Glossary of Terms & Legal Dictionary


19th Amendment: "Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." (Added to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.)

Admonishment: An authoritative statement made to the jury by the judge regarding their conduct as jurors.

Anonymous: When someone's identity is kept unknown.

Appeals Case - An appeal is a request to a higher court to review a judgment or verdict in a lower court action. For cases tried in a limited (municipal level) jurisdiction (small claims, limited civil, unlawful detainer, traffic, misdemeanors), the court of appeal is the Superior Court. For cases tried in a general (superior level) jurisdiction (general civil, family law, probate, juvenile, felony), the court of appeal is the Third District Court of Appeals.

Ascertained: Determined; proved to be true.

Bailiff: An officer from the sheriff's department who maintains courtroom order and jury custody. Sometimes also known as a deputy.

Beyond a reasonable doubt: In a criminal case, the accused's guilt must be established "beyond a reasonable doubt." Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you with an abiding conviction that the charge is true.

California Labor Code: A collection of laws regarding the broad spectrum of activities concerning the relationship between employers and employees.

California Rules of Court: The rules that regulate the practices and procedures in state court.

Challenges: The law authorizes the judge and the lawyers to excuse individual jurors from service in a particular case for various reasons. If a lawyer wishes to have a juror excused, he or she must use a "challenge" for that juror. Challenges, or reasons to dismiss a juror, are of two kinds:

a. For cause - The law sets forth a number of reasons why jurors may be excused "for cause." For example, a juror who is related to or employed by one of the parties in the case may be excused for cause. There is no limit to the number of for cause challenges that may be used.
b. Peremptory - Each side in a case has a certain number of challenges that can be used without giving a reason. These are called peremptory challenges. Each side may ask the judge to excuse particular jurors. If a juror is excused, this does not imply something bad and does not mean the juror is not competent in any way. It frequently happens that a prospective juror will be excused in a certain case and later accepted in another. The number of peremptory challenges have been established by the Legislature.

Civil case/civil suit: A lawsuit is called a civil case when it is between two or more individuals or corporations involved in a dispute and usually seeking a judgment awarding monetary damages. A civil case is an action brought to enforce, redress, or protect private rights. Civil actions include:

  • General Civil (seeking damages over $25,000)
  • Limited Civil (seeking damages under $25,000) Family Law
  • Probate
  • Unlawful Detainer (landlord/tenant disputes)
  • Small Claims (seeking damages under $5,000)

Common law: The body of law derived from judicial decisions, rather than from constitutions or statutes.

Compulsory: Compelled; mandated by legal process or by statute.

Constitution: The fundamental law of our nation. It establishes the character and organization of America's sovereign power and the manner of its exercise. Also, the document that contains the guiding rules and principles, the descriptions of the power of the federal government, and the essential rights of the people.

Controversy: A disagreement or a dispute that requires a definitive determination of how the law applies to the facts that are asserted to be true.

Counsel: One or more lawyers who represent a client.

Criminal prosecution/criminal case: The act of pursuing a criminal trial, where the state charges someone with a crime. A criminal case is an action brought by the government against a person who has broken the law. Criminal cases are separated into three main categories; felony, misdemeanors, and infractions

Degree of proof: The amount of proof necessary to prove a case. In a criminal case, such proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, the standard is proof by a preponderance of the evidence.

Deliberations: This occurs after a trial when a jury goes into its assigned private room to think about and discuss evidence and testimony to help it reach a verdict.

Directed verdict: After evidence has been presented and if no issue of fact remains for the jury to determine, the judge will tell the jury what verdict to return. The jury must return that verdict.

Disqualification (juror): The condition of having been rendered not qualified to serve.

Eligible/eligibility ( for jury duty): Every person who is at least 18 years of age, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of the respective county, able to understand the English language, not currently serving on any other jury, and who has not been convicted of a felony is eligible to serve as a juror (Code Civ. Proc., § 203).

Evidence: Any type of legal proof presented at trial through witnesses, records, and/or exhibits.

Exemptions/excuses/postponements (for jury service): By law, no one who meets the basic criteria is automatically exempt from service. The law does provide for hardship excuses. Hardship is defined by law and includes no reasonable transportation, excessive travel, extreme financial burden, undue risk to physical property, physical or mental impairment for those over age 70, public health and safety, or no alternate care for another. If you believe you fall in any of these categories, contact your local jury office. Postponement may be available if you have health problems, a paid vacation, or other personal commitments that cannot be rescheduled at the time you are initially called. If you have already received one postponement during the past 12 months, you will probably have to come to court and speak to a judge to further delay your service.

Exhibit: Document or material object produced and identified in court as evidence in a case. Each of these documents or objects is ordinarily given an identifying letter or number in alphabetical or numerical sequence when it is offered as evidence.

Felon: A person convicted of a serious criminal offense punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year.

Foreperson: Often called the "presiding juror." At the beginning of deliberations, the jury votes to select one of its members to be the foreperson. The jury foreperson's duty is to preside and see that discussion during deliberations is carried on in a free and orderly manner, that the case and issues are fully and freely discussed, and that every juror is given a chance to participate in the discussion. As the deliberations conclude, the foreperson counts the votes and completes and signs the verdict form.

Impartial: Without bias, prejudice, or other preconception. The members of a jury should have no opinion about or vested interest in a case at the start of the trial and should base their verdict only on competent legal evidence presented during the trial.

Instruction: The guidelines given by the judge at the beginning and end of a trial that explain what the law in the case is and how the jurors should evaluate the evidence.

Jury pool: The group of prospective qualified jurors appearing for assignment to trial jury panels.

Jury summons: The papers sent to potential jurors that require their attendance in court for possible service on a jury. California courts summon jurors to the courthouse no more than once in any given 12-month period.

Jury selection: The process by which jurors for a particular trial are selected from the larger group of potential jurors summoned to the courthouse. Once the jurors arrive in the courtroom, the judge and lawyers ask the jurors questions for the purpose of determining whether jurors are free of bias, or prejudice, or anything might interfere with their ability to be fair and impartial.

Juvenile Case: Juvenile cases are those involving minors under the age of 18 years. These are separated into two main categories--Juvenile Delinquency for minors who have broken the law and Juvenile Dependency for minors who have been removed from the home and/or care of their parents or guardians.

Litigants: Any persons or groups engaged in a lawsuit.

One-day/one-trial: California courts have adopted the one-day or one-trial system. One day or one trial means that prospective jurors have to come to the court only once. If you are not chosen for a trial, then your term of service is complete for one year. If you do serve on a jury, you will not be required to report for jury service for at least another 12 months.

Pending: In process; not yet decided.

Perjury: A false statement made willfully and knowingly while under oath in a court proceeding.

Polled/polling: Calling the names of the jurors and having them state what their final verdict is before it is recorded.

Postpone: To put off until later.

Postponement: Permission to put off serving as a juror until a later time. A postponement may be available if you have health problems, a paid vacation, or other personal commitments that cannot be rescheduled at the time you are initially called for jury service. See also exemptions/excuses.

Preponderance of the evidence: Greater weight of evidence, or evidence that is more credible and convincing. Refers to the amount of proof required to win in a civil case. It is that degree of proof that is more probable than not (lower standard than that required in criminal cases).

Propound: To offer for discussion or consideration.

Prosecutions: Criminal legal proceedings.

Prospective: Likely to come about, relating to or effective in the future.

Reimbursement: Specific payment for out-of-pocket expenses. For example, the court pays jurors mileage, based on the IRS standards, (one way) for travel.

Sequestration: A sequestered jury is usually housed together at night in a hotel and prohibited from contacting people outside of the court. Sequestration rarely occurs and is meant for jurors' protection. It may be used to keep jurors away from the media during a controversial trial where widespread news coverage could influence a juror's decision. In rare cases, there may be attempts to influence the jurors' deliberation.

Source list: The list or lists from which citizens are selected to receive a jury summons in California. Potential jurors are selected randomly from the voter registration list and the Department of Motor Vehicles' lists of drivers.

Subpoena: A subpoena is an official order to attend court at a stated time. The most common use of the subpoena is to summon witnesses to court for the purpose of testifying in a trial.

Testimony: Evidence given by a witness under oath.

Traffic Case: Traffic cases are those in which citations have been issued for a violation of traffic laws.

Unable to serve: If you have health problems, a paid vacation, or other personal commitments that cannot be rescheduled at the time you are initially called, a postponement may be available. If you have already received one postponement during the past 12 months, you will probably have to come to court and speak to a judge to further delay your service.

Unanimous: There are 12 people on a jury trial, except when the parties in civil or misdemeanor cases agree that there may be fewer than 12. A decision is unanimous when the full jury in a criminal case or three-quarters of the jury in a civil case have agreed upon the verdict. Once a verdict has been reached, the jury is brought back into the courtroom. The verdict must be in writing, signed by the foreperson, and must be read to the jury by the court clerk or the judge.

Verdict: The formal decision or finding made by a jury, which has been impaneled and sworn for the trial of a case, and reported to the court.

Voir dire: Translated from French, the legal phrase means "to speak the truth" or "to see them say." Voir dire is the preliminary examination of prospective jurors by a judge or lawyer to decide whether that person can serve on a particular jury.

Witness: One who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced.

© 2017 Superior Court of Glenn County