This month’s column is devoted to a glossary of frequently used legal terms:
Abatement: Eliminate, reduce, e.g. abate a nuisance; abatement of rent.
Abscond: To leave unlawfully with the intent of not returning.
ACD: Adjourned in Contemplation of Dismissal. Possible disposition of violations or misdemeanors.
Affidavit: A statement signed and sworn to in the presence of a Notary Public.
Affidavit of Service: A sworn statement that documents were served (delivered).
Affirm: Appellate court decision agreeing with lower court. Also, an alternative to swearing to tell the truth, e.g. Do you swear or affirm?
Allocution: Questions and answers at end of court proceedings to establish certain facts, e.g. litigant understands when he/she is giving up a right.
Appeal: Seeking to have a higher court modify or overturn a court decision.
Arbitration: A forum for dispute resolution. A private justice system which is binding on the parties. Popular in credit card agreements, and employment contracts.
ATI: Alternative to Incarceration. Sentence in lieu of imprisonment, e.g. drug program.
Bail: Sum of money (or property) posted to insure a criminal defendant’s return to court.
Calendar: A court’s list of cases. Also, docket.
Civil: Law surrounding private issues; not criminal.
Contempt: Violation of a court order.
Contingent Fee: A fee charged for a lawyer’s service only if the lawsuit is successful.
Condominium, Condo: A building or complex containing a number of individually owned units.
Cooperative, Co-Op: Property run by its members who own shares in a corporation, but not the real estate itself.
Contract: An agreement between two or more competent parties creating promises and exchanges.
Damages: Money as compensation for injury or loss.
Deed: Written instrument of ownership, usually of real estate.
Default: An adversary’s failure to appear or participate in proceedings.
Deposition: Out of court sworn testimony. Also, known as EBT’s.
EBT’s: Examination before trial. See Deposition.
Equitable Distribution: Division of marital property.
Ex parte: One party, e.g. plaintiff confers with judge in absence of defendant.
Felony: Serious crime.
Franchise: The right to vote. Disenfranchise: Take away the right to vote.
Holdover: Remaining in possession of real estate after landlord has deemed the lease terminated by some act or conduct of the tenant.
Indictment: Grand Jury’s finding that a crime has been committed and that the accused is probable perpetrator.
Inquest: Mini trial conducted by plaintiff after defendant has defaulted.
Jail: Sentence of short term local incarceration (under one year) or in a local holding facility awaiting trial.
Judgment: Legal proceedings end with entry of judgment.
Jurisdiction: A defined place. Also, power over.
Mediation: Non-binding effort by a neutral person to resolve dispute.
Negligence: Breach of a duty of care which results in damage. Doing something or failing to do something which a reasonable person would do, and which causes injury.
Misdemeanor: Low level crime.
Notary Public: A person authorized to administer oath and witness signing of affidavit and legal documents. In the United States, a Notary cannot give legal advice.
Order to Show Cause: An order directing a party to appear in court and show why the court should not order certain action.
Parole: Supervised release from prison after serving most of a felony sentence. Also, released by judge without bail.
Plea: A formal statement by or on behalf of a defendant, stating “guilty” or “not guilty.”
Prison: State facility for incarcerating convicted felons.
Pro Se: Self-representation.
Probation: Supervision as an alternative to incarceration.
Remand: Incarcerate without bail. Also, returning a case to original court.
Rent Control: Regulations regarding rent and building services enacted in 1947 due to housing emergency.
Rent Stabilization: Regulations enacted in late 1960's in response to housing emergency.
Retainer: Written agreement to hire a lawyer. Also, the fee paid to hire a lawyer.
Reverse: Court or jury decision changed by appeals court.
ROR: Release on Own Recognizance. A criminal defendant released without bail or paroled.
Service: Delivery of legal documents in prescribed manner.
Settle: Agreeing on terms to end a case without trial.
Statute: Law enacted by legislature.
Statute of Limitations: The time at which the right to prosecute a civil or criminal action expires.
Stay: Order stopping action for a finite time.
Stipulation: An agreement between opposing parties.
Subpoena: An order to appear before the court and/or provide documents.
Summons: Notice that a lawsuit has been convened and an answer must be served. Also, notice to appear for jury duty.
TRO: Temporary Restraining Order. An order stopping (or demanding) an imminent action, e.g. an eviction.
Tort: A civil wrong in which damages are claimed.
Traverse: A hearing to contest or establish proper service of legal documents.
Violation: Unlawful act which can result in arrest and incarceration but is not considered a crime, e.g. disorderly conduct.
Waiver: Giving up a right, a legal position or argument.
Warrant: A written order directing or authorizing an act, e.g. arrest, search..
Youthful Offender, Y& O: Status of some criminal defendants under 19.
Emily Jane Goodman is a New York State Supreme Court JusticeÂ