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Latin terms

ACTION IN PERSONAM - An action against the person, founded on a personal liability. In contrast to action in rem, an action for the recovery of a specific object, usually an item of personal property such as an automobile.

ACTION IN REM - Proceeding "against the thing" as compared to personal actions (in personam). Usually a proceeding where property is involved.

AD LITEM - A Latin term meaning for the purposes of the lawsuit. For example, a guardian ad litem is a person appointed by the court to protect the interests of a minor or legally incompetent person in a lawsuit.

ADDITUR - An increase by a judge in the amount of damages awarded by a jury.

AMICUS CURIAE (A-MI'KUS KU'RIE) - A friend of the court. One not a party to a case who volunteers to offer information on a point of law or some other aspect of the case to assist the court in deciding a matter before it.

CAVEAT - A warning; a note of caution.

CAVEAT EMPTOR - "Let the buyer beware." Encourages a purchaser to examine, judge, and test for himself.

CERTIORI - A means of getting an appellate court to review a lower court's decision. The loser of a case will often ask the appellate court to issue a writ of certiorari, which orders the lower court to convey the record of the case to the appellate court and to certify it as accurate and complete. If an appellate court grants a writ of certiorari, it agrees to take the appeal. This is often referred to as granting cert.

CORPUS DELECTI - Body of the crime. The objective proof that a crime has been committed. It sometimes refers to the body of the victim of a homicide or to the charred shell of a burned house, but the term has a broader meaning. For the state to introduce a confession or to convict the accused, it must prove a corpus delicti, that is, the occurrence of a specific injury or loss and a criminal act as the source of that particular injury or loss.

DE NOVO - A new. A trial de novo is a new trial of a case.

ET AL - And others.

ET SEQ - An abbreviation for et sequentes, or et sequentia, "and the following," ordinarily used in referring to a section of statutes.

EX CONTRACTU - Arising from a contract.

EX DELICTO - Arising from a wrong, breach of duty. See TORT.

EX PARTE - On behalf of only one party, without notice to any other party. For example, a request for a search warrant is an ex parte proceeding, since the person subject to the search is not notified of the proceeding and is not present at the


EX PARTE PROCEEDING - The legal procedure in which only one side is represented. It differs from adversary system or adversary proceeding.

EX POST FACTO - After the fact. The Constitution prohibits the enactment of ex post facto laws. These are laws that permit conviction and punishment for a lawful act performed before the law was changed and the act made illegal.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM - A person appointed by a court to look after the interests of an infant, child, or incompetent during court proceedings.

HABEAS CORPUS - A writ which commands that a party be brought before a court or judge and to protect him or her from unlawful imprisonment or custody.

HEARING DE NOVO - A full new hearing.

IN CAMERA - In chambers, or in private. A hearing in camera takes place in the judge's office outside of the presence of the jury and the public.

IN FORMA PAUPERIS - "In the manner of a pauper." Permission given to a person to sue without payment of court fees on claim of indigence or poverty.

IN LOCO PARENTIS - "In the place of the parent," refers to actions of a custodian, guardian, or other person acting in the parent's place.

IN PROPIA PERSONA - In courts, it refers to persons who present his or her own case without lawyers. See PRO PER and


IN REM - A procedural term used to designate proceedings or actions instituted against the thing in contrast to actions instituted in personam or against the person.

INTER ALIA - Among other things.

INTER VIVOS GIFT - A gift made during the giver's life.

INTER VIVOS TRUST - Another name for a living trust.

LIMINE - A motion requesting that the court not allow certain evidence that might prejudice the jury.

LIS PENDENS - A pending suit.

LOCUS DELICTI - The place of the offense.

MANDAMUS - A writ issued by a court ordering a public official to perform an act.

MENS REA - The Уguilty mindФ necessary to establish criminal responsibility.

MITTIMUS - The name of an order in writing, issuing from a court and directing the sheriff or other officer to convey a person to a prison, asylum, or reformatory, and directing the jailer or other appropriate official to receive and safely keep the

person until his or her fate shall be determined by due course of law.

MOTION IN LIMINE - A written motion which is usually made before or after the beginning of a jury trial for a protective order against prejudicial questions and statements.

NE EXEAT - A writ which forbids the person to whom it is addressed to leave the country, the state, or the jurisdiction of the court.

NOLLE PROSEQUI - Decision by a prosecutor not to go forward with charging a crime. It translates, УI do not choose to prosecute.Ф Also loosely called nolle pros.

NOLO CONTENDRE - A plea of no contest. In many jurisdictions, it is an expression that the matter will not be contested, but without an admission of guilt. In other jurisdictions, it is an admission of the charges and is equivalent to a guilty plea.

NON COMPOS MENTIS - Not of sound mind; insane.

NON EST (INVENTUS) - Translated: "not to be found"; a sheriff's return of process when service is not made because the person to be served was not found.

NON OBSTANTE VERDICTO (N.O.V.) - Notwithstanding the verdict. A verdict entered by the judge contrary to a jury's verdict.

NUNC PRO TUNC -A legal phrase applied to acts which are allowed after the time when they should be done, with a retroactive effect.

PARENS PATRIAE The doctrine under which the court protects the interests of a juvenile.

PER CURIUM OPINION - An unsigned opinion of the court.

PRIMA FACIE CASE - A case that is sufficient and has the minimum amount of evidence necessary to allow it to continue in the judicial process.

PRO BONO PUBLICO - For the public good. Lawyers representing clients without a fee are said to be working pro bono publico.

PRO PER - One who represents oneself in a court proceeding without the assistance of a lawyer. Also known as pro se.


PRO SE - A Latin term meaning Уon one's own behalfФ; in courts, it refers to persons who present their own cases without


QUANTUM MERUIT - Expression means "as much as he deserves," and describes the extent of liability on a contract implied by law.

QUID PRO QUO - What for what; something for something; giving one valuable thing for another.

QUO WARRANTO - A writ issuable by the state, through which it demands an individual to show by what right he or she exercises an authority which can only be exercised through grant or franchise from the state or why he or she should not be

removed from office.

RATIO DECIDENDI - The ground or reason of the decision in a case.

RES IPSA LOQUITUR - Literally, "a thing that speaks for itself." In tort law, the doctrine which holds a defendant guilty of negligence without an actual showing that he or she was negligent.

RES JUDICATA - A rule of civil law that once a matter has been litigated and final judgment has been rendered by the trial court, the matter cannot be relitigated by the parties in the same court, or any other trial court.

RESPONDEAT SUPERIOR - "Let the master answer." The doctrine which holds that employers are responsible for the acts and omissions of their employees and agents, when done within the scope of the employees' duties.

STARE DECISIS - The doctrine that courts will follow principles of law laid down in previous cases. Similar to precedent.

SUA SPONTE - A Latin phrase which means on one's own behalf. Voluntary, without prompting or suggestion.

SUB CURIA - Translated: "under the law"; the holding of a case by a court under consideration, sometimes to await the filing of a document, such as a presentence investigation report or memorandum of law, or to write an opinion.

SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM - A court order commanding a witness to bring certain documents or records to court.

SUPERSEDEAS - A writ issued by an appellate court to preserve the status quo pending review of a judgment, or pending other exercise of its jurisdiction.

TRIAL DE NOVO - A new trial or retrial held in an appellate court in which the whole case is heard as if no trial had been heard in the lower court or administrative agency.

VENIRE - A writ summoning persons to court to act as jurors, Also refers to the people summoned for jury duty.

VOIR DIRE - "To speak the truth": the preliminary examination which the court and attorneys make of prospective jurors to determine their qualification and suitability to serve as jurors.


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