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Legal Terms Glossary

C

CALENDAR
A list of all the court's civil and criminal unfinished cases; to place on the court's schedule.
CASE
A legal dispute brought before a court. A "case" is also called an "action," "lawsuit," "cause of action," or "cause."
CASE FILE
the folder that has the official court papers for a case.
CASELAW
Law made by courts in earlier decisions. Lower court judges must follow this law when they decide a case.
CASELOAD
The number of cases a judge handles in a specific time period.
CAUSE OF ACTION, CAUSE
1. A legal dispute brought before a court, also called an "action," "lawsuit," or "case."
2. The facts or charges that make up a lawsuit and give a person the right to come to court for relief, also called a "claim."
CERTIFICATION
1. The act of attesting or saying that the thing certified is true or genuine.
2. In terms of mental health, the doctor's written report deciding that that the person requires mental health treatment. The report or certification must include enough facts to justify the judge's opinion and conclusion.
CERTIFIED COPY
A copy of a legal document or other official record that is signed and sworn to be an exact copy of the real document by the person whose job is to keep the record.
CERTIFY
To vouch for something in writing; to say or swear in writing that the thing is true or genuine, or the real thing; especially a document.
CHALLENGE
1. To ask that a member of the jury panel be excused.
2. To object to or question something in a legal case.
CHARGE TO THE JURY
The judge's instructions to the jury how to discuss and decide the case. It includes the law that relates to the issues in the case the jury must decide.
CHIEF JUDGE
The judge in charge of a trial court's operation. The Chief Judge is assigned by the Michigan Supreme court. Ottawa County has one chief judge of the Circuit Court and one chief judge of the district court. See MCR 8.110.
CHILD ABUSE
When a parent or other adult treats a child badly, by hurting them physically or mentally.
CHILD BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK
1. The child of a woman who was not married between the time she got pregnant and the time the baby was born.
2. A child who the court decides was born while the woman was married, but is not her husband's biological child. See MCL 722.711(a).
CHILD CUSTODY
The responsibility to take care of and raise a child. The court may give a parent custody (known as "award custody") in a domestic relations proceeding.
CHILD CUSTODY EVALUATION
A study by an expert, usually a friend of the court evaluator, of the parenting skills and relationship of the child with each parent. The goal is to decide what is in the "best interest of the child." (See BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD). When the parents can't agree on custody and visitation, the court may order an evaluation to help decide the issue.
CHILD NEGLECT
When a parent or other adult responsible for a child does not take proper care of the child. Neglect can be failing to provide a safe and healthy home, good physical care (food, clothing, etc), needed medical care, or education.
CHILD PROTECTIVE PROCEEDINGS
Court hearings held in family court about abused or neglected children under age 18. See MCL 712A.2(b).
CHILD SUPPORT
Money paid by a parent to help support their child or children. The court orders it. It is supposed to be used for the child's needs, including medical, dental, educational, and child care. See also SUPPORT ORDER.
CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT AGENCY
The agency in each state that collects and pays out child support money. It is also called a "IV-D agency."
CHILD SUPPORT FORMULA
What the Friend of the Court or the prosecuting attorney uses to decide how much child support to recommend. The standard formula is set by Michigan law. The formula uses both parents' income, how many children they have, and other things to figure out the right amount of support. The court must order this amount unless it decides (and clearly explains why) the amount would be "unjust or inappropriate."
CHILDREN'S PROTECTIVE SERVICES ("CPS")
The state agency that investigates possible cases of child abuse or neglect, and helps families prevent abuse or neglect. See MCL 722.622.
CIRCUIT COURT
The Circuit Court may hear any case except those that, by law, another trial court must hear. The Circuit Court handles all criminal cases involving a felony; all civil cases that involve $25,000 or more; divorce and custody cases; personal protection orders (PPO) and other matters. See also ADOPTION, CONSERVATOR, DOMESTIC RELATIONS ACTION, CHILD PROTECTIVE PROCEEDINGS, EMANCIPATION, EQUITY, FAMILY DIVISION OF CIRCUIT COURT, FELONY, GUARDIAN, INJUNCTION, JUVENILE DELINQUENCY PROCEEDINGS, PERSONAL PROTECTION ORDER, SUPERINTENDING CONTROL.
CITATION
1. The original (court) copy of a "traffic ticket." It is also a "complaint" because it tells the defendant what the charges are and requires the defendant to go to court or post bail.
2. A reference to legal authority (court cases or statutes) in legal papers or during a hearing that supports a lawyer's statement of law or is the source of a lawyer's took the quote. It is like a footnote-that is, the directions to the source.
CIVIL ACTION OR LAWSUIT
A non-criminal case involving claims of one person against another.
CIVIL INFRACTION
An act or failure to act that is against the law, but not a crime because it is less serious and cannot be punished by jail or prison. For example, a traffic violation is a civil infraction.
CIVIL INFRACTION DETERMINATION
A decision whether a person is responsible for a civil infraction by one of the following:
1. The person admits responsibility (that is, says that he or she broke the law)
2. The person admits responsibility but explains that there was a good reason he or she did.
3. A judge holds an informal or formal hearing
4. A judge grants a "default judgment" because the person didn't show up for the scheduled hearing.
CIVIL INFRACTION FORMAL HEARING
A hearing before a district court judge to decide whether the person is responsible for the civil infraction. A prosecutor, the police officer who wrote the ticket, the defendant, and any witnesses take part. The defendant may have a lawyer with him or her.
CIVIL INFRACTION INFORMAL HEARING
A hearing before a district court judge (or possibly a magistrate) to decide whether the person is responsible for the civil infraction. Only the police officer who wrote the ticket, the defendant, and any witnesses take part. The defendant may not have a lawyer with him or her and no prosecutor takes part. The person may appeal the decision to a formal hearing.
CIVIL INFRACTION SANCTION
The penalty the court orders when it finds a person responsible for a civil infraction. It may include payment of fines and court costs, or attending driver's training or a drug or alcohol abuse program.
CIVIL LAW
Laws that give or protect private, individual rights or civil rights, and the remedies for breaking them. Breaking them is not a crime.
CLAIM
1. The right to relief from a court, also called a "cause of action."
2. The right to collect money that is owed to you from the assets or property of another person. It can be money owed by someone who died (then you have a claim against the estate), or by a minor, ward of the court, or someone who has been found legally unable to take care of him or her self.
CLAIM OF APPEAL
The form or paper that is filed indicating an appeal is being taken. The original is filed with court where appeal is going to take place and a copy with trial court.
One who has a claim or makes a claim to something.
CLERK of the COURT
a person who helps the judge manage cases, keep court records, take care of money matters and other paperwork.
CODICIL
A document that amends or changes a will.
COMMIT
To send a person to prison, jail, reformatory, mental hospital or other facility by court order.
COMMITMENT
The court's order by which it commits or sends:
1. A person to prison or jail to serve his or her sentence
2. A person to a hospital because of a mental illness or disorder.
COMMON LAW
A body of law based on earlier court decisions, old English law, and society's customs,not on statutes. In Michigan, the common law is still in effect unless there is a statute (a law passed by the legislature) that changed or repealed it.
COMPETENCY, COMPETENT
A witness' ability to see, remember, and tell what happened so that he or she is able to give testimony in court. It also applies to documents and other evidence.
In criminal trials, defendants must be "competent" to stand trial. That is, they must understand what crime they are accused of committing and what is happening in court, and be able to help their lawyer defend them.
COMPLAINANT
In a civil case, the party who sues or files the complaint; also called the "plaintiff." In a criminal case, it is the person who starts the prosecution. Often it is the victim of a crime, sometimes it is a parent or other adult. Also called the "complaining witness."
COMPLAINT
In a civil lawsuit, the first paper filed with the court in which the plaintiff gives the reasons for the suit. In a criminal case, it is the formal written document stating what crimes the defendant is accused of committing.
CONCILIATION
A type of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to "conciliator" (a third person who has no interest in the dispute), who helps lower tensions, improve communications, and explore possible solutions. If the parties can't agree on a solution, the conciliator may write a recommendation to the judge, and the recommendation may become the court's order unless one of the parties objects to it. See MEDIATION.
CONCURRENT SENTENCES
Prison or jail sentences for more than one crime that are served at the same time. For example, if you have concurrent sentences of 10 years and 5 years, you must serve a total of 5 years. In Michigan, sentences "run concurrently" unless there is a specific law that requires them to be served "consecutively." See also CONSECUTIVE SENTENCE.
CONDEMNATION
1. The process by which the government (or government agency) takes private property for public use. The government must pay just compensation, that is, a fair price.
2. When a court orders property destroyed because it is a danger to public health or safety.
CONFESSION
A person's statement, in writing or orally, that he or she committed a crime. The person must admit that he or she did each act that makes of the crime. Otherwise, the statement is an admission, not a confession.
CONSECUTIVE SENTENCE
Prison or jail sentences for more than one crime that must be served one after the other. For example, if you have consecutive sentences for 2 years and 10 years, you must serve a total of 12 years (first the 2 years, then the 10 years). In Michigan, only certain crimes may have consecutive sentences. See also CONCURRENT SENTENCES.
CONSERVATOR
Someone chosen by the court to take care of the property of someone who can't take care of it him or herself because the person is under age 18 or is "legally incapacitated. See also ESTATE, GUARDIAN, LEGALLY INCAPACITATED PERSON, MICHIGAN REVISED PROBATE CODE, PROTECTED PERSON, WARD.
CONTEMNOR
One who commits an act in contempt of court.
CONTEMPT OF COURT
An act or failure to act that (1) violates a court order, (2) prevents justice from being done, or (3) is disrespectful to the court and its authority. Punishment can be a fine or jail time. Civil contempt punishment is used to make someone comply with an order. Criminal contempt punishment is used to punish someone who has already disobeyed the order.
CONTESTED
A kind of case where both sides present evidence.
CONTINUANCE
Postponement or delay of a court hearing or trial to a later time. See ADJOURNMENT.
CONTINUING EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION
The court of continuing exclusive jurisdiction is the one that has control over a child support case until another court takes it away. This is because only one support order at a time is valid between the same people and only one court at a time has jurisdiction (the power to hear the case). This is explained in the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).
CONTRACT
An agreement between two or more parties to do, or not do, a particular thing. The agreement (an exchange of promises) can be stated orally or placed in writing. In some cases, the parties' actions show that they have an agreement even if there isn't one in writing.
CONVERSION
Wrongfully taking control over someone else's property and treating it as if it's your own.
CONVEY
1. To transfer or give title or ownership of property to someone else.
2. To carry from one place to another.
3. To make known or communicate.
CONVEYANCE
1. The transfer of a title (ownership) to property from one person to another.
2. The instruments in writing (documents) which transfers the title.
CONVICT
1. To find a person guilty of a crime in a criminal trial.
2. Someone who has been found guilty of a crime.
CONVICTION
When a judge or jury finds the criminal defendant guilty of the crime.
COUNSEL
A lawyer who gives legal advice. Another name for attorney or lawyer.
COUNTERCLAIM
In a civil lawsuit, a claim that the defendant brings against the plaintiff. See MCR 2.203(C) and CLAIM.
COURT OF APPEALS
The Michigan court that hears and decides appeals from probate courts, circuit courts, and the court of claims.
COURT RECORDER
A person employed by the court who records what happens in court using an electronic recording device, so that a word by word, written copy (or transcript ) can be made.
COURT REPORTER
A person employed by the court who records what happens in court using shorthand (a special kind of writing) or a "stenotype machine" or a stenomask. The person can then make a word by word, written copy (or transcript) of what happened.
COURT RULES
Rules adopted by the Michigan Supreme Court for how Michigan courts must handle cases.
CPS
CREDITOR
A person or business to whom someone owes a debt, usually money.
CRIME
An act or failure to act that breaks a law. It is punished by fine or by prison or jail time.
CRIMINAL
A person who has been found guilty of a crime.
CRIMINAL CASE
A lawsuit that involves whether a person (or corporation) has committed a crime. The People of the State of Michigan, represented by the Prosecutor, is the plaintiff, and the person accused of the crime is the defendant.
CRIMINAL LAW
Laws that forbid certain acts because they hurt others or society in general. They provide punishment for breaking them, and are enforced by the Prosecuting Attorney or Prosecutor, who brings the suit to court.
CROSS EXAMINATION
The questioning of a witness by the other side in a case. Through questioning, the lawyer can test whether the witness is telling the truth and whether there is more to the story than the witness first told.
CUSTODIAL PARENT
The parent who has custody of a child. See CHILD CUSTODY.
CUSTODY
The care and control of a thing or person. A parent has custody over the child (See CHILD CUSTODY). A person who is in jail or prison for a crime, or otherwise physically kept somewhere is also "in custody."
CUSTODY MEDIATION
A meeting with a trained, neutral third party who helps the parents agree on where the children will live and what the parenting plan for their children will be.
CUSTODY ORDER
A court order that says who a child will live with and who should make decisions about healthcare, education, and other important things.