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Who's Who in the Courtroom

Bailiff- a court oficer responsible for maintaining order in the courtroom.


Clerk- a court employee responsible for maintaining permanent records of all court proceedings and exhibits; and administering the oath to jurors and witnesses.


Court Reporter- a court employee who steno graphically, or by "voice writing" records court proceedings from which they prepare a transcript that becomes part of the record of the case.


Defendant-  in a criminal case, the person accused of committing the crime; in a civil case, the person against whom an actions is brought.


Grand Jury- a body of citizens who listen to the evidence in criminal cases to determine if probably cause exists to return indictments against the person accused of committing crimes.


Judge-  a government official with the authority to decide lawsuits brought before the court.


Jury- Persons selected according to the law and sworn inquiry to declare a verdict of the case.


Plaintiff- in a civil case, the person who brings a lawsuit.


Prosecutor- an elected or appointed official who brings criminal cases to court for the government.


Public Defender- an attorney provided by the government to represent criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire a private lawyer.


Victim- a person who suffers physical injury, mental suffering, or loss of perperty because of an actual or attempted criminal act by another person.


Witness- a person who testifies under oath in a civil or criminal case as to what he or she knowor has observed.







Accusation- a charge or complaint filed accusing a person of having committed a crime.


Acquittal- the judgment that a criminal defendant has not been proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.


Adjudication- the process by which a court arrives at a decision regarding a case.


Affidavit- a written statement of facts made under oath.


Alias- any name used for an official purpose that is different from a person's legal name.


Alibi- a statement or contention by an individual charged with a crime that hir or her participation in the crime was impossible.


Annulment-a legal action that says your marriage was never legally valid, for example, in cases of incest, bigamy, or being too young to consent.


Appeal-a process by which a higher court is requested by a party to review the decision of a lower court.


Arraignment- When a person that is accused of committing a crime is:

  • taken to court

  • told about the charges, and

  • asked to plead "guilty" or "not guilty"


Arrest Warrant- a document issued by a judicial officer which directs a law enforcement officer to arrest an identified person who has been accused of a specific crime.


Bail- to effect the release of an accused person from jail, in return for a promise that they will appear at a specified time and place to submit to thejurisdiction and judgement of the court, guaranteed by a pledge to pay a specified sum of money or property to the court if the person does not appear.


Bench Trial- a trial without a jury in which the hydge decides the facts.


 Burden of Proof- the duty of a party to prove a fact or a claim by p resenting enough evidence to establish it is true.


Capacity- "Competency in Law", a person's ability to understand the nature and effect of the act in which they are engaged.


Change of Venue- The movement of a case to another court or jurisdiction.


Civil Law- the body of law that determines private rights and liabilities.


Closing Argument- an oral summation of a case presented to a judge and jury by the prosecuting or defense in a criminal trial.


Complaint- (or petition) a document filed with the Court to initiate a case by one party against another party for relief.


Consecutive Interpretation- interpretation which requires the interpreter to allow the speaker to complete his or her thought or statement before attempting interpretations.


Contempt of Court- an act or omission tending to obstruct or interfere with the orderly administration of justice, or to impair the dignity of the court or the respect for its authority.


Continuance- the adjournment  or postment of an action or proceeding  pending in a court until some future date.


Court Calendar or Court Docket- the court schedule.


Court of General Jurisdiction- a court having jurisdiction to try all classes of civil and criminal cases except those which can be heard only by a court oflimited jurisdiction


Criminal Law-the branch of law that specified what conduct constitutes crime and establishes appropriate punishment for such conduct.


Default Judgement- judgement entered against a party who has failed to answer or defend against a claim that has been brought by another party.


Deposition- the transcript of a witness's testimony given under oath outside of the courtroom.


Equity- a system of law that supplements the statutory and case law and is administered according to fairness.


Evidence- anything useful to a judge or jury in deciding the fa cts of a case.  May be in the form of witness testimony, written documents, videotapes, photographs, physical objects, etc...


Felony- a criminal offense punishable by death or jail time of at least one year.


First Appearance- appearance before a magistrate during which the legality of the defendant's arrest is initially assessed and the defendant is informed of the charges on which they are being held.  Bail may be set at this time.


General Jurisdiction- the type of jurisdiction possessed by a trial court, a court having jurisdiction to try all classes of civil and criminal cases except for those which can be heard on ly b a court of limited jurisdiction.


Indictment-a charge made in writing by a grand jury, based upon evidence presented to it, accusing a person of having committed a crime.


Indigent- the term usually refers to a person who is needy and poor, and has no oneto look for support.


In forma pauperis-an affidavit made by an indigent person seeking free public assistance.


Interpretation- the unrehearsed transmitting of a spoken message from one language to another.


Jurisdiction- (1) the legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case; (2) the geographic area over which the court has aurhority to decide cases; (3) the territory, subject matter, or persons over which lawful authority may be exercised by a court.


Litigation- a legal action; a lawsuit.


Motion- a formal request by a party to have the Court rule on one or more of the issues involved in a case.


Penal Code-  the written, organized and compiled form of the criminal laws of a jurisdiction.


Perjury- the intentional making of a false statement as part of the sworn testimony of a witness.


Plea- in criminal proceedings, the defendant's formal answer in cuort to the charge against them, generally guilty, not guilty or does not contest the charge.


Pre-trial Conference- a meeting between the judge and attorneys to discuss which matters should be presented to the jury, review evidence and witnesses, to set a timetable and to discuss settlement of the case.


Sentence- the penalty imposed by a court upon a person convicted of a crime.


Simultaneous Interpretation- interpretation which requires that the interpreter speak contemporaneously with the  speaker whose statements are being heard.


Subpoena- a written order issued by a judicial officer requiring an identified person to appear in a designated court to ttestify in a case under the jurisdiction of that court.


Testimony- oral evidence offered by a sworn witness on the stand during a criminal trial.


Venue- the particular geographic area in which a court may hear or try a case.


Verdict-in criminal proceedings, the decision of the jury or judicial officer.


Warrant- a document issued by a judicial officer which directs law enforcement to perform a specified act.















Glossary of Court Terms

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