Admissible evidence: Evidence which may be received by a trial court to aid the trier of fact (judge or jury) in deciding the merits of a controversy.
Adoption of a witness: The process in which lawyers other than those of the witness conduct the direct examination of that witness.
Affidavit: A written, ex parte statement made or taken under oath before an officer of the court or a notary public or other person who has been authorized to do so.
Answer: The principle pleading on the part of the defendant in responding to the plaintiff’s complaint. It must contain a denial of all of the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint which the defendant wishes to contest.
Complaint: The first pleading of the case, in which the plaintiff sets out the facts on which the claim for relief is based. The purpose of the complaint is to give notice to the adversary of the nature and basis of the claim asserted.
Cross-examination: The questioning of a witness by a party or lawyer other than the one who called the witness, concerning matters about which the witness testified during direct examination. The purpose is to discredit or clarify testimony already given so as to neutralize damaging testimony or present facts in a light more favorable to the party against whom the direct testimony was offered.
Declaration: At common law, the formal document setting forth plaintiff’s cause of action, which includes those facts necessary to sustain a proper cause of action and to advise the defendant of the grounds upon which the suit is based.
Decree: Court orders governing the administration of specialized institutions such as prisons, schools or mental hospitals.
Defendant: The party being sued.
Deponent: The witness who testifies as to information or facts known to him or her, under oath in a deposition.
Deposition: A method of pre-trial discovery consisting of a statement of a witness under oath, taken in question and answer form, with the opportunity for the adversary to present and cross examine the witness.
Direct examination: The initial questioning of a witness by the party who called the witness.
The purpose is to present testimony containing the factual argument the party is making. Leading
questions should not be used on the direct examination of a witness except as may be necessary to develop his or her testimony.
Discovery: Pre-trial procedure by which one party gains information held by another party. The scope of material available for discovery is quite broad; however, there is a balance between full and open discovery, and safeguard against unwarranted intrusions into the opponent’s files.
Ex parte communications: Communications about case-related substantive matters in the absence of attorneys for all of the parties.
Hostile witness: During direct examination, a lawyer is not allowed to ask leading questions of his or her own witness. But, if that witness openly shows hostility against the interests (or the person) that the lawyer represents, the lawyer may ask the court to declare the witness “hostile,” after which, as an exception of the cross-examination rules, the lawyer may ask their own witness leading questions.
Impeach: To call into question the veracity of the witness by means of evidence offered for that purpose, or by otherwise showing that the witness’s testimony should be called into question.
Interrogatories: A pre-trial discovery tool in which written questions are propounded by one party and served on the adversary, who must answer by written replies made under oath.
Jurisdiction: Judge’s power to hear and determine a case. Federal courts have jurisdiction only over cases between persons residing in different states or brought under federal statutes. Both state and federal courts have jurisdiction only if the defendant is present in the territory the court serves. If the court lacks jurisdiction, it must dismiss the case.
Jury instructions: The way in which the court informs the jury of the rules of law that control their decision. The instructions are usually read to the jury.
Objection: A procedure in which a party asserts that a particular witness, line of questioning, piece of evidence, or other matter is improper and should not be continued, and asks the court to rule on its impropriety or illegality.
Overrule objection: The judge’s denial of an objection raised by one of the parties. If the objection is overruled, the questioning will continue as if the objection had never been raised.
Responsive pleadings: Answers filed by the defendant that either admit or deny the allegations contained in the complaint, and thus respond to them, rather than raise grounds upon which the complaint should be dismissed, such as the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Statute of limitations: A statutory time period beyond which an action cannot be brought.
Summary judgment: Pre-verdict judgment rendered by the court in response to a motion by plaintiff or defendant, who claims that the absence of factual dispute on one or more issues eliminates the need to send those issues to the fact finder.
Sustain objection: An act in which the court rules in favor of the objection. Many objections deal with rules of evidence; therefore, the witness needn’t be concerned about the objection unless the judge gives the witness a specific instruction on whether or how to answer the question.
Testimony: An oral statement made by a witness, under oath, as part of a legal proceeding or legislative hearing. Although “testimony” and “evidence” are frequently used interchangeably, evidence is a broader term that also includes writings and other sources.
Trier of fact: The person or group of persons who has the responsibility of determining the facts relevant to decide a controversy. A jury has the role of the trier of fact in a jury trial; in a non- jury trial the judge sits both as a trier of fact (or fact-finder) and as the trier of law.
Trier of law: The person who has the responsibility of determining the relevant law to decide a controversy. In a trial, the judge is the trier of law.
Venire: a group of potential jurors called to sit on a jury.
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