Legal Definitions for Litigants

Friday, November 21, 2014
These definitions were originally published in a 2007 manual for pro se litigants published and copyrighted by the District Executive's Office, United States District Court, Southern District of New York. Only minor modifications were made, such as creating more general definitions where they were circuit-specific.

ActionA case or lawsuit. ADRStands for "Alternative Dispute Resolution." Generally, this refers to different methods parties can use to settle a case. AdjournedPostponed or moved to a later date. AffidavitA written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the person making it, before a notary public or other officer having authority to administer oaths. See Affirmation, Declaration. AffirmationA written statement of facts confirmed by the pledge of the person making it and subjecting that person to penalties of perjury for any false statements. The signature of a notary public is not needed for and affirmation. See Affirmation, Declaration. Affirmation of ServiceA document attached to any document submitted to the court in which a party attests that a copy ofthe document was sent to (served on) all other parties in the case. A copy of the Affirmation of Service is not sent to the other parties; it is attached only to the document submitted to the court. Sometimes referred to as a "Certificate of Service". See Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. AllegationA claim or statement of what a party intends to prove; the facts as one party claims they are. AmendmentChanging, altering or correcting a document. AnswerThe defendant's written statement responding to a complaint, setting forth the grounds for his/her defense. AppealA review by a higher court of the judgment or decision of a lower court. An appeal from a United States District Court would be heard by the United States Court of Appeals in the appropriate circuit. AppellantThe party who appeals the lower court's decision. AppelleeThe party against whom the appeal is taken. Application to proceed in forma pauperisA written request by a plaintiff, who cannot pay the filing fee for a lawsuit, asking the Judge to waive the filing fee. A party filing a Notice of Appeal also may file an "Application to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal," to request that the filing fee to file an appeal be waived. Bench TrialA trial conducted without a jury. In a bench trial, the Judge determines the law, the facts, and the outcome of the lawsuit. BriefAlso called a Memorandum of Law. A written statement of a party's legal position including a summary of the facts, a statement of the questions of law involved, and the arguments and legal authorities upon which the party relies. CaptionThe caption is the title of the action. It includes the names of all plaintiff(s) (the parties bringing the action) and the names of all defendant(s) (the parties being sued) separated by the word" against" or the letter "v." for "versus". The caption must appear on the top left-hand corer of all papers submitted to the court and include the name of the court, for this District that is the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. See Rule 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Case Management ConferenceThe meeting in which the Judge, after discussion with the parties, sets a schedule for various events in the case. See Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Certificate of ServiceA certificate attached to any document submitted to the court in which a party attests that a copy of the document was sent to (served on) all other parties in the case. A copy of the Certificate of Service is not sent to the other parties; it is attached only to the document submitted to the court. Sometimes referred to as an "Affirmation of Service". See Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ChallengeAn objection to the seating of a prospective juror for a trial. A challenge for cause is a challenge to a juror for which cause or a reason is alleged. A peremptory challenge is a challenge to a juror without alleging any cause or reason; a limited number of peremptory challenges is allowed each side in any case. Charge to the JuryThe Judge's instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the case. Cite or CitationA reference to a law, rule, judicial decision, or piece of evidence. Civil ActionEvery lawsuit other than a criminal action ClaimA statement made by a plaintiff in a complaint that the defendants violated the law. Sometimes referred to as a "Count" or a "Cause of Action." Clerk of CourtThe court official who is responsible for filing papers, keeping the records and the court seal, issuing process, entering judgments and orders, and providing certified copies of documents from the record. Closing ArgumentsAlso called "summation." After the presentation of all evidence at trial, a statement made to the Judge and jury before deliberations begin in which each party summarizes the evidence presented at trial and asks that the law be applied in his/her favor. Collateral EstoppelOnce an issue of fact has been determined in a proceeding between two parties, the parties may not relitigate that issue even in a proceeding on a different cause of action. See Res Judicata. ComplaintThe first document filed in a lawsuit, in which the plaintiff tells the Judge and the defendants what happened, how the defendants violated the law, how the plaintiff was injured and what relief or damages the plaintiff wants. See Rules 8 and 9 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ConvictionA judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant. CostsAn amount of money awarded to the successful party (and recoverable from the losing party) solely as reimbursement for certain expenses in prosecuting or defending the suit. CounselAttorney or lawyer. CountA statement made by a plaintiff in a complaint that the defendants violated the law. Sometimes referred to as a "Claim" or a "Cause of Action." CounterclaimA claim made by a defendant against a plaintiff. Court of AppealsA federal court which may review decisions by the District Court. The Court of Appeals is higher than the District Court but under the United States Supreme Court. An appeal from a United States District Court would be heard by the United States Court of Appeals in the appropriate circuit. Court ReporterA person authorized by law to record testimony either in the courtroom or at a deposition. The court reporter uses a small typewriter-like machine to record testimony as s/he hears it. The testimony is recorded onto paper tapes and computer in "shorthand" and then transcribed. Any request for transcripts must be made to the court reporter. Sometimes referred to as a Court Stenographer. Court StenographerA person authorized by law to record testimony either in the courtroom or at a deposition. See Court Reporter. Courtesy CopyAn extra copy of a court filing that is sent to the Judge's chambers. Courtroom DeputyA court employee who assists the Judge in the courtroom by swearing-in the jury and witnesses, marking evidence, and attending to the jury. In addition, the Courtroom Deputy often is in charge of keeping the Judge's Calendar and handling administrative tasks for the Judge. Cross claimA claim by one defendant against a co-defendant, usually for contribution or indemnity Cross-ExaminationAfter a witness has given direct testimony, the opposing party may examine or question the witness to verify, refute or to further develop the testimony. DamagesMonetary compensation which may be recovered by a plaintiff who has suffered a loss or injury through the unlawful act, omission, or negligence of the defendants. "Compensatory damages" or "actual damages" are damages awarded to a plaintiff to pay for the actual losses suffered by the plaintiff (for instance, medical expenses). "Punitive damages" are damages awarded in addition to actual damages when the defendant has acted with particular malice, fraud, or recklessness as a way to "punish" the defendant. DeclarationA written statement confirmed by the pledge of the person making it and subjecting that person to penalties of perjury for any false statements. The signature of a notary public is not needed for a declaration. See Affirmation, Affidavit. Default JudgmentA judgment entered for the plaintiff when a defendant who has been served with a summons and complaint fails to answer or otherwise respond to the complaint. See Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. DefendantThe person sued by the plaintiff. The person plaintiff claims injured him/her. Also, the party who is accused in a criminal case. DepositionA question and answer session done under oath, before trial but outside of court, in which a party asks a person (either a party or a non-party) questions about the facts or issues of the case. A deposition is oral (verbal) testimony. The opposing party must be notified when any deposition is scheduled, so that s/he also can ask questions. Deposition testimony ma; be used as evidence to support a motion (such .:'3 a summary judgment motion), at trial, or in order to obtain~her discovery. See Rule 30 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. DictaComments made by a Judge in an opinion that are not necessary to the decision in the case. Sometimes referred to as "obiter dictum." Opposite of the holding. Disclosures, InitialInformation you must automatically give to the other parties, even if they do not ask for it. See Rule 26(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Initial Disclosures. DiscoveryThe process by which the parties to a lawsuit gather information about the facts and issues of the case. Discovery is conducted between the parties by exchanging information such as documents, or it may include obtaining information from non-parties. Standard discovery methods are: interrogatories, depositions, requests for admissions, requests for production of documents, and physical and mental examinations. See Rules 26 to 37 and 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Diversity of CitizenshipOne of two types of cases which federal district courts have jurisdiction to hear. Diversity exists if none of the plaintiffs are citizens of any state in which any defendant is a citizen, and the actual amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. DocketThe computer file, maintained by the court, listing the activity in each case. It contains an index of each document filed with the court and every order issued by the Judge, as well as other information. The Pro Se Office is not responsible for inputting or correcting the information on the docket; this is the responsibility of the Docketing Unit. Each separate piece of information on the docket is called a "docket entry" . The "docket sheet" is the print-out of the docket. You may receive a free docket sheet of your case by making a written request to the Pro Se Office. Docket NumberThe case number. A docket number is made up of a two-digit number (to signify the year), followed by the case type (either Civ. for civil cases or Cr. for criminal cases), followed by a four- or five- digit case number and followed by the Judge's initials in parentheses. For example, 06 Civ. 2345 (KMW) is the docket number for the 2,3451h civil case filed in the year 2006, and the case is assigned to Chief Judge Kimba M. Wood. The case's docket number must appear on all papers submitted to the court. DocumentAny writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, computer records or other electronically stored information, pictures, maps, etc. Denotes any record such as deeds, agreements, title papers, receipts and other written instruments or data compilations used to prove a fact. Electronically Stored Information ("ESI")Information on computers or similar devices. ESI is discoverable. See Rules 26 and 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Entry of JudgmentRecording the judgment on the docket. A party's right to appeal starts from entry of judgment. EvidenceAny kind of matter, presented through witnesses, records or documents, to prove or disprove a fact. Ex Parte(Latin for "from one party.") Communication between one party and the Judge, without the other parties being notified or present. Except in very limited circumstances (such as for settlement), ex parte communication with the Judge is not permitted. ExhibitsDocuments or other materials used as evidence at trial or for motions. Federal QuestionOne of two types of cases which federal district courts have jurisdiction to hear. In federal question cases, the plaintiffs claims involve the interpretation and application of the Constitution or laws of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Federal Rules of Appellate ProcedureThe rules that govern appeals to the United States Courts of Appeals. Cited as: Fed. R. App. P. Federal Rules of Civil ProcedureThe rules that govern civil proceedings in the federal district courts. Cited as: Fed. R. Civ. P. Federal Rules of EvidenceThe rules that govern admission of evidence in the federal district courts. Cited as: Fed. R. Evid. File or FilingA document which is properly submitted to the court may be stamped "filed," recorded on the court's docket, and placed in the court's record/file. Papers not properly prepared may be rejected by the Judge. All papers from a pro se party are to be submitted to the Pro Se Office for filing. Good FaithActing in good faith means having honest intentions. For example, negotiating in good faith means coming to the bargaining table with an open mind and a sincere desire to reach an agreement. Habeas Corpus(Latin for "that you have the body.") A writ (order of the court) used to bring a prisoner before the court to challenge the legality of a conviction or detention. It also may be used to bring a prisoner before the court to testify (a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum) or to be prosecuted (a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum). HearingA formal proceeding, similar to a trial, in which evidence is submitted and witnesses are heard, with one or more legal issues to be determined. Hearings are typically open to the public and held in the courtroom. HearsayA statement made outside of court by someone other than a witness, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Hearsay usually is not admissible in evidence. See Rules 801 to 805 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Holding (of a case)In legal research, the legal principal necessary for the decision of a case. The holding of a case will tell you whether the case supports your position. Opposite of Dicta. ImpeachTo introduce evidence intended to contradict testimony or to question the witness's truthfulness or credibility. In Forma Pauperis(Latin for "in the manner of a pauper. ") The permission given to a person unable to afford the court's filing fee to sue (or appeal) without payment of court fees. Initial DisclosuresThe disclosures the parties in certain cases must serve, automatically, without request from the opposing party, within fourteen (14) days of their initial case management conference. See Rule 26(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. InjunctionA temporary or permanent order by a Judge prohibiting or requiring the performance of some specific act in order to prevent irreparable damage or Injury. Interlocutory AppealAn appeal from a court order issued before judgment is entered in a case. Such appeals normally are not permitted, except that a party has a right to appeal some interlocutory orders, such as the denial of a motion for a preliminary injunction. Most interlocutory appeals require the Judge's permission. See 28 U.S.C. § 1292. InterrogatoriesA discovery tool in which written questions are asked by one party and served on an opposing party who must answer them in writing under oath. See Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Judge's IndividualThe rules unique to each individual Judge that supplement the Federal Practices or RulesRules of Civil Procedure and the Local Civil Rules of the Court. Also referred to as the "Judge's Chambers Rules." JudgmentThe official decree of the court determining the rights and obligations of the parties in a case. A judgment officially closes the case and triggers the parties' right to appeal. "Summary Judgment" is a decision by the Judge to end a lawsuit, before trial, based on evidence presented in affidavits and exhibits, when there is no dispute as to the material (important) facts of the case and one party is entitled to win as a matter of law. "Declaratory Judgment" is a type of relief a plaintiff may request in the complaint in which the plaintiff asks the court to declare that his/her rights were (or were not) violated by the opposing party. A "Default Judgment" is entered in favor of the plaintiff when a properly served defendant has failed to respond to the complaint. See Rules 54 to 58 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. JurisdictionThe court's power or legal authority to hear and decide a case. JuryA certain number of persons selected according to law and sworn to decide matters of fact and declare the truth about matters laid before them at a trial. Eight (8) jurors are typically selected to decide a civil case, but in no event may less than six (6) jurors be selected. Jury InstructionsAlso called the "Jury Charge." The rules the Judge gives to the jury at different times during the trial, but mostly at the end of the trial, to explain what the jury's role is, how to view the evidence, and the law that applies to the case. Before the trial begins, the parties must submit to the Judge proposed jury instructions that the Judge can use to prepare the instructions s/he will read to the jury during the trial. Jury SelectionThe process by which the jury is selected for a case. In federal district court, the Judge, not the attorneys, asks prospective jurors a series of questions (voir dire) to ascertain the jurors' abilities to sit on the jury. The parties may submit a set of proposed voir dire questions to the Judge for consideration. Jury TrialA trial in which a jury is selected to decide which evidence to believe and determine what actually happened. The Judge will instruct the jury as to the law and the jury will apply the law to the facts and render a decision as to who wins the case. LitigantA party to a lawsuit. Local Civil RulesA set of rules for a specific federal court that supplements the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A copy of the Southern District of New York's Local Rules is available on the Court's website.
Mandamus(latin for "we command.") It is a command of a higher court to either a lower court or a public officer to perform a lawful duty. Material FactA fact that makes a difference or is significant, important or essential to the case. McKinney'sPublisher of the set of legal books containing New York State laws. The books are called "McKinney's" for short. MediationA method of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties appear before a neutral mediator who tries to help the parties reach a mutually agreeable settlement. Memorandum of LawA written statement of a party's legal arguments presented to the Judge. Sometimes referred to as a "Brief" or "Legal Brief." MistrialA trial the result of which cannot stand because of some fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, there is no decision on the merits of the case and the trial must start again with the selection of a new jury. MootHaving no practical significance. For example, a motion for an extension of time may be considered moot if the Judge had already given the party more time. MotionA formal request that the Judge issue a specific order. Motions are usually submitted in writing, but in certain limited circumstances (such as at a hearing or at trial) the motion may be made orally. Motion for Default JudgmentA motion made by the plaintiff when the defendant has failed to answer or otherwise respond to the complaint after being served. See Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Motion for Extension of TimeA motion made by either party for additional time to do something. Frequently, these applications are made in the form of a letter to the Judge (through the Pro Se Office). Motion for judgment as a Matter of LawIn a jury trial, a motion made by either party before the case is submitted to the jury arguing that the opposing party's evidence is so legally deficient that no jury could reasonably decide the case in the opposing party's favor. See Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Motion for Judgment on the PleadingsA motion made by either party requesting that the Judge rule in his/her favor based solely on the pleadings (complaint and answer). Generally, this motion is made the defendant asserts that even if the facts in plaintiffs complaint are true, the claim is legally barred. The motion is used in Social Security Appeals cases to ask the Judge to decide the case based on the administrative record. See Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Motion for New TrialA motion made by either party arguing that a new trial should be held because of an error in the trial. For instance, a motion for a new trial may be made because the jury's verdict in the current trial is against the clear weight of the evidence. See Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Motion for ReconsiderationA motion made by either party asking the Judge to consider changing a prior decision based on either misinformation, mistake, fraud, new information, or other stated reasons. See Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Motion for SanctionsA motion made by either party arguing that a person should be punished by the Judge because of certain conduct during the litigation. The punishment imposed can be monetary in nature, or can result in a document or evidence being struck from the record or the case being dismissed. Motion for Summary JudgmentA motion made by either party (but most frequently by the defendant), generally at the close of discovery, arguing that there are no material facts in dispute and that based on the law the moving party should win. See Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Motion In LimineA pretrial motion made by either party to obtain rulings on the admission of certain evidence prior to the trial. Motion to Amend or Alter the JudgmentA motion made by either party after the entry of judgment arguing that a mistake was made in the judgment that should be corrected. See Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Motion to CompelA motion made by either party asking the Judge to order a party or non-party to make disclosures, to answer discovery requests, or to provide a more detailed response to discovery requests. Before the motion is made, the party is required to try to resolve the dispute informally and request a pre-motion conference. See Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Motion to DismissA motion made by a defendant arguing that there are legal problems with the way the complaint is written, filed or served, and asking that the Judge dismiss some or all of the claims. See Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Motion to StrikeA motion made by a either party arguing that a document or testimony, or a portion of such, should be deleted from the official court record. Notary PublicA public officer who is authorized by the state to administer oaths and to attest to the authenticity of signatures. Many lawyers, paralegals, and court reporters are notaries. Notice of AppealA notice filed with the district court, and served on the other parties to the suit, stating that a party is appealing. The Notice of Appeal contains no legal arguments, but serves only to identify the party taking the appeal and the order or judgment being appealed. Filing the notice of appeal with the Pro Se Office in the district court is the first step in an appeal. Notice of DepositionNotification made in writing to the witness, as well as all parties in the case, of your intention to depose the witness. The Notice must be made a reasonable time in advance of the deposition. The Notice must include all of the information required by Rules 26 and 30 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Nunc pro tunc(Latin for "Now for Then.") Retroactively ordered by the Judge. For example, the Judge may order a copy of a document which had been lost in the mail to be filed nunc pro tunc as of the date the original should have been received Objections to ReportA statement from a party explaining why s/he believes a Magistrate & Recommendation Judge's Report & Recommendation should not be adopted by the District Judge. The parties have ten (10) business days to file Objections to the Report & Recommendation. See 28 U.S.C. § 636. Opening StatementIn a trial, the first opportunity the parties have to address the jury and the Judge, and inform them of what s/he intends to prove through the use of evidence. OpinionThe Judge's written decision, which typically includes a statement of facts, points of law, and an analysis applying the law to the facts. Opposing PartyYour adversary. The party you are suing or who is suing you. In the context of a motion, the party against whom the motion is made. Order to Show CauseA Judge's Order directing a party to explain why the party did or failed to do something or why the Judge should or should not grant some relief. Overrule (an objection)If one party has an objection to testimony or evidence being submitted, the Judge may overrule the objection and permit the testimony or evidence to proceed. PACER"Public Access to Electronic Court Records". Docket information is available to the public on the internet via PACER. PartiesThe plaintiff(s) and/or defendant(s) in the case. PerjuryA deliberate false or misleading statement made under oath. PlaintiffThe party who brings the suit, by filing the complaint asking for the enforcement of a right or the recovery of relief from a wrong. Prayer for ReliefThe last section of the complaint, stating what damages the plaintiff wants and what else the plaintiff wants the Judge to do (for example, injunctive or declaratory relief). Pretrial ConferenceA conference with the Judge attended by the parties (or counsel) to clarify the issues, to set a schedule for discovery, motions and further proceedings, and to discuss settlement. See Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Prima Facie(Latin for "At first sight. It) A prima facie case presents tough evidence for the plaintiff to win the case barring any defenses or additional evidence presented by the defendant. Prison Mailbox RuleA document submitted by a pro se prisoner for filing is deemed "filed" as of the date the prisoner delivers the document to prison officials for mailing, rather than the date it is actually received by the court. Privilege"Attorney-Client Privilege" prevents the attorney from disclosing confidential communications between him/her and the client. The "Doctor-Patient Privilege" prevents the doctor from disclosing confidential medical information. Pro Bono(Latin for "For the Good.") Legal services provided free of charge, usually for persons unable to afford a lawyer Pro Se(Latin for "In his own behalf. ") Representing oneself in court, without an attorney. Process ServerA professional hired by the plaintiff to serve the defendant with the summons and complaint. If the plaintiff asked the defendant for a waiver of service and was refused, the plaintiff may be reimbursed for any costs and fees associated with hiring a process server to effect service. See Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Proof of ServiceA document which confirms that another document was served on the parties. Proof of Service for the Summons and Complaint is located on the back of the summons and must be completed by the person who served those documents. An Affirmation or Certificate of Service may be used as proof of service for all other documents. Protective OrderA Judge's order prohibiting or limiting a party from proceeding with a legal procedure (for example, limiting certain types of discovery as unduly burdensome). Quash the SubpoenaAn application by a non-party witness to the Judge so that s/he need not appear for a deposition and/or to produce documents at the date, time and place listed in the subpoena. Redirect ExaminationAt trial, after the opposing party has cross-examined a witness, the party who originally called the witness to testify may ask the witness questions regarding any of the answers given on cross-examination. Referring JudgeThe District Judge who refers all or some portion of the case to a Magistrate Judge. RemandTo send back. The act of the appellate court in sending a case back to the district court for further action. ReplyThe response to an opposition to a motion. Report & RecommendationThe Magistrate Judge's decision on a dispositive matter referred to him/her in which the Magistrate Judge advises the District Judge how the matter should be decided. After the Report & Recommendation is issued, the parties have ten (10) business days to file Objections to the Report & Recommendation. The District Judge will review the Report & Recommendation and any Objections and either adopt, reject, or modify the Report & Recommendation. See 28 U.S.C. § 636. Request for AdmissionA discovery tool in which one party asks another party in writing to admit the truth of any statement or the authenticity of a document or to admit the application of law to any fact. See Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Request for Waiver of ServiceA method by which the plaintiff asks the defendant to forgo formal service of the summons and complaint. If the defendant agrees to waive service, s/he is granted an automatic extension of time to respond to the complaint. If the defendant refuses to agree to waive service, the plaintiff later may recoup any fees and costs associated with formally serving the defendant. See Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Res Judicata(Latin for "A Matter Judged.") The principle that a matter generally may not be relitigated once it has been decided on the merits. ReversalThe act of an appellate court overturning a decision of a lower court because of an error. SanctionA punishment or penalty, monetary or in another form, the Judge may impose on a person in certain circumstances. For example, the Judge may impose a sanction upon a party that violates an order, fails to appear at a scheduled proceeding, or files frivolous complaints or motions. See Rules 11 and 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ServiceProviding a copy of a document to other parties. See Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Service of ProcessProviding a copy of the summons and complaint to the defendant as required by Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Service must be done by a person over the age of 18 years who is not a party to the lawsuit. A trusted family member or friend may serve the summons and complaint or a professional process server may be hired. The defendant must be served within 120 days from the date the summons is issued. See Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Side BarA conference in which the Judge calls the parties to one side of the bench, outside of the jury's hearing, to discuss an issue during trial. StandingA party's right to make a legal claim. Generally, a plaintiffhas standing in federal court if s/he shows that the defendant's conduct injured him/her and that the right that was violated is one that is enforceable. Standing OrderA Judge's Order that applies to lawsuits or certain circumstances that are heard by that particular Judge. A Standing Order of the Court is an Order issued by the Chief Judge to deal with a recurring situation that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Civil Rules do not address. Standing Orders have the full effect and power as all other judicial orders. Statute of LimitationsLaws requiring that a lawsuit be filed within a certain amount of time after the injury. Some federal laws specify what their statute of limitations is. If a federal law does not specify the statute of limitations, then the federal courts will use the statute of limitations from the state law which is most closely related. StipulationA written agreement voluntarily signed by parties in a case. StrikeTo delete a document or testimony, or any portion of such, from the official court record. Also, to remove a potential juror from the jury. Sua Sponte(Latin for "Of its own will.") When the Judge makes a determination on his/her own, without a motion from a party. Subject MatterThe power of the court to hear certain types of cases. The federal Jurisdictiondistrict court has subject matter jurisdiction over federal question cases and diversity of citizenship cases. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. Subpoena(Latin for "Under Penalty. ") A court document commanding a non-party to appear for trial or a deposition or produce documents on a specific date, time and place. The same form is used for a "subpoena ad testificandum" and "subpoena duces tecum." See Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Subpoena ad testificandumA court document commanding a non-party to appear for trial or a deposition on a specific date, time and place. See Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Subpoena duces tecumA court document commanding a non-party to produce documents listed in the subpoena on a specific date, time and place. See Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. SummonsA document notifying the defendant that an action has been commenced against him/her in the court, and that s/he is required to appear and answer the complaint. The plaintiff must serve a copy of the summons and the complaint on the defendant within 120 days of the date listed on the summons. Sustain (an objection)Agrees with the objection. If a party objects to some evidence and the Judge sustains the objection, the evidence will not be admitted or the question will not be answered. Temporary Restraining OrderAn order prohibiting a person from acting in a way likely to cause irreparable harm. This differs from an injunction in that it may be ("TRO") granted immediately, without notice to the opposing party and without a hearing. It is intended to last only a short time until a hearing can be held. See Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. TestimonyEvidence given by a witness under oath at a deposition or at trial, or in an affidavit. TranscriptThe typewritten transcription of the court reporter's shorthand notes of the proceedings in a trial, hearing or deposition. United States Code (U.S.C.)Federal laws are compiled in the United States Code. Cited as: U.S.C. VacateTo invalidate or cancel a prior order so that it no longer has any effect. VenueThe specific court in which a lawsuit is filed. VerdictThe decision or finding made by the jury upon matters or questions submitted to them at the trial. Voir DireThe preliminary examination of potential jurors to determine their competency and impartiality to serve on a case. In federal court, the Judge generally asks each potential juror a series of questions designed to reveal any bias the juror may have that would prevent him/her from being fair and impartial. Waiver of ServiceThe defendant's agreement to forgo formal service of the summons and complaint. See Request for Waiver of Service; see Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. With PrejudiceAction taken with the loss of all rights. A dismissal of the lawsuit with prejudice prohibits the plaintiff from filing another complaint raising those same claims. Without PrejudiceAction taken with the right to reassert the same matter at a future date. For example, a dismissal of the claims without prejudice permits the plaintiff to file another complaint raising those same claims. Sometimes, the Judge will also grant the plaintiff "leave to amend" or "leave to replead" his allegations. WitnessA person who has personal knowledge regarding the relevant facts of the case. WritA written command, issued from the court, requiring the performance of a specific act.