A parent's or custodian's act of leaving a child without adequate care, supervision, support or parental contact for an excessive period of time. Also, the desertion of one spouse by the other with the intent to terminate the marriage relationship.

Abatement of action

A suit which has been quashed and ended.

Abstract of record

A short, abbreviated form of the case as found in the record.

Abstract of title

A chronological history, in abbreviated form of the ownership of a parcel of land.


A person who assists in the commission of a crime, either before or after the fact.


A satisfaction agreed upon between the parties in a lawsuit which bars subsequent actions on the claim.

Accord and satisfaction

A method of discharging a claim upon agreement by the parties to give and accept something in settlement of the claim.


The name for the defendant in a criminal case.


The legal certification of the innocence of a person who has been charged with a crime, setting the person free from a charge of guilty by a finding of not guilty.

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.


The power of the trial court to increase the assessment of an inadequate damage award made by a jury. There is no additur in federal courts.


Giving or pronouncing a judgment or decree, or the rendering of a decision on a matter before a court.

Admissible evidence

Evidence which can legally and properly be used in court.


A statement tending to establish the guilt or liability of the person making the statement.

Adversary system

The system of trial practice in the United States and some other countries in which each of the opposing, or adversary, parties has the opportunity to present and establish opposing contentions before the court.


A written and sworn statement witnessed by a notary public or another official possessing the authority to administer oaths. Affidavits may be admitted into evidence.

Affirmative defense

A defense which does not necessarily refute an allegation but offers new matter which may defeat the right to recovery.


One who has authority to act for another.

Aggravated assault

An attempt to cause serious bodily injury to another or purposely, knowingly or recklessly causing such injury, or an attempt to cause or purposely or knowingly cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon.

Aggravated battery

The unlawful use of force against another with unusual or serious consequences such as the use of a dangerous weapon.


A defense claim that the accused was somewhere else at the time a crime was committed.


The assertion, declaration, or statement of a party to an action, made in a pleading, establishing what the party expects to prove.

Amicus curiae

A friend of the court; a nonparty who interposes, with the permission of the court, and volunteers information upon some matter before the court.

Annual review

Yearly judicial review, usually in juvenile dependency cases, to determine, whether the child requires continued court supervision or placement.


A pleading by which defendant responds to the plaintiff's complaint.


The bringing of a case to a higher court for review of a lower court's order or judgment.


The party appealing a final decision or judgment.

Appellate court

A court which hears appeals from a lower court.

Appellate jurisdiction

The appellate court has the right to review and revise the lower court decision.


The party against whom an appeal is taken.


The referral of a dispute to an impartial third person chosen by the parties to the dispute. The parties agree in advance to abide by the arbitrator's decision following a hearing at which both parties have an opportunity to be heard.


In a misdemeanor case, the initial appearance before a judge at which the criminal defendant enters a plea; in a felony case, the proceeding after the indictment or bindover at which the defendant comes before a judge in district court, is informed of the charges, enters a plea, and has a date set for trial or disposition.


To deprive a person of his liberty by legal authority.

Arrest of judgment

Postponing the effect of a judgment already entered.


A willful attempt to illegally inflict injury on or threaten a person.

Assumption of risk

In tort law, a defense to a personal injury suit. The essence of the defense is that the plaintiff assumed the known risk of whatever dangerous condition caused the injury.

At issue

Whenever the parties to a suit come to a point in the pleadings which is affirmed on one side and denied on the other, they are said to be "at issue" and ready for trial.


An ancillary or auxiliary remedy by which the plaintiff acquires a lien upon property of the defendant to insure the satisfaction of a civil judgment.


An endeavor or effort to do an act or accomplish a crime, carries beyond preparation, but lacking execution.

Attorney of record

Attorney who name appears in the permanent records or files of a case.


In criminal cases, a sum of money posted by or on behalf of a defendant to guarantee his appearance in court after being released from jail.

Bail bond

An obligation signed by the defendant, with sureties, to secure his/her presence in court.

Bail bondsman

A person who posts bail in exchange for a fee, usually 10 percent of the total bail.


A court officer whose duties are to keep order in the courtroom and to have custody of the jury.

Battered child syndrome (b.c.s.)

Physical condition of a child indicating that external or internal injuries result from acts committed by a parent or custodian.


Actual physical violence, whether serious or minor, inflicted on a person (A mere threat is called assault, whereas the completed act is called battery).

Bench trial

Trial without a jury in which the judge decides the case.

Bench warrant

An order issued by the court for the arrest of a person.


A gift by will of personal property.