Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


Legal Lexicon

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.

Adjourn: Postpone.

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 Justice 

Print Friendly and PDF

Editor's Choice

Gotham Gazette: Cuomo Announces All Voters Will Get Absentee Ballot Applications and Polls Will Be Open for June ElectionsCuomo Announces All Voters Will Get Absentee Ballot Applications and Polls Will Be Open for June Elections Gotham Gazette: Cuomo Hasn't Submitted De Blasio's MTA Board Nominees to State Senate, Which Left Albany Indefinitely Cuomo Hasn't Submitted De Blasio's MTA Board Nominees to State Senate, Which Left Albany Indefinitely Gotham Gazette: A 'Human Rights Tragedy' Unfolding - Part I: Racial Bias and Life-Saving Care During the Coronavirus Pandemic A 'Human Rights Tragedy' Unfolding - Part I: Racial Bias and Life-Saving Care During the Coronavirus Pandemic Gotham Gazette: The Max & Murphy Podcast The Max & Murphy Podcast