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Civil Legal Terminology

Affidavit: A written or printed declaration or statement of facts, made voluntarily, and confirmed by the oath or affirmation of a party making it, taken before a person having authority to administer such oath or affirmation.

Alias: A Summons issued when the original is defective in form or manner of service.

Answer: Response of the Defendant to the allegations and any claims the defendant might have against the Plaintiff.

Bankruptcy: Stays proceedings and does not allow you to take any action nor issue any process without an order from the Court.

Bankruptcy Discharged: Creditor is barred from collecting judgment.

Bankruptcy Dismissed: Creditor may proceed on collection of judgment.

Citation: An order to appear in court at a certain place at a specified time. Issuance of a citation is not an arrest.

Complaint: Document which officially commences the suit against a person or persons stating the amount claimed and the reason for the claim.

Counterclaim: A complaint filed by the Defendant against the Plaintiff.

Damages: The monetary compensation which may be recovered by a party for personal injury, or loss or damage to one’s property or rights as a result.

Default: If the Defendant does not appear at the time of the hearing or file an answer, the Court may enter “default” or “failure to appear/answer” which entitles the Plaintiff to all relief asked for in the complaint.

Defendant: The person, persons, company or entity that the case is filed against.

Dismissal: The termination of a case.

Dismissal with Prejudice: When a case is dismissed for good reason and the plaintiff is barred from bringing an action on the same claim.

Dismissal without Prejudice: The dismissal of a case while allowing the party to sue again on the same cause of action at some future time.

Docket: A schedule of proceedings.

Evidence: The testimony, writings, material objects, or other things presented to the senses that are offered to prove the existence or nonexistence of a fact.

Exhibit: A paper document or other physical object introduced into evidence during a trial, hearing or deposition.

F.E.D: Forcible Entry and Detainer (eviction)

Interrogatories: Written set of questions served on the Judgment Debtor asking them to reveal their assets.

Judgment: In a civil case, the official decision of a court determining the rights of the parties involved.

Judgment Creditor: The person(s), company or entity who should receive the money as ordered by the court.

Judgment Debtor: The person(s), company or other entity who owes the money as ordered by the court.

Plaintiff: The person, persons, company or entity filing a Complaint against another person, persons, company or entity.

Return Date: The date the Defendant must file his/her answer by and/or appear in Court, which is listed on the Summons.

Service of Process: (Return of Service, Affidavit of Service) The official means by which a Defendant is notified that a lawsuit has been filed against him/her and provided a copy of the complaint and a description of the person’s rights and obligations as a party to the case.

Stipulation: An agreement between involved parties.

Summons: Document telling the Defendant when and where to appear and the other requirements the Defendant must perform.

Writ of Restitution: A legal order signed by the Court authorizing the Sheriff to evict the Defendant. It is effective 48 hours after the judge grants a judgment of possession, unless other terms are ordered.

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