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Court Terms

Being in a court setting for the first time can oftentimes be an overwhelming experience due to some of the terms that are used that aren’t typically used everyday to explain what is going on during a court process. We have made a list of some of the terms that may be used for your reference.

The terms in purple are for WCU proceedings only.

Acquittal - A jury verdict that a criminal defendant is not guilty, or the finding of a judge that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction.

Affidavit - A written or printed statement made under oath.

Appeal - A request made after a trial by a party that has lost on one or more issues that a higher court may review the decision to determine if it was correct.

Arraignment - A proceeding in which a criminal defendant is brought into court, told of the charges in an indictment, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.

Bail - The release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime, under specified conditions designed to assure that person's appearance in court when required. Also, can refer to the amount of bond money posted as a financial condition of pretrial release.

Bench Trial - A trial without a jury, in which the judge serves as the fact-finder.

Case File - A complete collection of every document filed in court in a case.

Civil Court – when one party files a lawsuit against another asking for money or for a court order (protective order) against the other party.

Complainant – An individual who is reported to be the victim of conduct that would constitute sexual harassment or a violation of the code.

Conviction - A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.

Counsel - Legal advice; a term also used to refer to the lawyers in a case.

Criminal Court – When the “state” prosecutes a person for breaking the law, imposing punishments such as jail time or fines.

Defendant - In a civil case, the person or organization against whom the plaintiff brings a suit; in a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.

Discovery - Procedures used to obtain disclosure of evidence before trial.

Due Process - In criminal law, the constitutional guarantee that a defendant will receive a fair and impartial trial. In civil law, the legal rights of someone who confronts an adverse action threatening liberty or property.

Ex-parte - A proceeding brought before a court by one party only, without notice to or challenge by the other side. An example of this is an emergency protective order until a hearing can take place.

Felony - A serious crime, usually punishable by at least one year in prison.

Formal Resolution – The formal determination of a hearing board regarding responsibility, as determined by the preponderance of the evidence standard, and the sanctions imposed if there was a finding of responsibility. (Similar to a trial in state court.)

Grand Jury - A body of 16-23 citizens who listen to evidence of criminal allegations, which is presented by the prosecutors, and determine whether there is probable cause to believe an individual committed an offense.

Indictment - The formal charge issued by a grand jury stating that there is enough evidence that the defendant committed the crime to justify having a trial; it is used primarily for felonies.

Jurisdiction - The geographic area over which the court has territorial jurisdiction to decide cases or an officer to charge a crime.

Jury - The group of persons selected to hear the evidence in a trial and render a verdict on matters of fact. See also grand jury.

Misdemeanor - An offense punishable by one year of imprisonment or less.

Mutual Resolution – The respondent waives the option to go to a hearing by accepting responsibility for the alleged violations and any recommended sanctions. (Similar to a plea agreement in state court.)

Plaintiff - A person or business that files a formal complaint with the court.

Plea - In a criminal case, the defendant's statement pleading "guilty" or "not guilty" in answer to the charges.

Preponderance of the Evidence – the evidentiary standard used in Code proceedings where the burden of proof is whether it is more likely than not that a Respondent violated the Code.

Probation - Sentencing option in the courts. With probation, instead of sending an individual to prison, the court releases the person to the community and orders him or her to complete a period of supervision monitored by a probation officer and to abide by certain conditions.

Prosecute - To charge someone with a crime. A prosecutor tries a criminal case on behalf of the government.

Respondent – an individual who has been reported to be the perpetrator of conduct that could constitute sexual harassment or a violation of the Code.

Statute - A law passed by a legislature.

Statute of Limitations - The time within which a lawsuit must be filed, or a criminal prosecution begun.

Subpoena - A command, issued under a court's authority, for a witness to appear and testify.

Testimony - Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials or before grand juries.

Warrant - Court authorization, most often for law enforcement officers, to conduct a search or make an arrest.

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