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immediate cause Last event in a series of events which causes another event, particularly an injury, to occur. May or may not also be the proximate cause. An event may have more than one proximate cause, but only one immediate cause.
immunity Agreement by court not to prosecute an individual in exchange for that individual providing criminal evidence..
impeach To attack credibility of a witness. Also, to charge with a crime or misconduct, in particular, to charge a public official with a violation of the public trust. Also, to challenge the authenticity or accuracy of a document.
in camera In the judge's private chambers, or in private. A hearing in camera takes place in the judge's office, outside of the presence of jury and public.
in forma pauperis (in FORM uh PAH per us) In the manner of a pauper. Permission given to an indigent or poverty-stricken individual to sue without payment of court fees.
in limine (LIM ih nee) Motion requesting that court exclude certain evidence that might prejudice jury.
in personam (in per SO nam) Procedural term used to designate proceedings or actions involving the personal rights and interests of the parties. Compare in rem.
in propria persona (in PRO pree uh per SO nuh) See pro se.
in rem Procedural term used to designate proceedings or actions in determining the status of a thing or the rights of persons with respect to that thing. Compare in personam.
inadmissible That which under rules of evidence cannot be admitted as evidence.
incarcerate To confine in jail.
incompetent Person lacking the capacity, legal qualification or fitness to manage personal affairs or to discharge required duty.
indemnity Liability or loss shifted from one person held legally responsible to another.
independent executor Executor who administers an estate with little intervention by court. Only a few states allow this.
indeterminate sentence Sentence with specified minimum and maximum length, e.g., one to five years in prison. Also, a maximum sentence which may be reduced by a parole board, via statutory authorization, after minimum term has been served.
indictment Formal written accusation by a grand jury charging a person with a crime. Compare charge, information and presentment.
indigent Poor person. An individual who can demonstrate his/her indigence to the court may be assigned a court-appointed attorney or may not have to pay filing fees and court costs.
indirect evidence See circumstantial evidence.
inferior court Court of special, limited or statutory jurisdiction. May also denote any court subordinate to chief appellate court. See limited jurisdiction.
information Formal accusation of a crime filed by a prosecutor without a grand jury indictment. Compare charge and indictment.
infraction Violation of law usually not punishable by imprisonment, e.g., minor traffic offenses.
inheritance tax State tax on property an heir or beneficiary receives from a deceased person's estate.
initial appearance First appearance in court of a person who has been arrested, to hear charges read, be advised of rights and have bail determined. Person generally comes before judge within hours of arrest. Also called first appearance. Compare arraignment and preliminary hearing.
injunction Court order preventing or requiring a specific action. See preliminary injunction and permanent injunction.
instructions Judge's directions/guidelines to jury regarding law which applies to the facts of a case. Also called charge. Compare binding instruction and directed verdict.
intake Court process whereby a decision is made on how to proceed in a juvenile case.
intangible assets Nonphysical items such as patents, trademarks, copyrights and good will.
integrated bar State bar association to which a lawyer must belong in order to practice in that state.
inter alia (IN ter uh LEE uh) Among other things.
inter vivos gift (IN ter VEE VOHS) Gift made during giver's life.
inter vivos trust See living trust.
interlocutory appeal Appeal made before the trial court's final ruling on the entire case.
interlocutory decree See decree.
interlocutory order Any order given before the final order is issued. Usually cannot be appealed until case is fully resolved.
intermediate punishment Set of sentencing options more severe than probation, but not as severe as incarceration. Includes, among other options, electronic monitoring, intensive supervision, and residential drug and alcohol treatment. May or may not involve housing of offender.
interpleader Suit filed by a party holding property who does not know to whom the property should go, to determine who should receive the property.
interrogatories Written questions questions submitted to another party in a lawsuit for which written answers must be provided. Party of discovery process.
intervention Action by which a third person who may be affected by a lawsuit is permitted to become party to the suit. Compare third-party claim.
intestacy laws (in TES ta see) See descent and distribution statutes.
intestate One who dies without leaving a will.
intestate succession Process by which property of person who has died without a will or whose will has been revoked is distributed to others. Compare descent and distribution statutes.
irrelevant Evidence not related or applicable to an issue in a trial and thus not admissible.
irrevocable trust (ear REV o cuh b'l) Trust that, once set up, grantor may not revoke.
issue Disputed point between parties in a lawsuit.
joinder Joining parties or claims in a suit.
joint and several liability Legal doctrine which makes any number of members of a party responsible for a liability, at adversary's discretion.
joint tenancy Form of legal co-ownership of property which gives the survivors, when one of the owners dies, the rights to the decedent's shares of the property. Tenancy by the entirety is a special form of joint tenancy between husband and wife. Compare tenancy in common.
judge Elected or appointed public official with authority to hear and decide cases in a court of law. A judge pro tem is a temporary or visiting judge.
judgment Final disposition of a lawsuit. Default judgment is judgment rendered because of defendant fails to answer or appear. Summary judgment is judgment entered when there is no dispute as to the facts of a case, and one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Consent judgment occurs when a judge sanctions an agreement reached between parties. See also declaratory judgment and non obstante veredicto.
judicial officer An officer of a court; someone charged with upholding the law, administering the judicial system.
judicial review Authority of court to review and declare unconstitutional actions of other branches of government.
Judiciary Act Repealer Act (JARA) Act of 1978 that enacted 42 Pa.C.S., Pennsylvania's Judicial Code.
juridical (juh RID ih kul) Relating to law, judicial proceedings and administration of justice.
juridical day Day on which a court is in session.
Juris Doctor Doctor of Law. Law degree bestowed on those who have successfully graduated from law school.
jurisdiction Court's authority to hear and/or decide a case. Also, territory for which a court is authorized to hear cases.
jurisprudence Study of law and legal system. See also caselaw.
jurist One who is skilled or versed in the law.
jury Group of people selected according to law and sworn to decide questions of fact and render a decision about these matters. See grand jury and petit jury.
jury commissioner Court officer responsible for choosing the panel of potential jurors for a particular court term.
justiciable (jus TISH ee uh b'l) Of issues and claims which may be properly examined in court.
juvenile Person who has not yet reached age (usually 18) at which he/she can be treated as adult for purposes of criminal law.
juvenile court Court having jurisdiction over cases involving children under a specific age, usually 18.

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