cabinet in which records are kept.


A decision by judge or jury about a question of fact.


A penalty or forfeiture; in civil cases the fine is paid to the offended party; in criminal cases the fine is paid to the court.


A legal proceeding taken to enforce payment of a debt through the sale of property on which the creditor holds a lien.


Falsely making or materially altering what would otherwise be an apparently genuine document, with an intent to defraud others who rely on the genuineness of the document.

Formal Proceedings

Proceeding conducted before the district court with notice to interested persons.

Foreign Judgment

A judgment from another court that is entitled to full faith and credit in New Mexico.


An intentional perversion of truth; deceitful practice or devise resorted to with intent to deprive another of property or other right, or in some manner to inflict injury.

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“Gag Order”

Order imposing prior restraint on publication.


The person upon whom a garnishment is served, usually a debtor of the defendant in the action.


A writ sought by a creditor to obtain payment of a judgment, by seizing a debtor’s money, wages or other property in the hands of a third person (e.g., an employer or bank).

General Assignment

The voluntary transfer, by a debtor, of all property to a trustee for the benefit of all creditors.

General Jurisdiction

Term used to indicate that a court has jurisdiction to hear all controversies that may be brought within the legal bounds of rights and remedies. Is contrasted with special or limited jurisdiction.


A person lawfully invested with the power, and charged with the duty, of taking care of a person and managing the property and rights of another person, who for defect of age, understanding, or self-control, is considered incapable of administering his/her own affairs.

Guardian ad litem

A person appointed by a court to look after the interests of an infant or incompetent person involved in litigation.

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Habeas Corpus

Literally, “you have the body.” The name given a variety of writs whose object is to bring a person before a court or judge. In most common usage, it is directed to the official or person detaining another, commanding the official to produce the body of the prisoner or person detained so the court may determine if such person has been denied liberty without due process of law.

“Hammer” Instruction

An instruction which tells the jurors that it is desirable that there be a verdict in every case and that they should endeavor to arrive at a verdict. It is cautioned, however, that no juror should agree to a verdict which violates the court’s instructions which require finding a fact which under the evidence is untrue.

Harmless Error

An error committed by a lower court during a trial which is not prejudicial to the rights of the party and for which the appellate court will not reverse the judgment.

Hearsay Evidence

Evidence not based on the personal knowledge of the witness.


The killing of one human being by another. Includes first and second degree murder, and manslaughter.

Hostile Witness

A witness subject to cross-examination by the party which called him or her to testify, because of evident antagonism toward that party as exhibited in his or her direct examination.

Hung Jury

A jury which cannot agree on a final verdict.

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To complete a jury. When the voir dire is finished and both sides have exercised their challenges, the jury is complete or “impanelled”. The jurors take an oath to perform their duty, and the trial is ready to proceed.

Impartial Jury

Provision of the Bill of Rights (6th Amendment) requiring that the accused shall have a fair trial by an impartial jury, means that the jury MUST not favor one party more than another.


The procedure followed by a legislative body in developing charges for removal of a public official for a crime or misfeasance; literally, “to accuse.” “To impeach” does not mean removal from office.

Impeachment of Witness

An attack on the credibility of a witness by the testimony of other witnesses or by the inconsistent testimony or statements of the witness made at an earlier time.

Implied Contract

A contract in which the promise made by the obligor is not expressed, but inferred by his or her conduct or implied in law.

Imputed Negligence

Negligence which is not directly attributable to a person. It is the negligence of another who has a legal relationship with him or her, and with whose fault he or she is chargeable such as an employer who is liable for the negligence of an agent or employee.


Evidence which cannot be admitted or received under the established rules of evidence.

In Camera

In chambers; in private.

Incapacitated Person

Any person who is impaired by reason of mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, advanced age, chronic use of drugs or other cause (except minority) to the extent he lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning his person.


Agreement whereby a person agrees to hold harmless another person from anticipated possible loss.

Indeterminate Sentence

An indefinite sentence of “not less than” and “not more than” so many years, the exact term to be served being afterwards determined by parole authorities within the minimum and maximum limits set by the court or by statute.


An accusation in writing found and presented by a grand jury, charging the person named with a crime.


One who is needy and poor.


A deduction drawn from a statement or deduction which is supposed or admitted to be true; a reasoning process in which a proposition seems a logical conclusion from a set of facts admitted or known to be true.

Informal Proceedings

Proceedings conducted without notice to interested persons except as provided in Section 3-306 (45-3-306 NMSA 1978) before the probate court of a Will or appointment of personal representative.


The document filed by a prosecuting attorney charging a person with a crime.


A breach or violation of a right, law or obligation.


A writ issued by a court directing a person to do a certain thing (mandatory injunction) or prohibiting certain actions (prohibitive injunction).


A written statement given by the judge to the jury concerning the law of the case.

Inter Alia

Among other things or matters.

Inter Alios

Among other persons, between others.

Inter Vivos

Literally, “from one living person to another.” When property passes by conveyance from one living person to another, the transaction is said to be inter vivos.

Interested Person

Heir, devisee, child, spouse, creditor, beneficiary and any other person having a property right in claim against an estate.


Provisional, temporary, not final. Refers to orders and decrees of a court.


The questioning of witnesses and other persons to obtain information.


Written questions propounded by one party and served on the adversary, to be answered in writing under oath.


A proceeding in a suit or action by which a third person is permitted by the court to make himself or herself a party.


One who dies without leaving a Will.

Irrelevant Evidence

Evidence not relating or applicable to the matter in issue. Also, not supporting the issue.

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The uniting of two or more persons in some legal proceeding.


The decision of a court determining the issues in a lawsuit.

Judgment Affirmed

Approval by a superior court of the decision of a lower court.

Judgment Creditor

A party in a lawsuit who received a favorable decision and is awarded money or property against a debtor.

Judgment by Default

A judgment awarded automatically to the plaintiff in a suit if the defendant fails to file within a specified time an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint or petition or fails to appear when the case is set for trial.

Judgment Reversed

The disapproval and annulling by an appellate court of the judgment of a lower court. The judgment is made void by the higher court because of an error or irregularity in the decision process of the lower court.

Judicial Notice

Acceptance by the court, without formal proof shown, of facts of common knowledge.

Judicial Review

Form of an appeal from an administrative body to the courts for either finding of fact, or of law, or of both.


The judicial branch of government; the court system; the judges.


  1. The authority to administer justice by hearing and deciding controversies.
  2. The extent or range of judicial authority.
  3. The territory over which judicial authority is exercised.


The philosophy of law, or the science which deals with the principles of positive law and legal relations.


A certain number of persons (traditionally 12) selected to determine the factual issues in a lawsuit.  Also Petit Jury.

Jury Array

The entire panel of jurors summoned to court.

Jury, Grand

A jury of inquiry who are summoned and returned by the Court to each session of the criminal courts and whose duty is to receive complaints and accusations in criminal cases, hear the evidence brought on the part of the state, and find bills of indictment in cases where they are satisfied a trial ought to be had.

Jury Supervisor

An officer who selects the names to be put into a jury wheel, or who draws the panel of jurors for a term of court.

Jury Trial

Trial of matter of cause before a jury as opposed to trial before a judge.

Jury Venire

A panel of persons from which a jury is selected.

Juvenile Court

A court having special jurisdiction, of a paternal nature, over delinquent, dependent and neglected children.

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Leading Question

A question, asked by a lawyer of a witness, which suggests the answer desired. Leading questions are prohibited on direct examination but are permitted on cross-examination.

Legal File

A file containing the pleadings, judgment, motions, verdict and other records of a lawsuit. The legal file must be assembled by the appellant and filed with the appellate court in a case on appeal.


Formal document issued by probate court appointing one of the following: Letters testamentary, letters of administration, letters of guardianship and conservatorship.


Responsible, answerable.


A form of defamation expressed by print, writing, pictures or signs. In its most general sense, any publication that injures an individual’s reputation.

Lien (leen)

Any of a variety of charges or encumbrances on property, imposed to secure the payment of a debt or the performance or non-performance of some act or to secure the payment of a tax. Liens can be imposed on real or personal property.


A certain time allowed by statute in which a claim must be brought. Generally called a “statute of limitations.”


A police station procedure of placing the accused in a lineup with two or more persons of similar appearance to be viewed by a victim or other witnesses.

Lis Pendens

A pending suit. Also, the name given to the notice filed in the recorder of deeds’ office, giving notice that a lawsuit has been filed that may affect title to the property described in the notice.


One who is engaged in a lawsuit.


A lawsuit; the act of contesting at law.

Locus Delicti

The place of the offense.


A plan for the distribution of prizes by chance.

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Evil doing, ill conduct or the commission of some act which is positively prohibited by law.

Malicious Prosecution

Name applied to an action for damages by a person, against whom a criminal prosecution or a civil suit has been instituted maliciously and without probable cause, after termination of such action in favor of the person claiming damages.


A lawsuit brought against a professional person, such as a doctor, lawyer or engineer, for injury or loss caused to the plaintiff by the defendant’s failure to meet the standards of practice for the profession.


A writ which issues from a court of superior jurisdiction, directed to an inferior court or an administrative agency or official, commanding the performance of a particular act.


A legal order directing the proper officer to enforce a judgment, sentence or decree.


The killing of a human being while in a state of anger, fear or agitation suddenly provoked by the unexpected acts of the victim and the death was not justifiable or excusable homicide.

Master (Special)

An officer of the court, usually an attorney or retired judge, appointed to take testimony and make a report to the court. Used frequently in disbarment cases but can be used in other cases.

Material Evidence

Evidence that is relevant to the substantial issues in dispute.

Mechanic’s Lien

A claim created by statute to secure priority of payment for work performed or materials furnished in building or repairing property.


An informal note or instrument embodying something that the parties desire to fix in memory by the aid of written evidence, or that is to serve as the basis of a future formal contract or deed.

Mens Rea (menz re-a)

Literally, “guilty mind.” One of the two basic requirements, along with a guilty act, for a crime.

Miranda Warning

The statement of legal rights which must be given to an arrested person or person suspected of a crime before he can be interrogated by law officers.


An offense less serious than a felony and punishable by fine or a jail term up to one year or both. Classes of misdemeanors and terms are: For a class A misdemeanor, a term not to exceed one year; for a class B misdemeanor, a term not to exceed six months; and for a class C misdemeanor, a term not to exceed fifteen days.


The improper performance of some act which a person might lawfully do.


A trial which has been terminated prior to its normal conclusion. It may be declared by the judge because of some extraordinary event (e.g., death or illness of juror or attorney), for prejudicial error which cannot be corrected in that trial, or because of a deadlocked jury.

Mitigating Circumstance

A circumstance which does not constitute a justification or excuse for an offense, but which may be considered as reducing the degree of moral culpability.


Unsettled or undecided. A moot case is one in which the factual issues are resolved or other things occur which make it unnecessary for a court to render a decision; a moot point is one not settled by judicial decisions.

Moral Turpitude

Conduct contrary to honesty, modesty or good morals.


An application made to a court or judge for purpose of obtaining a rule or order directing some act to be done in favor of the movant. Usually made with in the framework of an existing action and usually with notice. Motions without notice are called ex parte motions.

Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict

Motion filed by a party after an adverse verdict to have the court set aside the verdict and enter judgment as requested in an earlier motion for directed verdict.

Motion for Judgment of Acquittal

Motion filed by defendant in criminal trial which requests the court, for the reasons given, to enter a judgment of acquittal instead of submitting the issue of guilt to the jury.

Motion to Dismiss

A motion filed by a party to a lawsuit to dismiss the claim of the opposing party on any of several grounds.


One who has filed a motion before a court.

Multiplicity of Actions

Numerous and unnecessary attempts to litigate the same issue.

Murder in the First Degree

Murder punishable by death or by imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole or conditional release. The death penalty was abolished in New Mexico in 2009. However, it is not retroactive, meaning that it is still possible for convicts to be executed who committed crimes before July 2009.

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Ne Exeat

A writ which forbids a person from leaving a state or the jurisdiction of the court.


The failure to do something which a reasonable person, guided by ordinary considerations, would do, or the doing of something which a reasonable and prudent person would not do.

Next Friend

One acting for the benefit of an infant or other person without being regularly appointed as guardian.

Nisi Prius

Courts for the initial trial of issues of fact, as distinguished from appellate courts.

No True Bill or No Bill

This phrase, endorsed by a grand jury on an indictment, is equivalent to a “not found” or “not a true bill.” It means that in the opinion of the jury, the evidence was insufficient to warrant a formal charge.

Nolle Prosequi (nol’e pros’e-kwi)

A formal entry upon the record by the plaintiff in a civil suit, or the prosecuting officer in a criminal case, by which he or she declares that he or she “will no further prosecute” the case.

Nolo Contendere

Literally, “I will not contest it.” If accepted by the court, it is equivalent, for purposes of that case only, to a plea of guilty and the court can sentence the defendant thereon.

Nominal Party

One who is joined as a party or defendant merely because the technical rules of pleading require his or her presence in the record.

Non Compos Mentis

Literally, “not sound of mind,” insane.

Non Obstante Veredicto

Literally, “notwithstanding the verdict.” A judgment entered by order of court for one party, although there has been a jury verdict against that party. (J. N. O. V.)

Non-partisan Court Plan

A procedure for the selection and appointment of judges, in which the governor appoints a judge from a panel of candidates selected by a non-political nominating commission. A judge appointed under the non-partisan plan cannot engage in politics and stands for retention periodically without being opposed by another “candidate.”

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The act of taking exception to some statement or procedure in trial for the purpose of calling the court’s attention to improper evidence or procedure. Such objection, if overruled by the trial judge, serves as the basis for seeking reversal of the judgment on appeal.

Of Counsel

A phrase applied to counsel employed to assist in the preparation or management of a case, or its presentation on appeal, but who is not the principal attorney of record.

Open Court

Either a court which has been formally convened and declared open for the transaction of its proper judicial business, or a court which is freely open to spectators.

Opening Statement

Outline or summary of nature of case and of anticipated proof presented by counsel to jury at the start of trial.


The statement by a judge or court of the decision reached in regard to a cause tried or argued before him/her, expounding the law as applied to the case, and detailing the reason upon which the judgment is made.

Opinion Evidence

Testimony as to what the witness thinks, believes or infers regarding a fact in dispute, as distinguished from personal knowledge of the facts. Opinion evidence usually is not admissible except in the case of experts.


A written direction of a court or a judge, other than a judgment.


A written law enacted by the legislative body of a county or city.

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A list of jurors to serve in a particular court, or for one particular trial.


Action by an executive (governor) which relieves one from further punishment for a criminal offense and restores rights and privileges lost as a result of the offense.

Parol Evidence

Oral or verbal evidence; the ordinary kind of evidence given by witnesses in court.

Parol Evidence Rule

Under this rule, when parties put an agreement in writing, all previous oral agreements merge with the writing, and a contract as written cannot be modified by parol evidence, in the absence of a mistake or fraud in the preparation of the writing.


A conditional release, usually under supervision of a parole officer, of a prisoner who has served part of the term for which he was sentenced. The parole may be revoked for failure to observe the conditions provided in the parole order.


The persons who are actively concerned in the prosecution or defense of a legal proceeding.

Peremptory Challenge

The challenge which the prosecution or defense (or plaintiff or defendant in civil cases) may use to reject a prospective juror without giving any reason. Each party is entitled to a certain number of peremptory challenges according to statute. Can be used in New Mexico to challenge a judge. See NMRA 1-088.1.


The giving, willfully and knowingly, of false testimony to the court, either orally or in written form, such as in an affidavit by one under oath.

Personal Recognizance

A kind of bail, consisting of a written promise to appear in court when required, without the posting of cash or other security.


A formal written application to a court requesting judicial action on a certain matter. The petition made to a court ex parte, or where there are no parties in opposition, praying for the exercise of the judicial powers of the court in relation to some matter which is not the subject for a suit or action, or for authority to do some act which requires the sanction of the court; as for appointment of guardian, for leave to sell trust property, etc.


A person who makes a written request that the court take a particular action.


A person who brings a lawsuit.


In criminal law, any of four formal answers an accused may give to a criminal accusation. The four pleas are: (1) “not guilty,” which is a complete denial of guilt; (2) “not guilty by reason of insanity,” which pleads the defense of criminal insanity and may be joined with a plea of not guilty; (3) nolo contendere; and (4) “guilty,” which is a complete admission of guilt.

Plea Bargaining

In criminal law, pre-trial negotiations between the defense and the prosecution, with a view to obtaining a disposition of the case without trial. Under such agreement the accused may be permitted to plead guilty to a lesser offense, or plead guilty to one or more charges but have others dismissed or the prosecuting attorney may agree to recommend a particular sentence. The terms of a negotiated plea must be stated in the open court and it will be effective only if approved by the trial judge.


The process by which the parties in a suit alternately present written statements of their contentions until the controverted issues are set out for trial.

Polling the Jury

A practice whereby the jurors are asked individually whether they agreed to and still join in the verdict.

Power of Attorney

An instrument authorizing another to act as one’s agent or attorney.

Praecipe (pre’si-pe)

An original writ commanding the defendant to do the thing required. Also, an order addressed to the clerk of a court, requesting the issuance of a particular writ.


The request in a pleading which states what action or relief is sought.

Prejudicial Error

Synonymous with “reversible error.” An error which warrants the appellate court in reversing a lower court judgment.

Preliminary Hearing

Synonymous with “preliminary examination;” the hearing, held by an associate circuit judge (or a magistrate in federal courts) to determine whether a person charged with a crime should be held for trial.

Preponderance of Evidence

Greater weight of evidence, or evidence which is sufficient to create in the mind of the court or jury the belief that the party has established its case.


An informal statement in writing by a grand jury to the court that a public offense has been committed, from its own knowledge or observation, without any bill of indictment being voted.

Presumption of Fact

A presumption of fact, usually rebuttable, resulting from a rule of law which requires such fact to be assumed from another fact or group of facts found or otherwise established in the action.

Presumption of Innocence

The principle that every accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty and that the state has the burden of proving every element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt.

Presumption of Law

A rule of law that courts and judges shall draw a particular inference from a particular fact, or from particular evidence.

Prevailing Party

The person who wins the lawsuit.

Prima Facie

Literally, “on its face.” Evidence is said to be prima facie when, standing alone, it amounts to the degree of proof required to make a particular finding.

Pro Se/Self Represented Litigant

In one’s own behalf; commonly used to refer to a party representing him or herself in a court action instead of being represented by an attorney.

Probable Cause

Having more evidence for than against.


The act or process of proving a Will.


Allowing a person convicted of a criminal offense to remain in the community rather than being incarcerated, so long as the person maintains good behavior, meets any special conditions imposed by the court, etc. Usually, a person placed on probation is under the supervision of a probation officer.

Procedural Law

The methods and procedures of carrying on a lawsuit, of enforcing one’s rights in judicial proceedings.


Any hearing or court appearance related to the adjudication of a case.


The name of an extraordinary order issued by a superior court to a lower court, administrative agency or public officer to prohibit the court, agency or officer from exceeding its jurisdiction or exercising jurisdiction when there is no jurisdiction.

Promissory Note

A written promise to pay a specific sum of money to a named person.

Property Bond

A kind of bail in a criminal case, consisting of the posting of real property to secure the defendant’s appearance when required.

Prosecuting Attorney

The attorney for the state who prosecutes another for a crime; in Missouri, there is a prosecuting attorney in every county.

Prosecutor (f. prosecutrix)

One who instigates a prosecution against another, by filing a complaint or making an accusation, and perhaps testifies in behalf of the state against the accused.

Proximate Cause

In tort law, the negligent act which causes a plaintiff’s injury or, when combined with other acts or omissions, most directly causes the plaintiff’s injury or loss.

Public Defender

A lawyer employed by the state to serve as defense attorney for indigent defendants.

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A question, or query.


To overthrow or vacate. To annul or void a summons or indictment.

Quasi Judicial

Authority or discretion vested in an officer where that officer’s acts partake of a judicial character.

Quid Pro Quo

Literally, “what for what.” A fair return or consideration.

Quiet Title

An action to establish the legal owner(s) of real estate.

Quo Warranto

A writ issuable by the state, through which it demands an individual to show by what right he or she exercises an authority which can only be exercised through grant or franchise from the state, or to show why he or she should not be removed from office.


The number of persons who must be present to make the actions of a group valid.

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Real Property

Land and things attached to land.

Reasonable Doubt

That state of the minds of jurors in which they are not firmly convinced as to the truth of the charge. An accused person is entitled to acquittal if, in the minds of the jury, the accused’s guilt has not been proven beyond a “reasonable doubt.”


The introduction of rebutting evidence. The showing that statements of witnesses as to what occurred is not true. Also, the stage of a trial at which such evidence may be introduced.


The process of removal of a public official by a vote of the people, taken upon submission of a petition signed by a required number of citizens.


A person, who because he or she is disinterested in the parties of a cause, is appointed by the court to preserve the property or funds being contended in the case. This procedure is followed because it is not reasonable that either party hold the property.


The placing of property into the hands of a receiver for his care until litigation concerning the property is over and a decision as to the disposition of the property is rendered.


A written account of some act, court proceeding, transaction, or instrument, drawn up under authority of law, by proper officer, and designed to remain as a memorial or permanent evidence of the matters to which it relates.

Record On Appeal

The trial transcript and legal file which are prepared by the appellant and filed of record in the appellate court in a case on appeal.

Recross Examination

The interrogation of the witness, following redirect-examination, by the party who first cross-examined the witness.


The process by which a judge is disqualified (or disqualifies himself/herself) from hearing a lawsuit because of interest or prejudice.

Redirect Examination

The questioning of a witness by the party who first called that witness, after the opposing party has conducted cross-examination. Redirect examination is limited to issues raised in the cross-examination.


A person to whom a cause pending in a court is referred by that court to take testimony, hear the parties and report to the court. The referee is an officer exercising judicial powers and is an arm of the court for a specific purpose.


The process of submitting certain recently enacted statutes to a popular vote for approval or rejection.


A party seeking relief through the prosecuting attorney or circuit attorney or Attorney General.


Deliverance from oppression, wrong or injustice. In this sense it is used as a general designation of the assistance, redress, or benefit which a complainant seeks at the hand of a court, particularly equity.


To send back. The sending by the appellate court of the cause back to the same court out of which it came, for purpose of having some further action taken on it there.


The abrogation of a previously existing law by enactment of a statute revoking the former law.


An action to recover possession of personal property from a person who has wrongfully or unlawfully taken and refused to return the property.


When a case is tried and argued in court, the argument of the plaintiff in answer to that of the defendant is called a reply. In pleading, the plaintiff’s response to a pleading filed by the defendant generally is called a reply.

Res Ipsa Loquitur (rez ip’sa lok’wi-ter)

Literally “a thing that speaks for itself.” In tort law, the doctrine which holds a defendant guilty of negligence without a showing of a specific negligent act. Its use is limited in theory to cases in which the cause of the plaintiff’s injury was entirely under the control of the defendant, and the injury presumably could have been caused only by negligence.

Res Judicata

A rule of civil law that once a matter has been litigated and final judgment has been rendered by a court, the matter cannot be relitigated by the parties.


Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Law. All states have enacted such laws in order that child support cannot be avoided merely by the party owing it moves to another state.


The party against whom an appeal is taken. See “appellee“.  Also, the party against whom a proceeding in quo warranto is brought.

Respondent Superior

Literally, “a superior (or master) must answer.” The doctrine which holds that an employer or principal is responsible for the acts and omissions of his or her employees and agents, when done within the scope of their duties as employees or agents.

Restraining Order

An order in the nature of an injunction. An order which may issue upon filing of an application for an injunction for bidding the defendant to do the threatened act until a hearing on the application can be had, and is distinguishable from an injunction, in that the former is intended only as a restraint until the property of granting an injunction can be determined and it does no more than restrain.


The act of the client in employing an attorney or counsel, which also denotes the fee which the client pays when the attorney is retained to act for him or her.

Return of Service

A certificate or affidavit by the person who has served process upon a party to an action, reflecting the date and place of such service.

Rule Nisi, or Rule to Show Cause (ni’si)

A court order obtained on motion by either party to show cause why the particular relief sought should not be granted.

Rule of Court

An order made by a court having competent jurisdiction. Rules of court are either general or special. The former are the regulations by which the practice of the court is governed; the latter are special orders made in particular cases.

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New Mexico Supreme Court Rules Annotated.

Satisfaction of Judgment

Payment of all monies determined to be owed in a court judgment.


The impression seal of the district court; to place this impression seal on a document.

Search and Seizure, Unreasonable

Generally, a police search of a person or place without proper legal authority, made to discover evidence, stolen property, weapons, etc.

Search Warrant

An order in writing, issued by a judge, directing an officer, at a particular place, to search for and seize particular property that is stolen or contraband or which constitutes evidence of the commission of a crime.


An act performed by a law officer under authority of a writ in taking into legal custody the property, real or personal, of a person against whom the writ was issued.


The protection of one’s person or property against some injury attempted by another. The law of “self-defense” justifies an act done in the reasonable belief of immediate danger.


The judgment in a criminal action, following a verdict or a plea of guilty, stating the punishment to be inflicted.

Separation of Witnesses

An order of the court requiring all witnesses (except parties) to remain outside the courtroom until each is called to testify. Also termed the “exclusion of witnesses” or “the rule on witnesses.”

Sequestered File

File kept in a separate, secure place.

Sequester Jury

The act of confining the jury (not permitting its members to return home or separate) during the course of a trial, until a verdict is reached.


An employee; one who acts for another.

Service of Process

Written notification by an officer, handed to a person or published in accordance with legal requirements, that he or she has been named as a party to a lawsuit or has been accused of some offense. Process consists of a summons, citation or warrant, to which a copy of the complaint or other pleading is attached.


To separate claims of or against different parties involved in the same lawsuit for trial purposes.


An officer of a county, chosen by popular election, whose principal duties are aid of criminal and civil courts and administration of county jails.

Show Cause

An order requiring a person to appear in court and state why certain action should not be taken.

Sine Qua Non (si’ne kwa non)

An indispensable requisite or condition.


Is a defamation that is in a non-permanent form usually spoken.

Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act

If a party to a civil suit invokes this act, it will result in a stay of the proceedings until further order of the court.

Sound Discretion

Judicial discretion which is not arbitrary but is fair and equitable under the circumstances.

Sovereign Immunity

The doctrine that a government or governmental agency cannot be sued.

Special Administrator

A personal representative as described in Section 3-614 through 3-618 (NMSA 1978, §§ 45-3-614 to -618) of the Probate Code.

Specific Performance

An order directing a person to perform specifically what that person has agreed in a contract to do; issued only when money damages would not be adequate to compensate for the breach of a contract.

Stare Decisis (sta’re de-si’sis)

The doctrine that when a court has once laid down a principle of law as applicable to a certain set of facts, it will adhere to that principle and apply it to future cases where the facts are substantially the same.

State’s Evidence

An accomplice or participant in a crime is said to have turned “state’s evidence” when such person gives testimony tending to convict others, usually in return for disposition of the charge against the witness.


The law as enacted by the legislative body, as opposed to case law developed by the courts.

Statute of Limitations

The time limit within which a civil or criminal action may be brought after its cause arises. The time limit depends on the kind of action involved and is set by the legislature.


The act of stopping a judicial proceeding by order of the court.


An agreement by attorneys on opposite sides of a case as to any matter pertaining to the proceedings or trial. It is not binding unless assented to by the parties. Most stipulations must be in writing.


An order to appear in court.

Subpoena Duces Tecum (su-pe’na du sez te’kum)

A writ by which the court commands a witness to produce certain documents or records in a trial or deposition.

Substantive Law

That part of the law dealing with rights, duties and liabilities, as distinguished from procedural law, which is the law regulating procedure.


A court proceeding by one person against another or others in which he or she seeks redress for an injury or enforcement of a right. The term “suit” is seldom applied to a criminal prosecution.

Summary Judgment

Judgment entered when there is no genuine issue of material fact and party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.


writ directing the sheriff or other officer to notify the named person that an action has been commenced against him or her in court and that he or she is required to answer the complaint in such action. A court direction or invitation to personally appear in court on a certain date in a certain courtroom at a certain time to answer to a charge.

Supersedeas (su-per-se-de-as)

Literally, “stay of proceedings.” A writ containing a command to stay proceedings at law, such as the enforcement of a judgment pending an appeal. Also, the name given to the bond posted by the losing party, to prevent execution on a judgment during an appeal.

Suppression Hearing

A hearing held on a defense motion to prohibit the use of evidence alleged to have been obtained in violation of the defendant’s rights. This hearing is held outside of the presence of the jury, either prior to or at trial. Suppression hearings are held only in criminal cases.


The person or company which posts security on a bail bond in a criminal case, to guarantee the performance of the principal (defendant) in appearing in court, abiding by the terms of probation, etc.

Suspended Imposition of Sentence

The practice of a court in not pronouncing a sentence on a convicted defendant; instead, the defendant may be placed on probation and, if probation is successfully completed, the defendant is discharged and no conviction is recorded.

Suspended Sentence

The practice of a court in placing a convicted person on probation, rather than sending him or her to jail or prison, although a conviction is recorded against that person. Sometimes referred to as “suspended execution of sentence.”

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Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)

An immediate order upon motion and for cause shown, prohibiting certain action on the part of another party to a suit.


One who has died leaving a Will, or one who has made a Will. The status of having died with a Will.

Testator (f. testatrix)

The person who makes a Will.


Evidence given by a competent witness, under oath; as distinguished from evidence derived from writings and other sources.


An injury or wrong committed to the person or property of another, independent of any contract. For a tort to be committed, there must be a breach or violation of some duty owing to the plaintiff.


One who commits a tort.


The official record of proceedings in a trial or hearing.

Transfer Order

A court order transferring a cause of that court’s jurisdiction to another court.


In pleadings, traverse signifies a denial. When a defendant denies any material allegation of fact in the plaintiff’s declaration, the defendant is said to traverse it.


An unlawful entry onto another’s real property.

Trial De Novo

A new trial or retrial of all issues before a different division of the same circuit court (trial court) following a trial before a judge in the division having the original jurisdiction to hear and determine the issues first. The right to trial de novo is generally limited in Missouri to cases tried without a jury in the associate circuit division of the circuit court.

True Bill

The grand jury’s endorsement on a bill of indictment when the jury finds sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal charge.


A transaction in which the owner of property gives ownership to a trustee, to hold and to manage it for the benefit of a third party, called the “beneficiary.” Also, the document setting up a trust.

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Unlawful Detainer

A detention of real estate without the consent of the owner or some other person entitled to its possession.


The act or practice of lending money at an exorbitant or illegal rate of interest.

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To set aside or cancel.

Venire (ve-ni’re)

Technically, a writ summoning persons to court to act as jurors; popularly used as meaning the body of persons summoned for jury duty.


Members of a panel of jurors.


The county in which a case, civil or criminal, may be tried and decided. This may be the county where it was filed or one to which the case is sent on change of venue.


The formal decision or finding made by a jury, reported to the court and accepted by it.

Voir Dire (vwor der)

Literally, “to speak the truth.” The preliminary questioning of prospective jurors by the court and attorneys to determine their qualifications to sit on a jury in the particular case. Also, the questioning of a witness by an attorney, preparatory to making a formal objection to the witness’s testimony or other evidence.

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The act of intentionally abandoning a right, claim or privilege.

Waiver of Immunity

The act of a witness, before giving testimony or producing evidence, of renouncing his or her constitutional right not to testify or to incriminate himself or herself.

Warrant of Arrest

An order issued by a judge to a law enforcement officer, requiring the arrest of the person therein named for a specific charge.

Weight of Evidence

The balance or preponderance of evidence. The inclination of the greater amount of credible evidence, offered in a trial, to support one side of the issue rather than the other.


Testamentary instrument which appoints an executor or revokes or revises another Will, and excludes holographic Wills.


A “willful” act is one done intentionally, without justifiable cause, as distinguished from an act done carelessly or inadvertently.

With Prejudice

See Dismissal With Prejudice.

Without Prejudice

See Dismissal Without Prejudice.


One who testifies to what has been seen, heard or otherwise observed.


An order issued from a court requiring the performance of a specified act, or giving authority and commission to have it done.

Writ of Error Coram Nobis

A common law writ, the purpose of which is to correct a judgment in the same court in which it was rendered, on the ground of error of fact.

Writ of Execution

A writ to put in force a court decree or judgment.

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