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Legal Terms Glossary

D

DAMAGES
Money paid to a person who has been hurt by someone else.
DDP
DE NOVO
Latin. Means "anew". It means to start over at the beginning. In terms of a hearing before a family court judge, a "de novo" hearing is scheduled when one party objects to a referee's proposed order.
DECEDENT
A person who has died.
DECEDENT'S ESTATE
All the property (land or real property plus personal property) that a person who has died owned.
DECREE
A court's decision or judgment. A final decree is the one that ends the case. Interlocutory decrees are those made during the case, that resolve an issue but not the case. Sometimes called a "decision."
DEFAULT
When someone does not do what they are supposed to do, specifically, when a defendant does not answer a complaint or come to court when scheduled.
DEFAULT JUDGMENT
The court's decision in the case in favor of the plaintiff when the defendant fails to appear in court or does not answer the summons and complaint.
DEFENDANT
The person accused or a crime or on trial in a criminal trial; the person accused of doing something wrong or harming someone else in a civil trial.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY
The lawyer who works for the defendant.
DELIBERATE
In terms of a jury--To think and talk about the evidence (what was said and shown in court) to make a decision and reach a verdict. In a criminal case, the jury deliberates to decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. In a civil case, the jury decides what facts are true and whether the defendant is liable or not liable.
DENIAL
When the court says no to a party's request or, in court papers (pleadings) when a party says the other side's claims aren't true.
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES
(DSS) A part of state government that runs programs to help people and families with money or other services like adoption and foster care. It was once called FAMILY INDEPENDENCE AGENCY or (FIA).
DEPONENT
A person who gives a deposition.
DEPOSITION
Testimony taken outside of court before trial. During a deposition, a person gives testimony after promising to tell the truth by writing down things or answering a lawyer's questions. At a videotape or word-for-word written record (or transcript) is made of what the person says. If necessary, the transcript can be used at trial if the person cannot be there to testify. It allows a party to get testimony from someone who lives far away or to save the testimony in case the witness can't make it to trial. See also DISCOVERY.
DETENTION
The temporary care of a child who requires custody for his or her own welfare or the community's protection pending disposition by the court or execution of an order of the court for placement or commitment. Also, holding cell or area in a trial court for defendants in custody pending appearances in court.
DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED PERSON ("DDP")
Someone who can't take care of him or herself because of some mental disability. By law, it is someone who is older than five years old and has a serious, permanent mental or physical impairment that showed up before the person's 22nd birthday, so that the person can't take care of personal needs, learn, get around, live by him or herself or make a living, the person is entitled to special help from the government. Or it is someone who is age five or younger who will probably have the same problems as he or she grows up if he or she doesn't get special help. These people may get special help from the government.
DEVISE
Property given away by a will by someone who has died; to give property to someone else when you die, by your will. See MICHIGAN REVISED PROBATE CODE.
DEVISEE
A person who gets real or personal property from someone under a will.
DIRECT EXAMINATION
The first questioning in a trial of a witness by the lawyer who asked the witness to testify.
DIRECTED VERDICT
A judge's verdict at the end of a jury trial when the plaintiff or prosecutor did not show enough evidence to prove the case. A judge may issue a directed verdict when the defendant's lawyer makes a motion. If the judge thinks the lawyer is right, he or she "directs a verdict" in favor of the defendant and the jury does not deliberate or decide the case. party has not presented sufficient evidence to establish a necessary part of his or her case.
DISAPPEARED PERSON
a person who is gone from their home and hasn't been seen or heard from for at least 7 years.
DISCOVERY
The way parties in a lawsuit find and save evidence (facts, papers, possible witnesses) for trial before trial. See also DEPOSITION, INTERROGATORIES.
DISMISS
To order (by a judge) that a case should end.
DISMISSAL
A judge's order or judgment that decides the case for the defendant without a trial. If the Dismissal is "with prejudice", the plaintiff can't file the case again, ever. If the dismissal is "forever "without prejudice", the particular case is over, but the plaintiff can file a lawsuit based on the same claims in the future.
DISPOSED CASE
A closed case.
DISPOSABLE INCOME
How much money a person has after paying taxes and other legally required payments. It is used to decide how much of a person's paycheck (or other income) can be "garnished" or taken to pay a debt or some other money owed.
DISPOSITION
The final outcome of a case. It an be a dismissal, plea and sentence, settlement and dismissal, or a verdict and judgment.
DISQUALIFICATION
When the judge decides that he or she can't hear a case because he or she can't be fair.
DISSOLUTION
Another name for divorce; when a judge ends a marriage.
DISTRIBUTEE
A person who gets property from a personal representative (the person who takes care of a dead person's property) or from a trust, as a gift (and not as payment for a bill or a debt).
DISTRIBUTION
The division of the property of a person who has died that's left after all bills and debts are paid.
DISTRICT COURT
A trial court that handles less serious criminal cases-civil infractions and those where the defendant's maximum punishment is one year or less in jail. In addition, every criminal case starts in this court even if the trial will be handled by the circuit court. Those jobs include issuing arrest and search warrants, setting bail, handling arraignments and preliminary examinations. This court also handles civil cases involving $25,000 or less, landlord/tenant disputes; small claims (suits that involve $1,750 or less); and land contract forfeitures. See also ARRAIGNMENT, BAIL, CIVIL INFRACTION, LAND CONTRACT, PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION, SMALL CLAIMS COURT, WARRANT.
DIVERSION
A decision or program designed to divert offenders from official processing to a less formal, less adversarial and more community-based setting.
DIVORCE
The term for ending a marriage (the legal relationship) between a husband and wife.
DOCKET
A written list of all the important things done in court during a case from beginning to end. The docket (for acts done), along with the case file (for documents filed) and any transcript of hearings form the "record". The docket is not the court's schedule, although many people use the term that way.
DOMESTIC ABUSE
A pattern of violence or sexual, physical, emotional and/or financial abuse, done to take control over an intimate partner (boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife). The abuse may be aimed at the partner or at someone else, like his or her children.
DOMESTIC RELATIONS ACTION
A case involving divorce, separate maintenance, annulment of marriage, affirmation of marriage, paternity, child or spousal support, custody of a minor, parenting time, or grandparenting time. See MCR 3.201.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
DOMICILE
Where someone lives permanently. Legally, it is the home where, a if a person leaves, he or she always intends to return. See RESIDENCE.
DOWER
The part of a man's land (real property) that his widow may use after he dies until she dies. She may use the property just because she was his wife. He does not have to devise it to her in his will.
DSS
An abbreviation for the Michigan Department of Social Services. This agency has been renamed the "Family Independence Agency" ("FIA"). See FAMILY INDEPENDENCE AGENCY.