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abatement of action A suit that has been quashed and ended.
abeyance Incomplete or undetermined state of affairs.
abscond To run away or hide from the jurisdiction of the court in order to avoid legal proceedings.
abstract of record Abbreviated, but complete history of a case as found in the record.
abstract of title Concise chronological history of all official records and recorded documents affecting title to a parcel of land.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) Voluntary program established by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court in 1972 for first-time, non-violent offenders whereby offenders undergo a probation supervision program for two years without conviction. If the program is successfully completed, charges against the offender are dismissed.
accessory Person who aids or contributes in commission of a crime, usually by convincing someone to commit a crime or by helping the suspect escape or hide evidence. Usually not present during the crime. Compare accomplice.
accomplice Person who knowingly and voluntarily participates with another in a criminal act through aiding, abetting, advising or encouraging offender. See aid and abet. Compare accessory.
accord and satisfaction Method of discharging a claim whereby parties agree to give and accept something in settlement of claim. The new agreement is called the accord. The satisfaction is the action performed to settle the claim.
acknowledgment Short declaration at end of a legal paper showing paper was duly executed and acknowledged.
acquittal Verdict after a criminal trial that defendant is not guilty of charged crime. Compare guilty.
action A judicial proceeding. An action in personam is against a person. An action in rem is against a thing, usually where property is involved.
actus reus (ACK tus REE us) Proof that a criminal act has occurred. See elements of a crime.
ad litem (add LYE dem) For the purposes of the lawsuit. E.g., a guardian ad litem is appointed to prosecute or defend a suit on behalf of an incapacitated person or a minor.
additur (ADD ih tur) Increase by judge in amount of damages awarded by jury.
adjudication Pronouncing judgment or decree; the judgment given.
administrator One who administers estate of person who dies without a will. See personal representative. Compare executor.
admissible evidence Evidence which can be legally and properly introduced in a trial.
adversary proceeding Proceeding having opposing parties; contested. Differs from ex parte proceeding.
adversary system Trial method used in U.S. and some other countries, based on belief that truth can best be determined by giving opposing parties full opportunity to present and establish evidence and to test by cross-examination evidence presented by adversaries under established rules of procedure before an impartial judge and/or jury.
affiant Person who makes and signs an affidavit.
affidavit Voluntary written statement of facts given under oath. In criminal cases affidavits are often used by police officers seeking to obtain search or arrest warrants. In civil cases affidavits of witnesses are often used to support motions for summary judgment.
affirmative defense Without denying the charge, defendant raises extenuating or mitigating circumstances such as insanity, self-defense or entrapment to avoid civil or criminal responsibility.
affirmed Decree or order at issue is declared valid by appellate court and will stand as rendered in lower court.
aggravated assault See assault.
aggravating circumstances Circumstances occurring in commission of an offense which occur above and beyond the offense itself and which serve to increase offense's guilt or enormity or add to its consequences. May increase sentence of individual convicted of offense. Compare mitigating circumstances.
aid and abet To actively, knowingly or intentionally assist another person in commission or attempted commission of a crime. See accomplice.
alibi Proof offered by defendant that he/she was at some other place at time of crime and thus could not have committed crime charged.
allegation Statement of issues in a pleading that a party expects to prove. E.g., an indictment contains allegations of a crime against a defendant. allocatur (AL lo CAH tur)
allocatur (AL lo CAH tur) "It is allowed." Petition to appeal.
alternative dispute resolution (ADR) Settling a dispute without full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration and settlement, among others.
amicus curiae (uh ME kus KYU ree EYE) Friend of the court. One not a party to a case who, having a strong interest in the outcome, offers information on a point of law or some other aspect of the case.
answer Defendant's response to plaintiff's allegations as stated in a complaint. Item-by-item, paragraph-by-paragraph response to points made in complaint. Part of the pleadings.
appeal Request to have a decision made by a lower court reviewed by a higher court.
appearance Coming into court. Formal act by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of a court. Compare arraignment.
appellant Party who initiates an appeal.
appellate court Court having jurisdiction to review decisions of lower courts or administrative agencies.
appellee Party against whom an appeal is taken. Sometimes called a respondent.
arbitration Form of alternative dispute resolution in which parties bring dispute to a neutral third party and agree to abide by decision reached. Decisions usually cannot be appealed.
arraignment Proceeding in which an accused person appears before a judge to hear the criminal charges filed against him/her and to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Compare preliminary hearing and initial appearance. See also appearance.
arrest To take into custody by legal authority.
arrest of judgment Act of delaying the effect of a judgment already entered.
assault Threat to inflict injury with an apparent ability to do so. Also, any intentional display of force which would give victim reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm. Aggravated assault must include another act which is also criminal, e.g., an attempt to cause serious bodily injury or commit another crime or use of a deadly weapon. Compare battery.
at issue Point in a lawsuit when complaining party has stated claim and other side has responded with a denial. Contested points are said to be "at issue."
attachment Legal seizure and holding of person's property pending outcome of a lawsuit. Also, arrest of person guilty of contempt of court.
attempt Effort to commit a crime, carried beyond preparation, but not executed.
attorney-at-law Advocate, counsel or official agent employed in preparing, managing and trying cases in the courts.
attorney-in-fact Private person, not necessarily an attorney, authorized by another to act in his place and stead, either for a particular purpose or for transaction of business in general that is not of legal character. Authority is conferred by an instrument in writing called a letter of attorney or, more commonly, power of attorney.
attorney of record Principal attorney in a lawsuit who signs all formal documents relating to suit.
Abatement A reduction in some amount that is owed, usually granted by the person to whom the debt is owed. For example, a landlord might grant an abatement in rent. In estate law, the word may refer more specifically to a situation where property identified in a will cannot be given to the beneficiary because it had to be sold to pay off the deceased debts. Debts are paid before gifts made in wills are distributed and where a specific gift has to be sold to pay off a debt, it is said to "abate" (compare with "ademption").

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