Posted by: episystechpubs | September 10, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Law & Order

Hello everyone!

After five days on jury duty, I have to say it is good to be back. During my time away, I collected a lot of things to share with you: questions about our language, emails from inquiring minds, passages from books I read, and grammar topics I want to touch on. Today and tomorrow, however, I will bring some of the legal vocabulary from my adventures in public service, directly to you. These terms are not in alphabetical order, but instead are in the order you might experience them while going through the process of serving on a jury for a trial.

The definitions are from the following glossaries and resources:

· http://www.sdcourt.ca.gov/portal/page?_pageid=55,1643485&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

· http://www.glenncourt.ca.gov/court_info/glossary.html

· http://www.nycourts.gov/lawlibraries/glossary.shtml

The names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.

· jury summons: The papers sent to potential jurors that require their attendance in court for possible service on a jury. [KC – This is the mail you receive that makes you break into a sweat, hoping that it isn’t the same week you are supposed to be in the Bahamas.]

· civil case/civil suit: A lawsuit is called a civil case when it is between two or more individuals or corporations involved in a dispute and usually seeking a judgment awarding monetary damages. A civil case is an action brought to enforce, redress, or protect private rights. Civil actions include:

o General Civil (seeking damages over $25,000)

o Limited Civil (seeking damages under $25,000)

o Family Law

o Probate

o Unlawful Detainer (landlord/tenant disputes)

o Small Claims (seeking damages under $5,000)

· criminal prosecution/criminal case: The act of pursuing a criminal trial, where the state charges someone with a crime. A criminal case is an action brought by the government against a person who has broken the law. Criminal cases are separated into three main categories; felony, misdemeanors, and infractions. [KC – After sitting in a room with several hundred people, thirty-five of us were called to a department in the criminal court area of the San Diego Courthouse. We were told very little except
that this was a criminal case.]

· recess: A short break in the proceedings, with court resuming on the same day. [KC – I went out for a little walk. Two meth addicts tried to get me to buy a stolen bicycle for $10 in front of a Wendy’s. I told them I might get in trouble
for accidentally flashing people while riding a stolen bike and wearing a dress.]

· voir dire: Translated from French, the legal phrase means "to speak the truth" or "to see them say." Voir dire is the preliminary examination of prospective jurors by a judge or lawyer to decide whether that person can serve on a particular jury. [KC – Also known as the time where you get to share basic personal information (and any experience with the police or crime) with a room full of strangers.]

· challenges: The law authorizes the judge and the lawyers to excuse individual jurors from service in a particular case for various reasons. If a lawyer wishes to have a juror excused, he or she must use a "challenge" for that juror. Challenges, or reasons to dismiss a juror, are of two kinds:

o for cause: The law sets forth a number of reasons why jurors may be excused "for cause." For example, a juror who is related to or employed by one of the parties in the case may be excused for cause. There is no limit to the number of for cause challenges that may be used. [KC – The potential juror who said he didn’t trust the police under any circumstances but also decided the defendant was guilty before the jury was chosen was excused “for cause.”]

o peremptory: Each side in a case has a certain number of challenges that can be used without giving a reason. These are called peremptory challenges. Each side may ask the judge to excuse particular jurors. If a juror is excused, this does not imply something bad and does not mean the juror is not competent in any way. It frequently happens that a prospective juror will be excused in a certain case and later accepted in another. The number of peremptory challenges have been established by the Legislature.

· impaneling: the process by which jurors are selected and sworn to their task.

Tomorrow: the trial.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

www.symitar.com

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