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Glossary of Terms
Jury Service

We have compiled a list of common words and phrases used in Jury service. We recommend clicking on the "Show all definitions" link below, prior to printing this page.

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Action

The term is often used to refer to a lawsuit. "He/She has started an action against the defendant".

Act of the Legislature

This is a term applied to a law or statute passed by the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, commonly referred to as "The Legislature"

Answer

The defendant's written response, under oath, setting forth the facts upon which he/she relies to deny the claim of the plaintiff in a civil case.

Assumpsit

Civil lawsuits, or actions which arise out of contracts written or oral, express or implied, are called actions in assumpsit.

Bar, The

This is a collective term for the lawyers who have been admitted to practice law.

Bench, The

This is the term by which the judges have been collectively referred to for centuries.

Charge of the Court

Instructions given by the judge to the jury on the law applicable to a particular case.

Complaint

The plaintiff's written statement, under oath, setting forth his/her claim against the defendant in a civil case.

Court Crier

Officer of the Court whose function it is to open and adjourn court and to assist the judge, jurors, and attorneys in keeping the trials functioning smoothly.

Court Reporter

This is the person who makes a complete stenographic record of all that transpires at the trial.

Defendant

In a civil case it is the individual, corporation or partnership against whom a suit is brought; in a criminal case it is the person charged with the commission of a crime.

Exhibit

This is a written document or other object, which after having been properly marked for identification, is admitted in evidence.

Hearsay

Testimony by a witness who relates, not what he/she knows personally, but what others have told him/her or what he/she has heard said by others. Generally such testimony is not admissible in evidence although there are numerous exceptions to this general rule.

Juror, Withdrawal of

This is technical language to indicate the termination of a trial once a jury is sworn but before a verdict is rendered.

Motion

Counsel's formal request to the Court.

Objection

Law suits are tried according to long established and some-times technical rules concerning the evidence which may be considered by the jury and the statements which may be made by the attorneys. If an attorney thinks these rules are not being observed he/she may properly "object". The judge will then either "sustain" the objection if he/she agrees that it is correct, or "overrule" the objections if he/she does not. Such rulings are not to be taken as any indication by the trial judge that either party is entitled to prevail over the law suit.

Plaintiff

The individual, partnership or corporation who institutes a civil lawsuit.

Points

Principles or rules of law as applied to the particular case being tried which are given to the jury by the trial judge at the request of counsel to aid the jury in reaching a verdict.

Sidebar Conference

A conference held by counsel and the trial judge out of the hearing of the jury. Jurors should not be disturbed about these conferences. Often they concern procedure for shortening the trial.

Stipulation

Frequently counsel for the parties agree on certain facts or issues which need not therefore be proven. So that the record may be complete, a stipulation or written agreement is filed or an oral stipulation is dictated to the court reporter.

Suit

This is a term frequently used to refer to a civil action before the Court.

Tipstaff

Officer of the Court whose function is to keep order in the courtroom and assist the judge, jurors, and attorneys in keeping the trials functioning smoothly.

Trespass

Although this word is popularly understood to refer to the conduct of one who goes upon the land of another without invitation, legally it is also the term used for a legal action brought against another to recover damages for an alleged unlawful or negligent act.

View

In some cases the Court will direct that the trial jury be taken to view the property involved in the case or to see the scene of an accident or some object which is impossible to move into the courtroom.

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