Glossary

Words and phrases of the courtroom

In the world of the legal profession and in the courtroom you will hear many words and phrases that are unique to this environment. Frequently used words in everyday life may have a different meaning in the meaning in the courtroom. Below is a selection of words and expressions commonly used in civil and criminal cases.

[ A ]

Action:
A civil proceeding in a Court (also referred to as Proceeding, Case, and Matter)

Adjourn:
to close the Court; to be resumed at a later date/time

Admit:
to acknowledge a fact

Affidavit:
A written statement made on oath, given in the place of verbal evidence

Affirmation:
A declaration made instead of taking an oath

Appellate Court/Jurisdiction:
Court or Jurisdiction which has the power to hear appeals

Application:
A request made to a Court for orders to be made on your case, e.g. application for an adjournment

Arraign/ Arraignment:
The reading of the charges to the accused in a criminal matter and the recording of the accused’s answers as to whether he/she pleads guilty or not guilty

Assessment:
(civil jurisdiction) the process of estimating or quantifying the monetary value of a plaintiff’s loss or damages

Associate:
the Judge’s support staff who records orders made in Court and provides other assistance to the Judge as required

Authentication:
The validation of an order of the court which is signed and sealed by the Registrar on the prescribed form

[ B ]

Balance of probabilities:
The onus or standard of proof required in civil matters

Beyond reasonable doubt:
The onus of proof required in criminal cases. 

Burden of proof:
The obligation to prove what is alleged.  In a criminal trial the burden of proof is upon the prosecution, the accused does not have to prove anything.  In a civil trial it is the plaintiff or claiming party which has the onus of proof

[ C ]

Case Number:
A number assigned to each case or matter for record keeping purposes

Case Conference:
A dispute resolution process to attempt to bring the parties together to discuss the dispute in the spirit of resolution

Cause of action:
A brief statement detailing the nature of a civil claim by one party against another

Charge:
(to jury)   Directions given to the Jury by the Trial Judge with respect to the law to be applied to the facts in a case

Circumstantial:
Evidence which does not directly prove a case, but from which an inference may be drawn

Compensation order:
An order made by the Court requiring a party to pay compensation to another person for loss or damage suffered as a result of that party’s action

Court Connect:
Free information search facility of the Court's Case and List Management System available to the community and accessible from the County Court Website

Cross-Examination:
After examination-in-chief of a witness called by one party, the other party has a right to question or cross-examine the witness. Rules of evidence must be applied

Custodial/non-custodial:
A custodial sentence is one served in prison whereas a non-custodial sentence is one served in the community under for example, a Community Based Order or Intensive Corrections Order

[ D ]

Damages:
A Court assessment (whether by Judge alone or by a jury) of monetary loss suffered as a result of a civil wrong or breach of contract

Deposition/s:
Documents produced by the Prosecution which constitute the basis of evidence upon which the Prosecution seeks to prove its case

Directions Hearing:
A pre-trial hearing where orders are made to assist parties to prepare a case for trial

Discontinued:
Where the Plaintiff makes the decision not to continue with proceedings against the defendant and files a Notice of Discontinuance with the Court

Discovery:
A procedure by which documents relevant to the action are disclosed to the other party/s, before the case is heard at trial

Dismissed:
An order by the Court finalising a proceeding. A case may be dismissed at any part of the process for a number of reasons

[ E ]

Evidence-in-Chief:
Evidence elicited by Counsel for the party calling the witness

Examination:
Questioning of a person under oath or affirmation in open Court. Rules of evidence apply

Exhibit:
Any item or document shown to the Court that is to be part of the evidence in a case. 

Ex parte:
An order made in the absence of one of the parties

[ F ]

File and serve:
Lodge a document with the Court (file) and ensure a copy of the document is received by a party (serve)

Finding of fact:
A determination by a Judge or jury with respect to the facts of a case

[ H ]

Hearing fee:
A fee paid for each day or part thereof that the matter is before a Judge for trial

His/Her Honour:
The formal form of reference to a Judge

Hostile witness:
A witness called by a party, who then gives evidence unfavourable to that party.  The party can apply to have the witness declared hostile and can then cross-examine that witness

[ I ]

In camera:
A Court hearing wherein only those persons authorised by the Court are present

Indictable offence:
An offence which can be heard before a Judge and jury

Infant:
A person under the age of 18 years, who does not have full legal capacity

Injunction:
A Court order that prevents someone from doing something

Inspection:
A pre-trial procedure whereby parties to an action are permitted to view the discovered documents of the other party (see also Discovery)

Interlocutory application:
A matter which arises between commencement of an action and final determination of a case

Interrogatories:
A procedure by which questions relevant to an action are asked of the other party, before the case proceeds to trial (see also Discovery)

[ J ]

Judgment:
The sentence or order of the Court in a proceeding

Judgment in default:
Judgment by registrar where one party fails to file an appearance or a defence with the Court

Jurisdiction:
The power of a Court to hear and determine a case.  The extent of legal authority of a Court

Jury:
The panel of people selected from the community to decide on liability and damages

[ L ]

Legal aid:
Government funded legal assistance provided to a person for representation in Court

Legal Practitioner:
A person registered as a barrister or lawyers within  a Federal, State or Territory Court

Liability:
A legal responsibility or obligation

Liberty to apply:
A right granted by the Court, to be heard by the Court without the issue of a summons

Litigation:
Legal proceedings before a Court

Litigation guardian:
Person appointed to deal with litigation on behalf of a child or person without legal capacity

[ M ]

Mediation:
A process whereby parties meet with a mediator to attempt to reach a settlement

Mens rea:
A guilty mind.  The state of mind required to constitute a particular crime.  A knowledge of the wrongfulness of an act

Minimum term:
(non-parole period):  The term of imprisonment which must be served before being eligible for parole

Mitigating circumstances:
Circumstances of an offence and other relevant considerations which may reduce the sentence imposed

Minutes of consent order:
A draft order, the terms of which are agreed to by all parties, submitted for the approval of the Court

[ N ]

Non-parole period:
The term of imprisonment which must be served before being eligible for parole

Non-publication order: 
A Court order preventing publication of certain information about a case

[ O ]

Oath:
(juror, witness) A solemn promise made by a person before his God that he will say what is the truth, or will do what he promises to do

OPP:
Office of Public Prosecutions.  Government agency responsible for the conduct of criminal matters on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions

Order:
A command or direction issued by a Court or tribunal requiring a person to do or refrain from doing something

[ P ]

Part-heard:
A hearing not yet completed and adjourned to a new date

Parole:
The release of a prisoner or detainee from custody after the completion of a minimum period of imprisonment or detention.  The parole period is supervised by the Adult Parole Board (prisoners) or Youth Parole Board (detainees)

Particulars:
(
of damage) the details of the claim (or the defence) in an action which are necessary in order for the other party to know what case has to be met

Perjury:
An offence at common law of making a false statement on oath or affirmation, in a judicial proceeding concerning a matter material to the proceeding, while knowing that the statement is false, or not believing it to be true

Plaintiff:
Person bringing a proceeding in a civil matter

Plea:
(i) The requirement that an accused person answer the charges made against him/her

(ii) The type of hearing when a person pleads guilty to charges including the submissions made to the Court by counsel on behalf of the prisoner, prior to sentencing

To plead - to answer the charges
For plea – having pleaded guilty or been found guilty by jury verdict, the hearing of submissions prior to sentencing

Pleadings:
The written documents which are exchanged between the parties in a civil case, which define the issues in dispute and ultimately make up the Court file. They contain the facts and evidence to be relied on by the respective parties to the case

Practice Note/Practice Direction:
Written notes of practice decisions made by the Court, with which it is expected that practitioners/parties will comply

Prayer for relief:
Part of a statement of claim indicating the relief or remedy sought from the Court

Prescribed form:
A form required by legislation

Presentment:
Document produced by the Office of Public Prosecutions setting out the charges against an accused

Pre-trial hearing:
Any hearing in relation to an action which takes place before the final determination of a case

Pro Bono:
A term used when a lawyer performs legal work for a person without charging a fee

[ R ]

Registrar:
A court officer responsible for maintaining a register or record of Court proceedings

Reinstatement:
The re-listing of a new date for a Court proceeding, in the Court List

Remand:
An order that the defendant be kept in custody

Remote witness:
Witness who gives evidence to the Court from a location away from the Court room.  It may be from another room in the building or a location in another place where equipment is available

Request for Further and Better Particulars:
A document filed by a party requesting another party to provide more information about the matter; more specific detail

Respondent:
The person responding to an appeal

Restitution:
Compensation made for loss of monies or goods

[ S ]

Serious Injury application:
An application to the Court to determine whether the plaintiff has suffered a “serious injury” according to the definition in the relevant Act

Setting down:
(
for hearing) the fixing of a date for a hearing to commence

Settlement:
Agreement between parties in a civil proceeding which leads to the finalisation of the matter

Slander:
A verbal statement defaming another person’s reputation

Subpoena:
A summons compelling a person to attend Court to give evidence or produce documents to the Court

Summons/Interlocutory Application:
A document issued by the Court requiring a person to attend at the Court for the purposes set out in the document

Suppression order:
(See Non Publication Order)

[ T ]

Third party notice:
The formal document filed by the Defendant by which a third party proceeding is commenced against another who is not already a party to the original proceeding

Tipstaff:
A member of the Judge’s staff responsible for order in the Courtroom, the swearing or affirming of witnesses, supervision of juries and other assistance to the Judge as required

Tort: 
A breach of a duty imposed by civil law, such as negligence, defamation and trespass

Transfer of proceedings:
The re-assigning of a matter from one Court to another or from one jurisdiction to another

[ V ]

Vacate:
To set aside a hearing or trial date, or an order previously made by a Court

[ W ]

Warrant:
A legal document usually signed by a Judge or Magistrate authorizing a specified person to perform certain acts  eg., to arrest a person and bring him/her before the court

Weight of evidence:
The degree to which an item of evidence tends to prove a fact in issue 

Writ:
A written order of the Court commanding a person to do or refrain from doing an act.  There are many types of writ.  The issuing of a writ is the main method of originating civil proceedings in the County Court

 

       

Language of the courtroom

View / Download

(18.10 KB)