LEGAL DEFINITIONS

 

Plaintiff: The one who initially brings the suit: he who for personal action seeks remedy in a court of justice for an injury to, or withholding of his rights.

Defendant: 1. In civil proceedings, the party responding to the complaint; One who is sued and called upon to make satisfaction for a wrong complained by another; 2. In criminal proceedings, the accused; respondent.

Ex Parte: Information provided by only one party without notice or presence of the other party.

Subpoena: Latin: under penalty. A writ issued under authority of a court to compel the appearance of a witness at a judicial proceeding; disobedience may be punishable as contempt of court.

Subpoena Duces Tecum: Under penalty you shall bring it with you. Type of subpoena issued by a court by the request of one of the parties to a suit. A witness having under his control documents relevant to the controversy is enjoined to bring such items to court during the trial or at the deposition.

Subpoena Ad Testificandum: Subpoena to testify. Technical name for an ordinary subpoena.

Pendente Lite: Application to the Court for temporary relief pending a final judgement of divorce or separation.

Deposition: A method of pretrial discovery that consists of stenographically transcribed statement of a witness under oath, in response to an attorney’s questions, with opportunity for the opposing party or his attorney to be present and to cross–examine. Such a statement is the most common form of discovery and may be taken of any witness. When taken in the form described, it is called an oral deposition. Depositions may also be taken upon written interrogatories, where the questions are read to the witness by the officer who is taking the deposition.

Interrogatories: In civil actions, a pretrial discovery tool in which one party’s written questions are served on the adversary, who must serve written replies under oath. Interrogatories can only be served on parties to the action, and while not as flexible as depositions, which include opportunity of cross–examination, they are regarded as a good and inexpensive means of establishing important facts held by the adversary.

Affidavit: A written statement made under oath before an officer of the court, a notary public or other person legally authorized to certify the statement.

Witness: (fact) One who gives evidence in a case before a court and who attests or swears to facts or gives testimony under oath.

Expert Witness: Witness having special knowledge, skill or experience in the subject about which he is to testify. Testimony given by such a witness in his capacity as such, constitutes Expert Evidence or Expert Testimony.

Trial: An examination, usually involving the offering of testimony, before a competent tribunal according to established procedures, of facts or law put in issue in a cause for the purpose of determining such issue.

Direct: The initial questioning of a witness by the party who called the witness. The purpose is to present testimony containing the factual argument the party is making.

Cross–Examination: The questioning of a witness, by a party or lawyer other than the one who called the witness, concerning matters about which the witness has testified during direct examination. The purpose is to discredit or clarify testimony already given so as to neutralize damaging testimony or present facts in a light more favorable to the party against whom the direct testimony was offered.

Redirect Examination: The questioning of a witness by a party who called the witness, which occurs after that witness has been subjected to cross– examination. The purpose of redirect examination is to rebut or clarify any damaging testimony elicited on cross–examination.

Privacy: A general right to be left alone. Although not a right specifically protected by the Federal Constitution, zones of privacy have been implied from the general thrust of the Bill of Rights and include the right to protection from governmental interference in areas intimate personal relationships and freedom of the individual to make fundamental choices involving himself, his family and relationships with others.

Confidentiality: Refers to a professional’s promise (based on professional ethics) to reveal nothing about a patient without his consent. While primarily an ethical matter, confidentiality may gain legal status through licensing laws or other statutes or regulations.

Privileged Communication: Communication that occurs in a setting of legal or other recognized professional confidentiality. Designating a communication as privileged allows the speakers to resist legal process to disclose its contents. When communications are deemed privileged, a breach by one party of the concurrent confidentiality can result in a civil suit in tort by the other party to the communication. Communications that are privileged may include;

1. Sanctity of marital relationship

2. between a physician and patient

3. between psychological counselors and clients

4. priest–penitent

5. attorney–client

6. journalist and sources (some jurisdictions)

Tort: A wrong; a private or civil wrong or injury resulting from a breach of a legal duty that exists by virtue of society’s expectations regarding interpersonal conduct, rather than by contract or other private relationship. The essential elements of a tort are existence of legal duty owed by a defendant to plaintiff, breach of that duty and a casual relationship between defendant’s conduct and the resulting damage to plaintiff.


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