Guide to Legal Jargon
Confused about what a legal phrase means? We have simplified common legal terms and phrases into plain English and straightforward definitions.
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Appeal: The act of requesting that a legal decision be reversed.
Default Judgment: It means the defendant lost the small claims court case and owes the plaintiff money. It occurs specifically when the defendant doesn't show up to the hearing and the plaintiff proved their case.
Defendant: The person who is being sued. The person who is suing is the Plaintiff.
Demand Letter: A letter you send to the opposing party to give you your money back.
Dismissed: The lawsuit is closed/ended.
Dismissed with Prejudice: You CANNOT refile your case.
Dismissed without Prejudice: You CAN refile your case.
Claim: Essentially another term for a lawsuit. Several claims can be made in one lawsuit.
Complaint: The document that commences a lawsuit. It states what you are suing for.
Continuance: Same as “changing the date of trial.”
Judgment: The court’s decision. Also the same as the outcome of the case.
Judgment Creditor: The person who won and is now owed money.
Judgment Debtor: The person who lost and now owes money.
Jurisdiction: Authority to make a legally binding decision over the parties.
Motion: When you request that the court take action.
Parties: Made up of the Plaintiff(s) and Defendant(s)
Plaintiff: The person who is doing the suing. The person who is being used is the Defendant.
Pro Tem Judge: aka Temporary Judge. Pro Tem Judges are volunteer attorneys appointed by the Court.
Process Server: A person who is registered to give the complaint and summons to the defendant and can charge for this service.
Proof of Service: A court form that verifies that the Defendant was served.
Service of Process: When you sue someone, you must notify them that you are suing them. This notification process is called “service of process.”
Settlement Agreement: A contract between the parties that spells out the agreement they have come to.
Statute of Limitations: Amount of time you have under the law to bring your lawsuit. The amount of time depends on the type of lawsuit you have.