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magistrate Local judicial official having limited original jurisdiction, especially in criminal cases. Also often used to refer to a judge.
mala in se (MAL uh in see) "Evil in itself." Behavior universally regarded as criminal, e.g., murder. Also called malum in se. Compare mala prohibita.
mala prohibita (MAL uh PRO HIB ih duh) Behavior that is criminal only because society defines it as such, e.g., gambling. Also called malum prohibita. Compare mala in se.
malfeasance Committing an unlawful act. Often used to describe misconduct by public officials. Compare misfeasance and nonfeasance.
malice Intent to commit a wrongful act without just cause or excuse.
malice aforethought Mental state required to prove murder.
malicious prosecution Action instituted with intention of injuring defendant and without probable cause.
mandamus (man DAY mus) Writ issued by a court ordering a public official , another court, a corporation, public body or individual to perform an act.
mandate Judicial command or order directing an officer of the court to enforce judgment, sentence or decree.
manslaughter Unlawful killing of another without intent to kill. May be voluntary, i.e., upon sudden impulse, e.g., a quarrel erupts into a fistfight in which a participant is killed; or involuntary, i.e., committed during commission of an unlawful act not ordinarily expected to result in great bodily harm, or during commission of a lawful act without proper caution, e.g., driving an automobile at excessive speed, resulting in fatal collision. Compare murder.
master Official appointed by a court to assist with its proceedings. Masters may take testimony, rule on pre-trial issues, compute interest, handle uncontested divorces, etc. Usually must present written report to court.
material evidence Evidence that is relevant and goes to substantiate issues in a dispute.
mediation Form of alternative dispute resolution in which parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps them agree on settlement. Nonbinding. Similar to conciliation.
memorial Abstract of a legal record. Also, written statement of facts presented to legislature or executive as a petition.
mens rea (menz REE uh) The state of mind of the defendant that the prosecution must prove in order to establish criminal responsibility. See elements of a crime.
Miranda rule Requirement that police advise a suspect in custody of constitutional rights before questioning him/her. Named after U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), establishing such requirements.
misdemeanor Criminal offenses generally punishable by fine or limited local jail term, but not by imprisonment in penitentiary. Compare felony.
misfeasance Lawful act performed in wrongful manner. Compare malfeasance and nonfeasance.
mistrial Trial terminated before verdict is reached, either because of some procedural error, serious misconduct during proceedings or because of a hung jury.
mitigating circumstances Circumstances which do not constitute justification for committing an offense, but which may reduce degree of blame and help reduce sentence of individual convicted. Also known as extenuating circumstances. Compare aggravating circumstances.
mittimus (MIT ih mus) Written court order directing a jailer to receive and safely keep a person until ordered otherwise.
moot Having no practical significance. Usually refers to court's refusal to consider a case because issue involved no longer exists.
moral turpitude Immorality, depravity; conduct so wicked as to be shocking to the community's moral sense.
motion Application to a court or judge for a ruling or order.
motion to dismiss Request to dismiss a civil case because of settlement, withdrawal or a procedural defect. Compare demurrer.
multiplicity of actions Two or more separate litigations of the same issue against the same defendant.
municipal court Court whose jurisdiction is confined to the city or community in which it is erected. Usually has summary jurisdiction over minor offenses and a limited number of misdemeanors. Occasionally also possesses limited civil jurisdiction. Pennsylvania has one municipal court, Philadelphia Municipal Court.
murder Unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. First degree murder is premeditated, i.e., planned. Second degree murder is sudden, instantaneous intent to kill or to cause injury without caring whether injury kills or not. Pennsylvania and some other states also allow for third degree murder, which is murder committed by a person engaged in commission of a felony. Compare manslaughter.

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