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Glossary of Legal Terms

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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"
A legal action that says your marriage was never legally valid, for example, in cases of incest, bigamy, or being too young to consent.
Complaint (or petition) A document filed with the Court to initiate a case by one party against another party for relief.
Default judgment Judgment entered against a party who has failed to answer or defend against a claim that has been brought by another party
Equity A system of law that supplements the statutory and case law and is administered according to fairness.
This term usually refers to a person who is needy and poor, and has no one to look to for support.
In forma pauperis An affidavit made by an indigent person seeking free public assistance
Motion A formal request by a party to have the Court rule on one or more of the issues involved in a case.


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