Florida Law TV

Legal Glossary

The legal glossary is a comprehensive index of legal terms aimed at educating and helping consumers better understand some of the legal terminology and jargon that is often used in describing legal matters.

(1) In appellate cases, a group of judges (usually three) assigned to decide the case; (2) In the jury selection process, the group of potential jurors.

Plaintiffs and defendants (petitioners and respondents) to lawsuits, also known as appellants and appellees in appeals, and their lawyers.

A group of citizens who hear the evidence presented by both sides at trial and determine the facts in dispute. Federal criminal juries consist of 12 persons. Federal civil juries consist of six persons.

The person who files the complaint in a civil lawsuit.

In a criminal case, the defendant's statement pleading "guilty" or "not guilty" in answer to the charges in open court. A plea of nolo contendere or an Alford plea may also be made. A guilty plea allows the defendant to forego a trial.

Agreement between the defendant and prosecutor where the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a concession by the prosecutor. It may include lesser charges, a dismissal of charges, or the prosecutor’s recommendation to the judge of a more lenient sentence.

Written statements of the parties in a civil case of their positions. In federal courts, the principal pleadings are the complaint and the answer.

A court decision in an earlier case with facts and law similar to a dispute currently before a court. Precedent will ordinarily govern the decision of a later similar case, unless a party can show that it was wrongly decided or that it differed in some significant way. Some precedent is binding, meaning that it must be followed. Other precedents need not be followed by the court but can be considered influential.

A hearing where the judge decides whether there is enough evidence to require the defendant to go to trial. Preliminary hearings do not require the same rules as trials. For example, hearsay is often admissible during the preliminary hearing but not at trial.

A meeting of the judge and lawyers to discuss which matters should be presented to the jury, to review evidence and witnesses, to set a timetable, and to discuss the settlement of the case.

A Latin term meaning "on one's own behalf"; in courts, it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers.

An amount of suspicion leading one to believe certain facts are probably true. The Fourth Amendment requires probable cause for the issuance of an arrest or search warrant.

A sentencing alternative to imprisonment in which the court releases convicted defendants under supervision as long as certain conditions are observed.

Screen applicants for pretrial release and monitor convicted offenders released under court supervision.

The rules for the conduct of a lawsuit; there are rules of civil, criminal, evidence, bankruptcy, and appellate procedure.

To charge someone with a crime. A prosecutor tries a criminal case on behalf of the government.

Represent defendants who can't afford an attorney in criminal matters.