Legal terms can often look like a foreign language. Understanding the terminology when you are involved in a civil case can make the process a lot less stressful and help keep you better informed as the case progresses.
Here are some of the most common terms used in a civil case.
Arbitration – Agreeing to let a third party look at your case. This person is selected by both sides and is called an arbitrator. This person is typically a judge that is retired or an attorney who is qualified to decide on an award. A decision by an arbitrator is not always binding and can be appealed in court.
Civil Case – A civil case is brought by an individual or group to recover monetary damages, enforce a contract, or defend a person’s civil rights.
Complaint – The complaint is the first document entered by the plaintiff (the individual who is requesting the civil case), written by lawyer. This document details the supposed offenses that the defendant committed, what happened because of these offenses, and what the plaintiff is requesting to correct the offense.
Eminent Domain – The state’s power to take possession of private property to use for public use.
Judgment – The judge’s official and final decision saying which party wins the case and the details of the decision.
Jurisdiction – The location where a court has the right to hear and decide a legal case.
Levy – The legal process of taking property and selling it in order to raise the money necessary to satisfy a debt. Typically, a marshal or sheriff has the authorization to carry out the levy.
Motion – A motion is a written or oral request made by a lawyer to make a ruling on a certain order or detail concerning the case.
Motion to Strike — A request to take out parts of the complaint.
Motion for a New Trial — A request made after a decision by the court or a jury that the court re-examine the facts in the same court
Nolo Contendere – In Latin, this phrase is the same as saying “I am guilty” – or I don’t wish to contend. You should not hear this in a civil case, as it can only be used in criminal cases.
Statement of Damages – This statement is a detailed list of damages, including the specific amount of money requested from the defendant.
Subpoena – A subpoena is a document that compels someone to appear in court at a specific place and time to give testimony.
Summons –This is given to the defendant informing them that if they do not answer the complaint within the court-driven time limit that there will be a judgment entered against them
Warrant– In a civil trial, what is known as a bench warrant is the most common type of warrant. The judge issues the warrant when someone who was ordered to appear in court fails to do so and is therefore in contempt.
Writ – There are many different types of writs. A writ is a written directive or order that the court issues demanding that a specific action is performed.