Frequent Law Terms

By Marion Mann

plaintiff and defendant

In every legal action, whether civil or criminal, there are two sides. The person suing is the plaintiff and the person against whom the suit is brought is the defendant. In some instances, there may be more than one plaintiff or defendant.

complaint

A formal statement initiating a lawsuit. The party filing the complaint is the plaintiff.

Arbitration

A method of settling differences between labor unions and employers in which a third party's decision must be accepted by both sides.

summons

The paper that tells a defendant that he or she is being sued and asserts the power of the court to hear and determine the case.

mediation

A method of settling disputes between labor unions and employers through the use of a third party who offers a nonbinding solution.

Appeal

The right of a convicted person to ask a higher court to review his or her case.

pleadings

The complaint and the answer combined in a civil case

pretrial conference

The meeting of the parties to a case conducted prior to trial. The conference is held before the trial judge or a magistrate, a judicial officer who possesses fewer judicial powers than a judge. A pretrial conference may be held prior to trial in both civil and criminal cases.

trial

A proceeding in which opposing parties in a dispute present evidence and make arguments on the application of the law before a judge or jury.

preponderance of the evidence

A requirement that more then 50% of the evidence points to something. This is the burden of proof in a civil trial.

Verdict

Decision in a case made by a judge or jury.