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Kansas Judicial Branch

The Kansas Supreme Court
301 SW 10th Avenue
Topeka Kansas 66612-1507

Office of Judicial Administration
Fax:  785.296.7076
Email: info@kscourts.org

Appellate Clerk's Office
Fax:  785.296.1028
Email: appellateclerk@kscourts.org


Not intended as official legal definitions, but general, everyday meaning of terms.

A simple glossary can also be found on the Justice 101 page hosted by U.S. Department of Justice.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT – A statement of acceptance of responsibility.

ACTION – Case, cause, suit, or controversy disputed or contested before a court of justice.

ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE – Evidence that can be legally and properly introduced in a civil or criminal trial.

AFFIDAVIT – A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the party making it before a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths.

AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE – A sworn statement that the one making the statement served some document on another person at a time and place stated.

ALLEGATION – A statement of the issues in a written document which a person is prepared to prove in court.

ALTERNATE DISPUTE RESOLUTION/MEDIATION – Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial.

AMENDMENT – A written change in pleading or document filed in a case.

ANSWER – A written response to allegations stated in a petition or complaint.

APPEAL – A written request made after trial, asking another court (usually the Court of Appeals) to decide whether the trial was conducted properly.
APPEARANCE – A personal appearance or written notification submitting to jurisdiction of the court.

ATTORNEY AT LAW – A lawyer employed to prepare, manage, and/or try cases in court.

BENCH TRIAL (Trial to the Court) – A trial without a jury in which a judge decides the case.

BENCH WARRANT – An order issued by a judge for a person’s arrest.

BURDEN OF PROOF – The necessity or duty of affirmatively proving a fact or facts in dispute on an issue raised between parties in a lawsuit.

CHANGE OF VENUE – Moving a case or trial to another location for trial.

CIVIL COURT – Courts dealing with issues of private rights.  Includes personal injury, car wrecks, medical malpractice, ownership of property, contract rights, etc.

CIVIL PROCEDURE – The rules and processes by which a civil case is tried and appealed, including preparation for trial, rules of evidence, and trial conduct.

COMPLAINT OR PETITION – A written legal document to initiate a civil lawsuit identifying the facts and action the court is asked to take.

CONTEMPT OF COURT – Willful disobedience of a judge’s order or command.

CONTRACT – A legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties either orally or in writing.

COUNTERCLAIM – A pleading in which a defendant in a civil action asserts a claim for relief against the person who originally brought the action.

CLERK OF THE COURT – An appointed officer to oversee administrative and nonjudicial activities.

CROSS-CLAIM – A written claim by co-defendants or co-plaintiffs against each other.

CROSS-EXAMINATION – The questioning of a witness produced by the other side.

DECREE – An order of the court.  A final decree is one that fully and finally disposes of the litigation.

DEFAULT – A failure to respond to a lawsuit within the specified time.

DEFAULT JUDGMENT – Judgment against a litigant who fails to appear in court or respond.

DEFENDANT – A person being sued.

DEFENSE – A claim of certain facts or legal rules which a defendant claims prevent him from being held liable in a civil action.

DISCOVERY – When two parties exchange information to try and agree on facts avoiding surprises at trial.

DISMISSAL – Type of termination of a lawsuit.

DOCKET – A list of cases to be heard by a court or a log containing brief entries of court proceedings.

DOMESTIC COURT or FAMILY LAW COURT – Courts dealing with divorce, custody, and paternity issues.

ENTRY OF APPEARANCE – Usually a document acknowledging the appearance of a person in a lawsuit.

EVIDENCE – Testimony presented or documents used to persuade the decision for one side or the other.

FINDING – Formal conclusion by judge on issues of fact.

HEARING – An in-court presentation to the judge where the people involved in a case tell the facts and the law so the judge can make a decision.

INTERROGATORIES – Questions sent to other parties.  Must be answered and returned to requesting attorney, usually within 30 days.

JUDGMENT – The final disposition of a lawsuit.

JOURNAL ENTRY OR ORDER – Any paper the judge signs.

JURISDICTION – Rules of law that say when the court has right to take action on a matter or make a decision on an issue.

LITIGANT – Party to a lawsuit.

MOTION – Oral or written request made by a litigant for action before, during, or after a trial.

NOTICE – Formal notification to the party that has been sued in a civil case of the fact that the lawsuit has been filed.

NUNC PRO TUNC – An order to correct a previous order.

OATH – Written or oral pledge by a person to keep a promise or speak the truth.

OBJECTION – The process by which one party takes exception to some statement or procedure.  An objection is either sustained (allowed) or overruled by the judge.

PARENTING TIME – The right of a parent to visit or spend time with his or her children following separation or divorce.

PETITION – A written document initiating a lawsuit.

PLAINTIFF OR PETITIONER – The person initiating the lawsuit.

PLEADINGS – Written statements of fact and law filed by litigants in a lawsuit.

PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCE – A meeting between the parties to determine agreements, facts in dispute, and possibility of settling the case by agreement.

PRO BONO – Lawyers representing clients without a fee.

PRO SE – A Latin term meaning “on one’s own behalf.”  In courts, it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers; self-represented.

REQUEST FOR ADMISSIONS – Statements of facts sent to the other party for an agreement or disagreement.  If not denied, these facts are said to be true in trial.  Usually must be answered and returned within 30 days.

RESTRAINING ORDER – An order telling the defendant not to do something until a hearing on the issue being filed can occur.

RETURN – The act of an officer delivering back to the court a document with brief description of date, time, and type of service.

RULES OF EVIDENCE – Standards governing whether evidence in a case is admissible. See K.S.A. 60-401 and statutes following, available at www.kansas.gov under the Legislature’s website under “Statutes.”

SETTLEMENT – An agreement made between the parties.  An agreement must be put in written form and signed by both parties, then signed by the judge.

STAY – A court order halting a judicial proceeding.

SUBPOENA – A written court order compelling a witness to appear and testify.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT – A court decision made on evidence presented without a trial.

SUMMONS – A written notice to a party of a lawsuit.

SUSTAIN – A court ruling upholding an objection or a motion.

TIME TO PLEAD – The period of time allowed to file a pleading in a case, usually the filing of a response to a Petition, such as an Answer.

TRANSCRIPT – A written, word-for-word record of what was said, either in a proceeding such as a trial or during some other conversation, such as a hearing or oral deposition.

VACATE – To set aside.  To vacate a judgment is to set aside that judgment.

VENUE – The proper geographical area (county) in which a court with jurisdiction over the subject matter may hear a case.

WITH PREJUDICE [e.g., case dismissed with prejudice]– Plaintiff is forever barred from bringing a lawsuit on the same claim or cause.

WITHOUT PREJUDICE [e.g., case dismissed without prejudice]– May be the subject of a new lawsuit.

WITNESS – A person testifying to who, when, where, and what was experienced.

WRIT – A written judicial order directing a person to do something.