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Helpful Legal Terms

To familiarize you with words that you will hear frequently, the following is a list of some legal terms and their definitions:

Another word for lawsuit.

A written statement of facts made under oath.

ADR offers the parties to a civil action the opportunity to resolve that dispute without having to go through a full-fledged tr ial that can be both lengthy and costly. This Court offers two different processes for ADR - mediation and early neutral evaluation (ENE ). Mediation is the process in which an impartial neutral (the mediator) helps the parties through negotiations to reach a settlement. ENE is a process in which a neutral evaluator offers pre-trial planning assistance to the parties together with a n on- binding assessment of their case.

To change an existing complaint, pleading, or motion that is already before the Court.

A document filed by the defendant in response to the complaint.

Another word for lawsuit.

Every pleading, correspondence, or other document, subsequent to the original complaint shall be served upon each of the partie s who have appeared in the case. Each pleading must contain a cer tificate of service, which shall state the name and address of t he attorney or party served, the manner of service, and the date of service. This lets the Court know that the other parties have been served a copy of the same document filed with the Court. If you attempt to file something that does not contain a certificate o f service, the Court may return it to you without filing.

The document that a plaintiff files with the Clerk of Court to initiate a lawsuit. It contains a clear statement of the importa nt information about the claim(s) of the plaintiff and identifies each defendant.

One who has been admitted as an attorney at law to assist his/ her client with advice, and pleads for him/her in open court.

DAMAGES Money sought by a party who has suffered a legal wrong.

The party being sued.

A discovery (formal pre-trial investigation) tool in which a party (or his/her attorney) asks a series of oral questions of ano ther party or witness, who answers under oath. The proceeding is recorded by a court reporter.

DCM is a system that monitors and manages a civil case from fili ng to disposition consistent with the needs and characteristics of the individual case. All cases will be assigned to an appropriate processing track with the expectation that a case will be resolved within a standard amount of time depending on its complexity.

Formal investigation that parties conduct before trial in order to obtain information from each other about the case and to pre pare for settlement or trial. The primary tools in most cases are depositions and interrogatories.

The civil case number assigned to a case by the Court when a new complaint is filed. The number includes the designation of the division where the case is filed, which will be either 1 (Southeas tern Division), 2 (Northern Division), or 4 (Eastern Division ); the last two digits of the calendar year in which the case is filed; th e “CV” designation for a civil case; the file number assigned; and the initials of the District or Magistrate Judge to whom the case is assigned. (Example - 4:02CV4000ABC).

(IFP) To proceed without prepayment of costs or fees for filing a complaint.

A set of written questions submitted by one party to another party to answer under oath as part of the pre-trial investigation of a lawsuit.

A final Court ruling resolving the claims at issue and determining the rights and obligations of the parties.

The power or legal authority of the Court to hear and decide a case. LAWSUIT A legal proceeding initiated in Court.

A party to a lawsuit.

MOTION A request made to the Court for the purpose of obtaining a ruling or order directing an act to be performed in favor of the app licant or movant. The Court may either hold a hearing on the motion requiring the parties to appear OR the Judge may decide the motion without a hearing.

A ruling issued by a Judge or a Magistrate Judge that usually directs the plaintiff or the defendant to do something. An order may also be issued to grant or deny a motion.

A person or entity who has brought a lawsuit, or one who is defending against or responding to a lawsuit.

The person who is filing the complaint against an individual, a corporation or company, or a government agency.

If you are filing a lawsuit on your own and will represent yourself, you are proceeding pro se.

What a party asks the Court to do, or what the Court grants to a party.

A Rule 16 conference is a pre-trial conference held between the parties and the Judge. The conference is held after the parties have been served, and its purpose is to develop an appropriate pre-trial plan that meets the needs of the individual case. At the co nference, parties discuss issues affecting the case, and a trial date is usually set.

The delivery of legal documents to an opposing party.

The time period following an event in which a lawsuit can be filed.

Laws enacted by legislatures.

An order for a person to appear in Court or at a deposition, or to produce documents.

A document providing notice to the defendant that an acti on has been brought against him/her and an answer is required.

The in-court examination and resolution of issues between litigants.

The geographic area over which a Court has authority. The federal District Courts each have their own venue and they have very strict rules on where you may file your action. If you do not comply with these rules, the Court may transfer your action to an other District Court or dismiss it.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4, a plaintiff can request a defendant to forego service of summons. To do this, th e plaintiff must send a copy of his/her complaint with two “Notice of Lawsuit and Request for Waiver of Service of Summons” forms (available from the Clerk’s Office) by first class mail to the defendant(s). The defendant(s), however, does not have to agree to the request and can insist on being served with a sum