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pain and suffering Physical and/or emotional distress compensable as an element of damage in torts.
pardon Form of clemency releasing one from the penalties of a criminal conviction.
parens patriae (PAH renz PATE ree eye) Doctrine under which the government protects the interests of a minor or incapacitated person.
parole Supervised, conditional release of a prisoner before expiration of his/her sentence.
party One who files a lawsuit or against whom a lawsuit is filed.
patent Government grant giving an inventor exclusive right to make or sell his/her invention for a term of years.
penal Of, relating to or involving punishment or penalties.
penal code Code of laws concerning crimes and offenses and their punishment.
pendente lite (pen DEN tee LYE teh) During the progress of a lawsuit; contingent on the outcome of the suit.
per curiam (per KYUR ee uhm) See opinion.
peremptory challenge (peh REMP teh ree) Challenge which may be used to reject a certain number of prospective jurors without giving reason. Compare challenge for cause.
perjury Deliberately making a false or misleading statement under oath.
permanent injunction Court order requiring or forbidding action, granted after final hearing has been held on its merits. (Does not necessarily last forever.) Compare preliminary injunction.
personal jurisdiction Adjudicative power of a court over an individual.
personal property Any movable physical property or intangible property which may be owned. Does not include real property such as land or rights in land.
personal recognizance Release of a defendant without bail upon promise to return to court as required. Also known as releasing one "on his own recognizance."
personal representative Person who administers legal affairs of another because of incapacity or death.
petit jury (PEH tee) Jury composed of six to twelve persons who hear evidence presented at a trial and determine the facts in dispute. Compare grand jury.
petition Written request to a court asking for a particular action to be taken.
petitioner See plaintiff.
plaintiff Person, corporation, legal entity, etc., initiating a civil lawsuit. Also called complainant or petitioner.
plea Defendant's formal response to a criminal charge. Plea may be guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere (no contest).
plea bargaining Mutually satisfactory disposition of a case negotiated between accused and prosecutor. Usually defendant pleads guilty to lesser charge/s in exchange for reduced sentence or dismissal of other charges.
pleadings Written statements by parties to a lawsuit, setting forth or responding to allegations, claims, denials or defenses.
plenary action (PLEH nuh ry) Complete, formal hearing or trial on merits.
polling the jury Asking jurors individually after verdict has been announced, whether they agree with verdict.
pour-over will Will that leaves some or all estate assets to existing trust.
power of attorney Legal authorization for one person to act on behalf of another individual. See attorney-in-fact.
praecipe (PRESS ih pee) Writ commanding a person to do something or to show cause why he/she should not.
precedent Previously decided case which guides decisions of future cases. Compare stare decisis.
precept Writ issued by person of authority commanding a subordinate official to perform an act.
prejudicial error See reversible error.
preliminary hearing Hearing at which judge determines whether evidence is sufficient against a person charged with a crime to warrant holding him/her for trial. Compare arraignment and initial appearance.
preliminary injunction Court order requiring or forbidding an action until a decision can be made whether to issue a permanent injunction. Issued only after both parties have had opportunity to be heard. Compare temporary restraining order.
premeditation Decision or plan to commit a crime.
preponderance of evidence Greater weight of evidence, a common standard of proof in civil cases. Jury is instructed to find for the party which has the stronger evidence, however slight that may be. Compare clear and convincing evidence.
pre-sentencing report Report to sentencing judge containing background information about crime and defendant to assist judge in making his/her sentencing decision. Sometimes called sentencing report.
presentment Declaration or document issued by grand jury on its own initiative, making accusation. Compare indictment.
presumption of innocence Fundamental principle of American justice system that every individual is innocent of a crime until proven guilty in a court of law.
presumption of law Rule of law that courts and judges must draw a particular inference from a particular fact or evidence.
pretermitted child (PRE ter MITT ed) Child born after a will is executed, who is not provided for by the will. Most states have laws that provide for a share of the estate to go to such children.
pre-trial conference Informal meeting between judge and lawyers in a lawsuit to narrow issues, agree on what will be presented at trial and make final effort to settle case without trial.
prima facie case (PREE muh FAH sheh) Case that has minimum amount of evidence necessary to allow it to continue in the judicial process.
prima facie evidence Evidence sufficient to establish a fact or sustain a finding in favor of the side it supports unless rebutted.
prior restraint Restraint on speech or publication before it is spoken or published. Prohibited by constitution unless defamatory or obscene or creates a clear and present danger.
pro bono publico "For the public good." When lawyers represent clients without a fee. Usually shortened to "pro bono."
pro se (pro see) An individual who represents himself/herself in court. Also called "in propria persona."
probable cause Sufficient legal reasons for allowing search and seizure or arrest of a person.
probate Process of proving a will is valid and should be carried out. Also refers more generally to law governing estates.
probate court Court with authority to supervise estate administration.
probate estate Estate property that may be disposed of by a will.
probation Alternative to imprisonment allowing person found guilty of offense to stay in the community, usually under conditions and under supervision of a probation officer.
procedural law Law which prescribes the method of enforcing rights or obtaining redress for invasion of rights. Compare substantive law.
proceeding A legal action. Conducting juridical business before a court or judicial officer.
promulgate To put (a law) into action or effect. To make known or publicly.
prosecutor Attorney representing the government in a criminal case.
protective order Court order to protect a party or witness from further harassment, service of process or discovery by the opposing party.
prothonotary Chief clerk of any of various courts in some states, including those of Pennsylvania.
proximate cause Act legally sufficient to result in liability. Act without which an action could not have occurred. Differs from immediate cause.
public defender Government lawyer who provides legal services for an individual accused of a crime, who cannot afford to pay.
punitive Damages awarded to a plaintiff over and above the actual damages, meant to punish the defendant and thus deter future behavior of like nature.
purge To exonerate or cleanse from guilt.

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