Acquittal: The verdict in a criminal trial in which the defendant is found not guilty.
Answer: The legal document by which a defendant responds to the allegations contained in the complaint filed by the plaintiff.
Appeal: Resort to a superior or appellate court to review the decision of an inferior or trial court.
Appellant: The party or person who appeals a decision (usually, but not always, the loser of a lower court decision).
Appellee: The party or person against whom an appeal is taken (usually, but not always, the winner of a lower court decision).
Brief: A written statement prepared by an attorney arguing a case in court; a summary of the facts of the case, relevant laws, and an argument of how the law applies to the facts in support of the attorney's position.
Cause of Action: A claim in law based on facts sufficient to bring the case to court or the grounds of an action against another.
Common Law: The origin of the Anglo-American legal systems; the system of law originally based on customary and unwritten practices of England and developed by the doctrine of precedent as opposed to explicit legislative enactments. In theory, law that is not created by the courts but rather discovered in the customs, habits, and basic understandings of justice acknowledged by members of a society.
Complaint: The legal document (also called a petition) that informs a defendant of the grounds on which he or she is being sued.
Crime: A wrongful act against society as identified by law; a wrong that is prosecuted by a public official and punishable by fine, imprisonment, or death.
Damages: Monetary compensation awarded by a court for an injury caused by the act of another. Damages may be actual or compensatory (equal to the amount of the loss proven) or exemplary or punitive (in excess of actual damages given as a form of punishment to the wrongdoer).
Defendant: The person against whom a lawsuit (cause of action) or criminal action is brought.
Discovery: That set of procedures through which the parties to a suit obtain information about the matters relevant to a given case.
Dissent: An opinion given by a judge in a case which differs from that given by the majority of the court. A dissent typically points out the deficiencies of the majority position and states reasons for arriving at a different conclusion.
Equity: Justice administered according to fairness as opposed to the strictly formulated rules of the common law; a system of principles that originated in England as an alternative to the perceived harshness of rigidly applying the rules of the common law in every case.
Felony: Any of a group of "high" or "serious" crimes (as distinguished from minor offenses called misdemeanors) generally punishable by imprisonment.
Felony-Murder: An unlawful homicide occurring during the commission of (or an attempt to commit) a felony and which (under this doctrine) is considered first-degree murder.
Guilty: The condition of having been found to have committed the crime charged.
Holding: A declaration or statement of the law as it applies to the facts of a specific case and given by the court in its opinion.
Prepared: February 4, 2003 - 5:02:29 PM
Edited and Updated, February 5, 2003
Philosphy of Law