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backlog Number of pending cases exceeding the capacity of a court which is engaged in acting on other cases.
bail Money or other security (such as a bail bond) given to a court to temporarily secure a person's release from custody and assure his/her appearance in court. May be forfeited should individual subsequently fail to appear before the court. Bail and bond are often used interchangeably.
bail authority In Pennsylvania the district justice, magistrate, Philadelphia bail commissioner or judge with jurisdiction over the case in question authorized by law to set, modify, revoke or deny bail.
bail bond (often referred to simply as bond) Obligation, signed by accused, to secure his/her presence at trial and which he/she may lose by not properly appearing for trial.
bailiff Court attendant who keeps order in the courtroom and has custody of the jury.
bankruptcy Statutes and judicial proceedings involving persons or businesses who cannot pay debts and seek assistance of court in getting a fresh start.
bar Historically, partition separating general public from space occupied by judges, lawyers and other participants in a trial. More commonly, the whole body of lawyers. A "case at bar" is a case currently being considered.
bar examination State examination taken by prospective lawyers in order to be admitted to practice law.
battered child syndrome Medical and psychological condition of a child who has suffered continuing injuries not inflicted accidentally and thus are presumed to have been inflicted by someone close to the child.
battered woman syndrome Medical and psychological condition of a woman who has been physically, sexually and/or emotionally abused by a spouse or lover. Also called battered wife syndrome or battered spouse syndrome.
battery Physical contact intended to harm someone. Threat to use force is assault; use of it is battery, which usually includes an assault. Aggravated battery is unlawful use of force with unusual or serious consequences, e.g., use of a dangerous weapon.
bench Seat occupied by the judge. More broadly, the court itself.
bench trial Trial with no jury, in which the judge decides the facts.
bench warrant Arrest warrant issued directly by a judge.
beneficiary Someone named to receive benefits from a legal device such as a will, trust or insurance policy.
bequeath To give someone a gift through a will.
bequests Gifts made in a will.
best evidence Primary evidence; best evidence available. Evidence short of this is "secondary." E.g., an original letter is the best evidence; a photocopy is secondary evidence.
beyond a reasonable doubt Standard in a criminal case requiring the jury to be satisfied "to a moral certainty" that every element of the crime has been proven by prosecution. Does not require state to establish absolute certainty by eliminating all doubt, but does require that evidence be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of the ordinary person.
bifurcation Dividing the issues in a case so that one issue can be decided before the others. E.g., a divorce will often be granted before custody, support and marital property issues are resolved.
bill Formal written declaration, petition, complaint or statement. E.g., a declaration of wrong a complainant has suffered is a bill of complaint. Also, a draft of a new or amended law presented to a legislature for action.
bill of evidence Transcript of testimony heard at trial.
bill of particulars Statement detailing charge/s made against defendant.
bind over To hold a person for trial on bond (bail) or in jail. If the judicial official conducting the preliminary hearing finds probable cause to believe accused committed a crime, he/she will "bind over" accused, normally by setting bail for accused's appearance at trial.
binding instruction Instruction in which jury is told that if it finds certain conditions to be true, to find for the plaintiff or defendant, as the case may be. Compare directed verdict.
black letter laws Informal term encompassing basic principles of law generally accepted by courts or present in statutes of a particular jurisdiction.
blue sky laws State statutes regulating sale of securities.
bond See bail bond.
booking Process of photographing, fingerprinting and recording identifying data of a suspect following arrest.
breach of contract Legally inexcusable failure to perform contractual obligation.
brief Written statement prepared by one side in a lawsuit to explain to the court its view of the facts of a case and applicable law.
burden of proof Necessity or duty to prove a fact in a dispute. Not the same as standard of proof. Burden of proof deals with which side must establish a point or points; standard of proof indicates degree to which point must be proven.
burglary Breaking into and entering a building with intent to commit a felony.

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