Supreme Court: Glossary of Commonly Used Terms

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abandonment: voluntary surrender of rights, property or status; voluntary desertion, as of a family.

abate: to terminate, remove, reduce.

abduction act of unlawfully taking away of a person by fraud, persuasion, or violence, usually defined by statute.

abet: to encourage or aid another, usually in relation to commission of a crime.

abscond: to intentionally absent or conceal oneself unlawfully in order to avoid a legal process.

abuse: a proceeding under Article 10 of the Family Court Act involving a child who has suffered injury or mistreatment as defined in Section 1012(e). The proceeding is designed to help safeguard the child's physical, mental and emotional well-being.

acknowledgment: Legal statement that is signed before a person authorized to take such acknowledgment as a Notary Public, Commissioner of Deeds, Attorney, or Clerk of the Court. This acknowledgment verifies the identity of the person signing the statement.

acknowledgment of paternity: a written instrument authorized by the social services Law and Public Health Law whereby a person admits that he is the biological father of a particular child. When properly executed and filed, the acknowledgment has the force and effect of an order of filiation.

acquit: the act of freeing a person from the charge of an offense by means of a decision, verdict or other legal process; to discharge

acquittal: the judgment of a court, based on the verdict of a jury or a judicial officer, that the defendant is not guilty of the offense(s) for which he or she has been tried.

action: a civil judicial proceeding whereby one party prosecutes another for a wrong done or for protection of a right or prevention of a wrong; requires service of process on adversary party or potentially adversary party

ad damnum: clause of a pleading alleging amount of loss or injury

adjournment: a temporary postponement of the proceedings of a case until a specified future time

adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACOD or ACD): the case will be dismissed after a certain time period if the offender meets conditions ordered by the Judge.

adjudicate: to hear or try and determine judicially

administrative judge: a judicial officer who supervises administrative functions and performs administrative tasks for a given court, sometimes in addition to performing regular judicial functions.

administration:Proceeding of an estate of a person who dies without leaving a will (intestate).

administrator: Person appointed by the court to act as fiduciary to settle the estate of a person who died without a will.

administrator c.t.a.: (Administrator with will attached - cum testamento annexo) Person appointed to be an administrator where an executor fails to qualify or is unable or ceases to act by reason of death, disqualification or renunciation or where no executor was named in the will.

administrator d.b.n.: (De bonis non - of goods not already administered) Any person to whom letters of administration have been issued as a successor to an administrator who has died or who has failed to complete the estate.

admission: voluntary acknowledgment of certain facts; or statement tending to prove guilt.

adoption: a legal proceeding under Article 6 FCA and Article 7 DRL whereby a person takes another person into the relation of child and thereby acquires the rights and incurs the responsibilities of parent in respect to such other person.

adversary system: the system of trial practice in the U.S. and some other countries in which each of the opposing, or adversary, parties has full opportunity to present and establish its opposing contentions before the court

advocate: a person who pleads another's cause.

affiant:Person who makes an affidavit.

affidavit: A statement of facts which is made voluntarily and confirmed by the oath or affirmation of the person making it.

affidavit of service: an affidavit intended to certify the service of a writ, notice, or other document

affinity:  related by marriage; family relation from one's spouse's family.

affirm: an act of declaring something to be true under the penalty of perjury by a person who conscientiously declines to take an oath for religious or other pertinent reasons

aggravated circumstances:  where a child has been either severely or repeatedly abused
as defined in SSL 384-b (8).

aider or abettor: accomplice who solicits or knowingly assisted another person to commit a crime.

A/K/A: abbreviation for "also known as."

alias: any name used for an official purpose that is different from a person's legal name.

allegation: the assertion, declaration, or statement of a party to an action, made in a pleading, setting out what the party expects to prove

alleged offender:  an accused party.

alternate juror: a juror selected as substitute in case another juror must leave the jury panel

amicus curiae: one who is not a party to an action but is permitted by the court to present his/her views

ancillary proceeding:Proceeding based upon an original probate or administration of an estate from a foreign country or another state leading to the ancillary probate of a will and/or appointment of a fiduciary in order to administer real or personal property within the State of New York.

annul: to make void, as to dissolve the bonds of marriage

answer: a paper submitted by a defendant in which he/she responds to and/or denies the allegations of the plaintiff

appeal: a legal proceeding by which a case is brought from a lower to a higher court for rehearing, corroboration, vindication or decision. An appeal may be taken to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the Judicial Department in which the Family Court whose order is appealed is located. An appeal may be taken as of right from any order of disposition and, in the discretion of the appropriate appellate division, from any other order under FCA 1112(a).

appearance: the participation in the proceedings by a party summoned in an action, either in person or through an attorney

appearance ticket: a written notice that is given to a juvenile delinquent buy the police after his or her arrest, directing that the juvenile appear at the probation department on a specific date for possible adjustment of the matter, prior to the filing of a petition.

appellant: the party who takes an appeal to a higher court

appellate judge: a judge in a court of appellate jurisdiction who primarily hears appellate cases, and also conducts disciplinary or impeachment proceedings.

appellee: the party against whom an appeal is taken

approval of foster care:a judicial proceeding under Section 358-a Social Services Law initiated when a social services official accepts or proposes to accept the custody and guardianship of a child by means of a written instrument, executed pursuant to Section 384 of the Social Services Law or Section 384-a of the Social Services Law or Section 502 of the Executive Law and the child is likely to remain in the care of such official for a period in excess of thirty (30) consecutive days.

arbitration: the submission voluntarily or involuntarily of a disputed matter to selected persons and the substitution of their award or decision for the judgment of a court or its confirmation by the court as a judgment of the court

arbitration (mandatory): arbitration which occurs pursuant to statutory provisions

argument: a reason given in proof or rebuttal

arrest report: the document prepared by the arresting officer describing an arrested person and the events and circumstances leading to the arrest.

arrest warrant: a document issued by a judicial officer which directs a law enforcement officer to arrest an identified person who has been accused of a specific offense.

arson: the intentional damaging or destruction or attempted damaging or destruction, by means of fire or explosion of the property of another without the consent of the owner, or of one's own property or that of another with intent to defraud.

assault:  unlawful intentional inflicting, or attempted or threatened inflicting, of injury upon the person of another.

assigned counsel: an attorney assigned by the court on a case-by-case basis to represent indigent defendants in court.

assignee:A person to whom a claim or right is transferred; one to whom an assignment is made.

at issue: whenever the parties to a suit come to a point in the pleadings which is affirmed on one side and denied on the other, they are said to be "at issue"

attempt:the intentional performance of an overt act directed toward the commission of a crime, with intent to commit the crime and ability to do so, but without completion of it.

attestation: the act of witnessing an instrument in writing at the request of the party making the same, and subscribing it as a witness

attestation clause: Paragraph appearing at the end of a will after the signature of the person making the will for the purpose of the attesting witnesses describing the signing or execution of the will.

attesting witness: Persons witnessing the actual signing of a (subscribing witness) will at the request of the person making the will or before whom the person making the will shows his signature on the will. At least two witnesses are required and they must sign below that of the person making the will.

attorney: a person educated in the law, admitted to practice before the bar of a given jurisdiction and authorized to advise, represent, and act for other persons in legal proceedings

attorney in fact: A person authorized by another to act in his/her place, either for some particular purpose or for the transaction of business in general. This authority is conferred by a written document called a "power of attorney."

attorney of record: attorney whose name appears in the permanent records or files of a case

authenticated copy: A reproduction of an original writing that has been certified or verified by a proper officer.

authentication:See exemplification.

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bail: the security given (or posted) to ensure the future appearance of a defendant

bail forfeiture: court decision that a party or surety has lost the right to the money or property pledged to guarantee court appearance.

bail revocation: court decision withdrawing the status of release on bail previously conferred upon a party.

beneficiary:Any person entitled to share in an estate.

bequest or legacy: A gift by will of money or other personal property.

bifurcated trial: a case in which the trial of the liability issue in a personal injury or wrongful death case is heard separate from and prior to trial of the damages in question

bill of particulars:factual detail submitted by a claimant after a request by the adverse party which details, clarifies or explains further the charges and/or facts alleged in a pleading

bond:An individual guarantee of performance. The insurance company is the surety which guarantees that the fiduciary will perform or that the insurance company will be liable.

brief: a written or printed document prepared by the lawyers on each side of a dispute and submitted to the court in support of their arguments - a brief includes the points of law which the lawyer wished to establish, the arguments the lawyer uses, and the legal authorities on which the lawyer rests his/her conclusions.

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calendar: a schedule of matters to be heard in court

calendar call: the calling of matters requiring parties, or their attorneys, to appear and be heard, usually done at the beginning of each court day

caption: in a pleading, deposition or other paper connected with a case in court, it is the heading or introductory clause which shows the names of the parties, name of the court, number of the case on the docket or calendar, etc.

case file: the court file containing papers submitted in a case

caseload: the number of cases requiring judicial action at a certain time, or the number of cases acted upon in a given court during a given time period.

case summary sheet:a document containing a running history of a particular case with events usually listed chronologically; also, referred to as "records of proceedings."

cause of action: the ground on which an action may be sustained

certificate:An instrument with court seal showing that authority has been granted to a fiduciary to act in that capacity and that the authority is in full force and effect on the date of the certificate.

certificate of readiness: a document attesting that the parties in a lawsuit are ready to go to trial

certification: Certificate signed by Chief Clerk, or Deputy Chief Clerk with court seal attached to a specific instrument indicating it to be a true copy of original filed with the court.

certify: to testify in writing

certiorari: a proceeding in the state Supreme Court under Art. 78 of the CPLR to review the decisions or actions of a public official or body, as in a tax certiorari matter, a review of the tax assessed challenge an exception taken to a juror before he/she is sworn challenge for a challenge based on a legally specified reason

change of venue: the removal of a suit begun in one county or district to another county or district for trial, though the term may also apply to the removal of a suit from one court to another court of the same county or district

charge to jury: in trial practice, an address delivered by the court to the jury at the close of the case instructing the jury as to what principles of law they are to apply in reaching a decision

chattel: article of personal property

child abuse: see abuse.

child neglect: see neglect.

child support: a sum to be paid pursuant to court order or decree by either or both parents or pursuant to a valid agreement between the parties for care, maintenance and education of any unemancipated child under the age of twenty-one (21) years.

child support standards ACT (CSSA):a comprehensive law enacted in 1995 which requires that
child support be determined by a formula based upon the applicable percentage of parental income. The "formula" in the statute must be utilized unless the court finds the application of the formula is unjust or inappropriate.

citation: 1) Surrogate's Court term for the process issued by the court to be served upon all interested parties to a proceeding (who have not waived or otherwise appeared) in order to secure jurisdiction over them in the proceeding and to give notice of the purpose of the proceeding. 2) reference to authorities in support of any argument

clerk's extract: a summary of a trial which is written by a clerk

clerk's minutes: notes, which are taken by a clerk, of events that occurred in court

COLA:  abbreviation for "cost of living adjustment", a process whereby support orders are automatically adjusted, depending upon changes in the federal cost of living index.

codicil to a will:An addition attached to, or accompanying an original will changing content of original will. A codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same manner as the will.

commissioner of jurors: a person in charge of summoning citizens for jury duty

committee: A guardian appointed by the court to handle the affairs of a person who has been judicially declared incompetent.

commitment order: a court order directing an officer to take a person to jail, mental health facility, detention facility or residential facility.

common law: the body of law which originated in England and upon which present day U.S. law is based.

compensatory damages: reimbursement for actual loss or injury, as distinguished from exemplary or punitive damages

complaint: the initial pleading in an action formally setting forth the facts and reasons on which the demand for relief is based

compromise account: An administrative accounting that results from the settlement of a cause of action (i.e., wrongful death). Generally, fewer schedules are filed than in a voluntary account.

concurrent jurisdiction:where two or more courts can hear the same case.

concurrently: at the same time.

consanguinity: related by blood.

condemnation: see eminent domain

conformed copy: An exact copy of a document with written explanations of things that could not be copies; e.g., a written signature might be replaced with a notation that it was signed by the person on the original.

conservator: A guardian, protector, preserver appointed by the court to manage the affairs of a conservatee.

conservatee: A person who has not been judicially declared incompetent, but has been determined by the court to be a person incapable of managing his/her affairs and for whom the court has appointed a person to do so.

consolidated action: two or more actions involving a common question of law or fact may be consolidated by the court; the actions then are merged, becoming one action with one title, and they result in one verdict and one judgment

contempt of court: an act or omission tending to obstruct or interfere with the orderly administration of justice or to impair the dignity of the court or respect for its authority

contested action: an action which involves disputed issue(s) of fact or law

contract: a legally enforceable agreement between two or more persons or parties (oral or written)

contributing to the delinquency of a minor -  the offense committed by an adult who in any manner causes, encourages or aids a juvenile to commit a crime or status offense.

corroborate: to strengthen; to add weight by additional evidence

costs: an allowance for expense in prosecuting or defending a suit (ordinarily does not include attorney's fees)

counterclaim: a claim by the defendant in a civil action that he/she is entitled to damages or other relief from the plaintiff

court calendar: the court schedule; the list of events comprising the daily or weekly work of a court, including the assignment of the time and place for each hearing or other item of business, or the list of matters which will be taken up in a given court term.

court decision:  any official determination made by a judicial officer; or any of several specific kinds of determinations made by particular courts.

court evaluator: An independent investigator appointed by the court to assist the court in making a determination about an individual's capacity, the availability and reliability of alternative resources and the assignment of appropriate powers to the guardian. See MHL 81.09.

court of record a court in which a complete and permanent record of all proceeding or specific types of proceedings is kept.

court order a mandate, command or direction issued by a judicial officer in the exercise of his/her judicial authority.

court reporter: a person who transcribes by shorthand or stenographically takes down testimony during court proceedings

creditor: Any person having a claim against a decedent or his/her estate.

criminal mischief: intentionally destroying or damaging, or attempting to destroy or damage, the property of another without consent, usually by a means other than burning.

crossclaim: claim litigated by co-defendants or co-plaintiffs against each other and not against a party on the opposite side of the litigation

cross-examination: questioning by a party or his attorney of an adverse party or a witness called by an adverse party

custody: legal or physical control of a person or thing; legal, supervisory or physical responsibility for a person or thing.

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damages: monetary recompense for a legal wrong obtained in successful action

date-stamp: the stamping on a document of the date it is received

deadly weapon: an instrument designed to inflict serious bodily injury or death, or capable of being used for such a purpose.

decision: the determination reached by a court in any judicial proceeding, which is the basis of the judgment

declaratory judgment: one fixing rights of parties without ordering anything to be done

decree: A final order signed by the Surrogate concluding the proceeding and determining the rights of the parties thereto.

default: a "default" in an action of law occurs when a defendant omits to plead or otherwise defend within the time allowed, or fails to appear at the trial

defendant: the party being sued or the party accused of committing the offense charged

deliberation: the process by which a panel of jurors comes to a decision on a verdict

deposition: Testimony taken in writing under oath.

designated felony: certain serious felonies committed by juveniles which are defined as designated felony acts. See FCA 301.2(8)

detention: a phrase used in a JD or PINS case, whereby a respondent is directed to reside in either a secure, or non-secure facility (as opposed to being released to a parent) during the pendency of the proceeding.

devise: A gift or transfer by will of real property.

devisee: Any person receiving a gift of real property under a will.

direct examination: the first interrogation of a witness by the party on whose behalf the witness is called

directed verdict: an instruction by the judge to the jury to return a specific verdict

discovery (or disclosure):a proceeding whereby one party to an action may be informed as to facts known by other parties or witnesses

dismissal: termination of a proceeding for a procedurally prescribed reason

dismissal without prejudice: permits the complainant to sue again on the same cause of action, while dismissal "with prejudice" bars the right to bring or maintain an action on the same claim or cause

dispose: the act of terminating a judicial proceeding

disposition: the result of a judicial proceeding by withdrawal, settlement, order, judgment or sentence

dissolution of marriage: the effect of a judgment of dissolution of marriage is to restore the parties to the state of unmarried persons

distributee: Any person who would share in an estate pursuant to EPTL 4-1.1 or EPTL 4-1.2 if decedent did not leave a will. Distributees are necessary parties to a probate proceeding because their right to share in the estate may be changed by the terms of the will.

docket: a document which summarizes a case

docket number:  a number assigned to a proceeding. See Section 205.7 of the Uniform Rules of the Family Court.

domestic incident report: the police form on which a domestic incident is reported.

domestic violence: criminal behavior that involves family or household members.

domestic violence registry: an automated registry that stores orders of protection and warrants.

domicile: A fixed, permanent and principal home to which a person wherever temporarily located always intends to return.

domiciliary: A person whose domicile is within the State of New York.

donee of a power minority: A person granted or deemed to have the power during minority to manage during property vested in an infant.

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emancipation: the act by which one who is under the control of another is set free. The term is usually used in regards to the emancipation of a minor child by his/her parents, which involves an entire surrender of the right to care, custody and earnings of such child as well as, the renunciation of parental rights.

eminent domain: the power to take private property for public use by condemnation, i.e., the legal process by which real estate of a private owner is taken for public use without the owner's consent, but upon the award and payment of just compensation

enjoin:to require a person, by writ of injunction from a court of equity, to perform or to abstain or desist from some act

equitable action (equity matter): an action which may be brought for the purpose of restraining the threatened infliction of wrongs or injuries, and the prevention of threatened illegal action; case in which payment of money damages will not be adequate compensation

equitable distribution: the power to distribute equitably upon divorce all property legally and beneficially acquired during marriage by husband and wife or either of them, whether legal title lies in their joint or individual names

estate:All of the property of a decedent, infant or trust as originally constituted, and as it from time to time exists during administration.

estop: to stop, bar, or impede

estoppel: a rule of law which prevents a person from alleging or denying a fact, because of his/her own previous act

et al: an abbreviation of et alia meaning "and others"

evidence:a form of proof or probative matter legally presented at the trial of an issue by the acts of the parties and through witnesses, records, documents, concrete objects, etc., for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or the jury

examination before trial (EBT): a formal interrogation of parties and witnesses before trial

execution: (1) the performance of all acts necessary to render a written instrument complete, such as signing, sealing, acknowledging, and delivering the instruments (2) supplementary proceedings to enforce a judgment, which, if monetary, involves a direction to the sheriff to take the necessary steps to collect the judgment

executor: Person named in a will to represent the estate. In order to act in such capacity, person must be appointed by the court.

exemplification (authentication): An official transcript under seal of a document from public records made in form to be used in evidence and authenticated as a true copy, whereby signatures of Chief Clerk and Surrogate were verified by each other.

exhibit: a paper, document or other article produced and exhibited to a court during a trial or hearing and, on being accepted, is marked for identification or admitted in evidence

ex parte: An application to the court made without notice to other parties.

expunge: the authorized act of physically destroying information, in files, computers or other depositories

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fact finding hearing: a proceeding in Family Court where the Judge/Judicial Hearing Officer/Court Magistrate hears the facts of a case and evidence from both sides.

family offense: certain criminal acts as defined in FCA 812 as committed by members of the same family or household, meaning persons related by consanguinity or affinity; persons legally married to one another; persons formally married to one another; persons who have a child in common regardless whether such persons have lived together at any time.

family tree: A chart showing decedent's distributees.

family unit number: a unique number that is assigned to a case file identifying members of the same family.

fee: a fixed charge for service rendered on behalf of court

felony:crime punishable by more than one year in jail.

fiduciary:Representative of an estate appointed by the court as executor, administrator, guardian, trustee or conservator and their successors [SCPA 103 (21)].

filiation: judicial determination of paternity.

finding: the court's or jury's decision on issues of fact

fine: a sum imposed as punishment for an offense

foreclosure: a legal proceeding that bars or extinguishes right

foreperson: a member of a jury, usually the first juror called and sworn, or a juror elected by fellow jurors, who delivers the verdict to the court

foster care:   the placement of a child for temporary or long term care with an authorized agency.

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garnish: to attach a portion of the wages or other property of a debtor to secure repayment of the debt

garnishee: person garnished

guardian: Any person to whom letters of guardianship whether of the person, property or both, of an infant or mentally retarded or developmentally disabled person have been issued by a court of this state.

guardian ad litem: An attorney appointed by the court to protect in a proceeding the interests of an infant or a person under disability.

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HLA: abbreviation for human leukocyte antigen, a type of paternity test that is based upon blood and tissue analysis. The HLA paternity test is less reliable than the DNA test.

habeas corpus: "You have the body." - the name given a variety of writs whose object is to bring a person before a court or judge - in most common usage, it is directed to the official or person detaining another, commanding him/her to produce the body of a person detained so the court may determine if such person has been denied his/her liberty without due process of law

harassment:  words, gestures, actions and/or physical contact which annoy, threaten or alarm another.

hearing: a preliminary examination where evidence is taken for the purpose of determining an issue of fact and reaching a decision on the basis of that evidence

hearing examiner/court magistrate: a person who is empowered to hear, determine and grant any relief within the power of Family Court as defined in FCA 439, regarding support and paternity.

hearsay: a type of testimony given by a witness who relates not what he/she knows personally, but what others have told the witness, or what the witness has heard said by others; may be admissible or inadmissible in court depending upon rules of evidence

hung jury: a jury whose members cannot reconcile their differences of opinion and thus cannot reach a verdict

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

in camera: in the judge's chamber out of the presence of the jury and the public

incapacitated person:Any person who, for any cause, is incapable to adequately protect his/her rights, although not judicially declared an incompetent.

income execution: a legally binding document issued by the support collection unit, or by the sheriff, the clerk of court or the attorney for the creditor as an officer of the court to enforce an existing support order when a debtor is in default, See Section 5241 of the CPLR.

incompetency: lack of legal qualification or fitness (physical, intellectual or moral fitness) to discharge a legally required duty or to handle one's own affairs; also relates to matters not admissible in evidence

index number: a number issued by the county clerk, which is used to identify a case - in civil matters there is usually a charge

indigent: an individual who lacks sufficient funds to retain private counsel.

individual assignment system (IAS): a system, established for all civil actions and proceedings heard in Supreme and County Court, which provides for the continuous supervision of each action and proceeding by a single judge (NYS)

infant:Any person under eighteen (18) years of age in the State of New York; provided however, that such definition shall not be applicable to any provision relating to the N.Y. Uniform Gifts to Minors Act, N.Y. Uniform Transfer to Minors Act nor SCPA 1716.

infant's compromise: a civil proceeding or motion for obtaining court approval of the settlement of an infant's claim

injunction: a court order for a party to stop doing or to start doing a specific act

inquest: a proceeding which usually is a limited non-jury trial for the purpose of fixing the amount of damages

interlocutory:provisional; temporary; not final - refers to orders and decrees of a court

inter pleader: action by which one having possession of an article or fund claimed by two parties may compel them to litigate the title between themselves, instead of with him/her

interpreter: a person sworn at a judicial proceeding to translate oral or written language

interrogatories: written questions propounded by one party and served on an adversary, who must provide written answers thereto under oath

inter vivos trust:See lifetime trust.

internee: A person detained or interned by an enemy country, having an interest in property in this state and due to the internment, is unable to care for this property.

intestate estate: An estate of a person who died without a will.

issue: The descendants in any degree from a common ancestor including adopted children (EPTL 1-2.10).

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joint trial: two or more actions involving a common question of law or fact may be joined by court order for trial - the actions are not merged but remain separate and distinct and may result in one or more verdicts and judgments

judgment: the final determination of the rights of the parties in an action or proceeding

judgment roll: a record of the judgment with the supporting papers

judicial hearing officer (JHO): a person who has served as a judge or justice of a court of record of the Unified Court System, and who no longer is serving in such capacity, except a person who was removed from a judicial position pursuant to Section 22 of Article VI of the Constitution

judicial settlement: A formal proceeding with notice to and the securing of jurisdiction over interested parties, whereby the court reviews and approves the account filed by the fiduciary of his/her administration of the estate and is adjudicated by decree of the court.

jurat: The clause written at the bottom of an affidavit stating when, where and before whom such affidavit was sworn.

jurisdiction: The geographic limits in which the court's authority can be exercised. Also refers to the power of the court to handle certain proceedings prescribed by law. (See Surrogate's Court.)

jury: a prescribed number of persons selected according to law and sworn to make findings of fact

jury (advisory): a body of jurors impaneled to hear a case in which the parties have no right to a jury trial - the judge remains solely responsible for the findings and may accept or reject the jury's verdict

jury instructions: directions given by the judge to the jury

juvenile delinquent:  a person over seven (7) and less than sixteen (16) years of age, who, having committed an act that would constitute a crime if committed by an adult. See FCA 301.2.

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laches: the failure to diligently assert a right, which results in a refusal to allow relief

law guardian: an attorney appointed to represent the interests of a child in a proceeding.

legal aid: system by which legal services are rendered to those in financial need who cannot afford private counsel

legatee: Any person designated to receive a transfer by will of personal property.

letters: Letters are the documents with court seal showing the authority given in a decree signed by the Surrogate designating the person(s) or corporation to act as fiduciary.

letters of administration
letters testamentary
letters of guardianship
preliminary letters
letters of administration c.t.a.
letters of administration d.b.n.
letters of trusteeship

liability: an obligation to do, to eventually do, or to refrain from doing something; money owed; or according to law one's responsibility for his/her conduct; or one's responsibility for causing an injury

liber: a book used for keeping a record of specific documents or events having legal effect

lien: a claim upon the property of another as security for some debt

lifetime trust (inter vivos trust): An express trust, including all amendments thereto, created during the grantor's lifetime other than a trust for the benefit of creditors, a resulting or constructive trust, a business trust where certificates of beneficial interest are issued to the beneficiary, an investment trust, voting trust, a security instrument such as a deed of trust and a mortgage, a trust created by the judgment or decree of a court, a liquidation or reorganization trust, .

limited letters: Document with court seal showing the authority given to a person or persons in a decree signed by the Surrogate designating that person or persons to act as fiduciary with specific limitations and restriction on he authority of the fiduciary so noted.

long form order: an order prepared by counsel for signature of the court (usually based on a memorandum decision)

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maintenance: the furnishing by one person to another the means of living, or food, clothing, shelter, etc., particularly where the legal relations of the parties is such that one is bound to support the other, as between parent and child or between spouses

material witness: person whose testimony on some issue has been judicially determined as relevant and substantial

memorandum decision: a written opinion or decision of a court on a litigated question, giving the court's conclusion on factual and legal issues (this may constitute the order of the court if so stated)

memorandum opinion: memorandum in writing, which is a very brief statement of the reasons for a decision, without detailed explanation

menacing: threatening or dangerous behavior which puts one in fear of immediate serious physical injury.

minor: Any child under the age of eighteen (18) years in the State of New York.

minutes: a record of court proceedings kept by noting significant events

misdemeanor: a crime punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment for up to one year.

mistrial: a trial which has been terminated and declared void prior to the reaching of verdict due to extraordinary circumstance, serious prejudicial misconduct or hung jury - it does not result in a judgment for any party but merely indicates a failure of trial

modification a change or alteration to an order introducing or canceling stipulations to that order while leaving the general purpose and effect of the order intact.

moot: (adj.) unsettled, undecided, not necessary to be decided

motion: an oral or written request to the court made by a party for a ruling or order

movant: the party who initiates the motion

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neglect:  a proceeding under Article 10 of the Family Court Act involving a child who has suffered injury or mistreatment as defined in Section 1012(f). The proceeding is designed to help safeguard the child's physical, mental and emotional well-being.

negligence: conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm

non-marital child: Child born out-of-wedlock.

note of issue: a document filed with the court placing a cause on the trial calendar

nunc pro tunc: (now for then) presently considered as if occurring at an earlier date; effective retroactively

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ORI number: the identification number which is assigned to a court or enforcement agency by the National Crime Information Center.

oath and designation: A sworn statement taken before an officer authorized to administer oaths by a person in order to become a fiduciary. An oath states that the person will faithfully and honestly discharge the duties of his office. Designation authorizes the Chief Clerk to receive process issuing from his/her Surrogate's Court.

objection: A verified written statement in opposition to the relief sought in a petition.

objections to hearing:  similar to an appeal except that the review of the hearing

obligee: one who is entitled to receive a sum of money or to have an act or deed performed as promised by an obligor.

obligor: one who has promised or is otherwise obligated to perform an act or deed, such as the payment of a sum of money.

opening statement: the first address of counsel prior to offering of evidence

oral proof: evidence given by word of mouth; the oral testimony of a witness

order: Direction by the court requiring an expeditious determination for relief sought. See process.

order of protection:a court order forbidding certain behavior by the respondent/defendant (the offender).

order to produce:  a written command of the court (judge or Court Magistrate) directing that a prisoner be brought to the court on a date certain for a hearing. The prisoner may be either a party or a witness in the proceeding

order to show cause: Direction by the court requiring an expeditious determination for relief sought. See process.

original petition: the petition that is the first petition filed by a party seeking an order under the Family Court Act.

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palimony: term has meaning similar to alimony' except that award, settlement or agreement arises out of non-marital relationship of parties (i.e., non-marital partners)

parcel: a tract or a plot of land

part: a court room where specified business of a court is to be conducted by a judicial officer

parties: the litigants in a legal proceeding

payee:  any person to whom a debt should be paid; creditor.

payer: one who pays a debt or is obligated to pay a debt; debtor.

per capita: A method of distributing estate assets, whereby each beneficiary receives an equal share.

peremptory challenge: the challenge which may be used to reject a certain number of prospective jurors without assigning any reason

perjury: the act of lying or stating falsely under oath

person in need of  supervisions-PINS- an individual less than sixteen (16) years of age who does not attend school, is incorrigible, ungovernable or habitually disobedient and beyond the lawful control of parent or other lawful authority or who violates Section 221.05 of the Penal Law (unlawful possession of marihuana). See FCA 712.

per stirpes: A distribution of property made to persons who take as issue, the share which their deceased ancestor would take if living. See representation.

persons interested: Any person entitled either absolutely or contingently to share as beneficiary in the estate or the trustee in bankruptcy or receiver of such person. A creditor shall be deemed a person interested. Where the Surrogate's Court Procedure Act provides that a "person interested" may apply for relief, a verified allegation of an interest in fact, suffices for the purpose of the application, although the interest may be disputed, unless or until the fact of interest has been judicially determined and no appeal is pending therefrom.

person under disability:Any person who is (a) an infant, (b) an incompetent, (c) an incapacitated person, (d) unknown or whose whereabouts are unknown, or (e) confined as a prisoner who fails to appear under circumstances which the court finds are due to confinement in a penal institution.

petition: A verified written request to commence any proceeding for specific relief.

petitioner: A person who signs and verifies a petition.

petit jury: the ordinary jury for the trial of a civil case (so called to distinguish it from the grand jury)

plaintiff: the party bringing a civil action

pleadings: complaint or petition, answer, and reply

polling the jury: a practice whereby the jurors are asked individually whether they assented, and still assent, to the verdict

power of attorney: instrument authorizing one to act legally for another either generally or in a specified matter

precedent:previously adjudged action or decision on same or similar point, serving as a rule or example for present guidance

preliminary executor:Person appointed as fiduciary prior to a will being admitted to probate or administration of an estate, with no power to make distribution of estate assets pursuant to the will until such time as the will has been admitted to probate.

presentation agency -the prosecutor in a JD case, referring either to the Corporation Counsel in NYC, or to the County Attorney in counties outside the City of New York.

probable cause:a preliminary judicial finding that a judge may be required to make in several types of Family Court proceedings, whereby the court must determine whether it is likely that a particular act or event has occurred, or not occurred.

probate: Proceeding of an estate of a person who dies leaving a will; the filing and proving of that will.

proceeding: the succession of events constituting the process by which judicial action is invoked and utilized pursuant to procedure

process: Statutory method necessary for the court to act and used by the court to put interested parties on notice of a petition and obtain jurisdiction over them.

order to show cause

pro se: for oneself; in one's own behalf; in person; a pro se party is one who, without representation, acts as his/her own attorney

property: Anything that may be the subject of ownership and is real or personal property. Personal property includes bank accounts, cash, personal belongings, household furnishings, etc. Real property includes land, buildings thereon.

proponent: Person who institutes a proceeding to prove a will.

Putnam Hearing: A proceeding to determine impropriety when an attorney who draws a will is also a legatee, or where there is reason to believe that any professional person has exerted undue influence on the deceased prior to writing of will.

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reckless endangerment: conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious injury or death to another person.

redact: to edit, revise

referee: a person to whom a cause pending in a court is referred by the court to take testimony, hear the parties, and report thereon to the court, or to make a judicial determination - the referee is an officer exercising judicial powers and is an arm of the court for a specific purpose

registration: the act of filing an order issued by another state with the clerk of the Family Court. When registration is complete, the order issued by another state may be treated as a New York order.

remainderman: One who is entitled to have distributed to him/her the remainder of an estate upon the expiration or termination of a trust or life tenancy.

remand: to send a case back from an appellate court to the lower court from which it came, for further proceedings

remittitur: legal process by which an appellate court transmits to the court below the proceedings before it, together with its decision, for such further action and entry of judgment as is required by the decision of the appellate court

renunciation of fiduciary letters: An acknowledged statement of a person or corporation that he/she/it is unwilling or unable to act in a fiduciary capacity.

replevin: an action brought for the owner of items to recover possession of those items when those items were wrongfully taken or are being wrongfully kept

representation: A per capita distribution at each generational level (EPTL 1-2.16).

reply: a plaintiff's response to a defendant's answer when the answer contains a counterclaim

residence: A place in which a person lives with or without an intention to make it a permanent home.

res judicata:a thing judicially acted upon or decided

respondent: Every party to a proceeding except a petitioner.

restitution:when the court orders a person to pay for the damages; i.e., medical bills, property damage.

restore/ reinstate to calendar: to reinstate the action to active inventory

retardate: A mentally retarded person [MHL 1.03 (21)].

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sanction: a penalty or punishment provided as a means of enforcing obedience to a law, rule or code; also, an authorization

seal: to close a case file from public scrutiny - in instances of youthful offenders and acquittal, sealing orders are issued by the court to prevent the public from obtaining information on the cases

self-represented: Any person who represents himself/herself in a court proceeding.

separation: in matrimonial law, a cessation of cohabitation of husband and wife by mutual agreement, or in the case of "judicial separation," under the decree of a court

sequester: to separate, set apart, hold aside for safekeeping or awaiting some determination; jurors are sequestered when not permitted to return home until the case is closed

service of process: Statutory method by which process is delivered (SCPA Section 307 and CPLR Section 308).

service: the exhibition or delivery of a writ, notice, etc., officially notifying a person of some action or proceeding in which that person is concerned

short form order: an order prepared by the court

show cause: an order, decree, execution, etc., to appear as directed, and present to the court such reasons and considerations as one has to offer why it should not be confirmed, take effect, be executed, or as the case may be

small claims assessment review (SCAR): filing by any person aggrieved by an assessment of a one, two or three family, owner occupied residential structure used for residential purposes (including condominiums) (NYS)

small estate proceeding: A SCPA Art. 13 proceeding for a voluntary administration of an estate, for which the gross or date of death value does not exceed the statutory limit based upon the date of death.

special master: a special master is an attorney appointed on an ad hoc basis to assist the court in hearing motions (NYS)

special proceedings:general term for remedies or proceedings which are not ordinary actions, e.g., condemnation

special referee (or referee): the special referee has the authority to exercise judicial functions when assigned duties by the court to determine the following (1) to determine an issue (binding) (2) to perform an act (disclosure) (3) to hear and report - matrimonial actions may be included (NYS)

special term: a court part set aside to hear specific types of cases

special verdict:a special finding of the facts of a case by a jury leaving to the court the application of the law to the facts thus found

stalking: to follow a person without their permission or against their will.

status offense:  the term often used to describe a PINS ( Person in Need of Supervision) referring to a non-criminal offense.

statute of limitations: a statute that declares that no actions of a specified kind be commenced after a specified period of time after the cause of action arose

stay:a stopping or suspension of procedure or execution by judicial or executive order

stipulation: an agreement by attorneys on opposite sides of a case as to any matter pertaining to the proceedings or trial - most stipulations must be in writing

sua sponte: upon its own motion, initiation or will; without a prior request

subpoena: A direction of the court issued by an attorney or the court, commanding a person to appear in court.

subpoena duces tecum: A subpoena commanding a person to produce in court, certain designated documents or records.

summary judgment: a determination in an action on the grounds that there is no genuine issue of fact

summons: a process served by a plaintiff or a defendant to commence a civil action

supplemental petition: a petition that is filed by a party which seeks to change, enforce or review the order of the court which was previously entered in disposition of an original petition.

supplementary proceedings: further inquiry, under court jurisdiction, after entry of judgment, to determine means for enforcing the judgment against judgment debtor

surety: one who formally contracts to be responsible for the obligations of another person

Surrogate's Court: Court of law and record that has jurisdiction over all actions and proceedings relating to the affairs of decedents, probate of wills, administration of estates, appointment of guardians and supervision of fiduciaries (SCPA 201).

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temporary administrator:Person appointed as fiduciary of an estate with or without a will to collect and manage, but not distribute the assets of an estate until a permanent administrator is appointed.

testate estate: An estate of a decedent leaving a valid will.

testator: A person who makes or has made a testament or will; one who dies leaving a will.

testimony: an oral declaration made by a witness or party under oath

tort: an injury or wrong committed, either with or without force, and either intentionally or negligently, to the person or property of another

transcript: the official record of proceedings in a trial or hearing

transfer:the removal of a cause from the jurisdiction of one court or judge to another by lawful authority

trial:the formal examination of a legal controversy in court so as to determine the issue

trial assignment part (TAP): that part of the court which assigns cases for trial (NYS)

trustee:A fiduciary named in a will or trust instrument to be responsible for property to be managed and used for the benefit of a beneficiary.

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UIFSA: the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. This law replaced USDL in 1997 and provides procedures for support cases involving parties living in different states.

undertaking:  either written with sufficient surety approved by the court or cash posted to secure compliance by the respondent with the order for support for a specified period of time.

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vacate: to set aside a previous action

venire: technically, a writ summoning persons to court to act as jurors; popularly used as meaning the body of names thus summoned

venue: the particular county, city or geographical area in which a court with jurisdiction may hear and determine a case

verdict: the determination of a jury on the facts

verification: A sworn statement by a person signing a petition that the statements made in the petition are true.

violation: failure to comply with a Family Court order.

voir dire: a questioning of prospective jurors by the attorneys, and, on application of any party, by the judge, to see if any of them should be disqualified or removed by challenge or examination

voluntary administrator: A person authorized to act under SCPA Art. 13 as administrator to settle a small estate.

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waiver:An instrument signed by an interested party permitting the court to dispense with process.

warrant: a written order directing the arrest of a person issued by an authority - warrants are "issued," "executed" or "canceled"

will: A statement disposing of a person's property upon his/her death.

with prejudice: the term, as applied to judgment of dismissal, is as conclusive of rights of parties as if action had been prosecuted to final adjudication adverse to the plaintiff

without prejudice: a dismissal "without prejudice" allows a new suit to be brought on the same cause of action

witness: one who testifies to what he/she has seen, heard, or otherwise observed

writ: an order issuing from a court of justice and requiring the performance of a specified act, or giving authority and commission to have it done

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