GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Choose one of the categories below to narrow your choiceLegal System
Acquittal on a criminal charge means that a prosecutor was not able to convince a jury or judge beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offense.
The effect of acquittal is that the accused will not face criminal consequences (such as imprisonment or fine) for the crime. It does not necessarily mean the person was found to be innocent.
A brief in a court case filed by someone who is not a party to the case, but who believes...
The term amicus curiae is Latin, which translates to Friend of the Court.
A means of resolving a dispute between two parties.
Arbitration decisions typically are arrived at by a panel of three people (arbitrators) - one picked by each of the parties and a third picked by those two.
An arbitration clause in a contract is one that requires the parties to agree to resolve future disputes through arbitration - essentially giving up their right to use courts and the legal system. This is referred to as pre-dispute arbitration.
Arbitration clauses also may prohibit class actions.
A legal action (such as a lawsuit) filed on behalf of a group of people. Many of the plaintiffs will not participate in the action itself. In fact, they may not even be aware of it.
A common use of a class action lawsuit is when a company has engaged in a fraudulent or dangerous practice that affects a large number of its customers. Each consumer might have been affected in a tiny way (for example, adding a penny to a utility bill), yet when combined over all customers the practice resulted in a large profit for the company.
Class actions typically result in a settlement - where the company agrees to pay a certain amount that will be divided (after taking out fees charged by the attorneys) among all affected customers (referred to as members of the class).
You may receive a letter or email informing you that you are a member of the class. As a member of the class, you agree to accept the settlement, and give up your right to sue the company at a later date. The letter will inform you of your options, which typically include...
You also can request to be removed from the class. If you do this, you will not receive any part of the settlement. However, you will retain your right to sue the company.Referenced by...
Clemency / Pardon
A show of mercy toward someone who committed a crime.
Executive clemency is a power granted to the president in Article 2 Section 2 of the Constitution. It gives the president the power to "grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."
The U.S. president can grant clemency only for federal offenses. A state's governor can grant clemency for violations of that state's laws.
Clemency can take several forms, according to the Office of the Pardon Attorney. They include...
Click here for a list of pardons issued by President Donald Trump.Referenced by...
A agreement between disputing parties that does not involve an admission of guilt or liability.
The Constitution's Fifth Amendment states that no person shall "be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."
It protects a person from being prosecuted for an offense after being acquitted or convicted for the same offense. Nor can the person be punished more than once for the same offense.
For more, read the Nolo legal encyclopedia description.Referenced by...
Legal canon meaning where general words follow specific words in a statutory enumeration, the general words are construed to embrace only objects similar in nature to those objects enumerated by the preceding specific words.
A body of 12 to 23 people that investigates whether there is enough evidence to indict someone for a crime.
A grand jury examines evidence presented by a prosecutor. It also can issue subpoenas - for evidence or for a person to testify.
The process by which a legislative body charges a high government official - such as a president or judge - with a serious crime.
According to the Constitution,
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
A majority of the House of Representatives can impeach a president.
Then the Senate must conduct a trial, with the Supreme Court's Chief Justice presiding. To remove the president from office, two-thirds of senators must vote to convict.
The Constitution also states that the punishment for impeachment (and subsequent conviction)...
... shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
Impeach comes from the Latin word impedicare, meaning to catch or entangle.
A formal accusation of a felony, issued by a grand jury.
If an indictment is sealed, it has been filed in a court but its contents are unknown until the accused is in custody. This may be done to maintain the secrecy of an investigation, or to keep the accused from fleeing until they are apprehended.
A court order prohibiting a person or organization (such as a government agency) from taking certain actions.
A preliminary injunction is a temporary injunction intended to maintain the status quo until the disputed issue is resolved.
An official responsible for investigating an organization or activity.
Latin for "no contest".
>br> A person charged with a crime can plead nolo contendere, meaning they are not admitting to the crime, but are not contesting the charge.
Though the use of nolo contendere varies by jurisdiction, the effect generally is identical to a plea of guilty.
Noscitur a sociis
Legal doctrine meaning which is that a word is known by the company it keeps.
It has been used in court decisions in determining how to interpret a catchall phrase at the end of list of conditions.
An agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or nolo contendere in exchange for a concession by the prosecutor.
The concession can include dropping one or more charges, reducing a charge to a less serious one, or recommending a reduced sentence to the judge.
When a judge excuses himself from a case because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.
The authority of a government to enact and enforce laws.
The United States recognizes several levels of sovereignty, from the federal government to state governments to local governments.
Latin for "to stand by a decision", it is the legal principle that court rulings should be on precedent (prior decisions).
When someone testifies under oath, they affirm that they legally are required to be truthful. If their testimony is false, they can be charged with perjury.