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Affirmative Defense

In answering a complaint, a defendant can state he acted in self defense, statute of limitations, etc

Alternative dispute resolution ADR

Methods of resolving disputes other than litigation.


The defendant's written response to a plaintiff's complaint that is filed with the court and served on the plaintiff.


The act of asking an appellate court to overturn a decision after the trial court's final judgment has been entered.

Appellant (Petitioner)

The appealing party in an appeal

Appellee (respondent)

The responding party in an appeal.


A form of ADR in which the parties choose an impartial third party to hear and decide the dispute.

Arbitration clause

A clause in a contract that requires disputes arising out of the contract to be submitted to arbitration.


Impartial third party to hear and decide the dispute.

Binding arbitration

The parties often agree in advance to be bound by the arbitrator's decision.

Burden of proof

The plaintiff has to persuade the trier of fact(jury) of the merits of his case.

Closing argument

Conclusion of presentation of evidence each party's try to convince jury of their side.


A document a plaintiff files with the court and serves on the defendant to initiate a lawsuit.


A form of ADR in which the parties use a third party to help them resolve their dispute. Usually when parties don't want to face each other.


The act of a court to combine two or more separate lawsuits into one.


Sues the plaintiff


A document filed by the defendant against the plaintiff to seek damages or some other remedy.


The original plaintiff becomes the cross-defendant and must file a reply.


After plaintiffs attorney questions, the defendant's attorney can question the witness.

Defendant's case

Proceeds after the plaintiff has concluded his case. Must 1 Rebut the plaintiff's evidence 2. prove any affirmative defenses asserted by defendant 3. prove any allegations contained in the defendant's cross-complaint.

Default judgment

If defendant does not answer the complaint. Establishes the defendant's liability.


A party who gives his deposition.


Oral testimony given by a party or witness prior to trial. The testimony is given under oath and is transcribed.

Direct examination

After a witness is sworn in the plaintiff examines(questions) the witness.


A legal process during which each party engages in various activities to discover facts of the case from the other party and witnesses prior to trial.


Filing pleadings, briefs, etc online.

Error of law

An appellate court will reverse a lower court decision if it finds an error of law in the record.

Fact finding

A neutral third party that investigates a dispute, gather evidence, prepare reports, etc. Not authorized to make a decision or award.

Federal arbitration act FAA

Enacted in 1925. A federal statute that provides for the enforcement of most arbitration agreements.

Final Judgment

In a civil case, either party can appeal the trial court's decision once a final judgment is entered. Criminal case only the defendant can appeal.

Finding of fact

An appellate court will not reverse a finding of fact unless such finding is unsupported by the evidence or is contradicted by the evidence.


Jury is impaneled to hear the case and sworn in.


Written questions submitted by one party to another party. The questions must be answered in writing within a time limit.


The act of others to join as parties to an existing lawsuit.


After a jury has rendered its verdict, the judge enters a judgment to the successful party based on the verdict.This is the official decision of the court.

Judgment notwithstanding the verdict j.n.o.v.

The court may overturn the verdict if it finds bias or jury misconduct.

Judicial referee

If parties agree, court appointed to conduct a private trial and render a judgment. Decisions stand as judgments of the court.

Jury deliberation

Jury retires to jury room to talk about its findings.

Jury instructions (charges)

Instructions given by the judge to the jury that inform them of the law to be applied in the case.

Jury trial

Seventh amendment, party guaranteed the right a jury trial.


The process of bringing, maintaining, and defending a lawsuit.


A form of ADR in which the parties use a mediator to propose a settlement of their dispute.


Voluntary private proceeding, lawyers present to representatives of both sides. Then they can settle.

Motion for judgment on the pleadings

A motion which alleges that if all the facts presented in the pleadings are taken as true, the party making the motion would win the lawsuit when the proper law is applied to these asserted facts.

Motion for summary judgment

A motion which asserts that there are no factual disputes to be decided by the jury and that the judge can apply the proper law to the undisputed facts and decide the case without a jury. These motions are supported by affidavits, documents, and deposition testimony.


Parties try to settle a dispute.

Nonjudicial dispute resolution

same as alternative dispute resolution

Notice of appeal

Must be filed within a prescribed time after judgment is entered(usually 60-90 days)

Opening brief

File in appeal that sets forth info supporting your case.

Opening statement

Summary of main factual and legal issues at start of trial.

Physical or mental examination

A court ordered examination of a party to a lawsuit before trial to determine the extent of the alleged injuries.


The party who files a lawsuit

Plaintiff's case

The plaintiff bears the burden.


The paperwork that is filed with the court to initiate and respond to a lawsuit.

Pretrial motion

A motion a party can make to try to dispose of all or party of a lawsuit prior to trial.

Production of documents

A request by one party to another party to produce all documents relevant to the case prior to the trial.


When defendant finishes calling witnesses the plaintiff can call witnesses and put forth evidence to rebut the defendant's case.


Permanent record of trial court proceeding, includes trial transcript and evidence.

Re-direct examination

After defendant the plaintiff can ask questions or the witness.


Defendant can call additional witnesses and introduce evidence to counter the rebuttal.


Judge may reduce amount of monetary damage awarded by jury if he finds jury to be bias, emotional, or inflamed.


A document filed by the original plaintiff to answer the defendant's cross-complaint.

Responding brief

Filed by appellee answering appellant's contentions.


Separated from family etc.

Settlement agreement

An agreement that is voluntarily entered into by the parties to a dispute that settles it.

Settlement conference (pretrial hearing)

A hearing before a trial in order to facilitate the settlement of a case.

Statute of limitations

A statute that establishes the period during which a plaintiff must bring a lawsuit against a defendant.

Submission agreement

Parties agree to submit a dispute to arbitration after the dispute arises.


A court order directing the defendant to appear in court and answer the complaint.

Trial brief

Submitted by each party, contains legal support for its side of the case.

Trier of fact

The jury in a jury trial, the judge where there is not a jury.

Uniform arbitration act

Promotes the arbitration of disputes at the state level. About half states have adopted it.


Jury decision

Voir Dire

The process whereby prospective jurors are asked questions by the judge and attorneys to determine whether they would be biased in their decisions.

Written memorandum

Sets forth the reasons for the judgment.

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