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Ottawa County Legal Self-Help Center

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P

PANEL
1. The jurors serving a specific court. See also JURY PANEL.
2. The three judges who sit together to decide cases brought before the Court of Appeals.
PARENTAGE
A legal decision who the parents of a child are.
PARENTING TIME/ORDER
The time a child spends with a parent who does not have physical custody. A parenting time order sets out the plan for how each parent will spend time with the child. It used to be called "visitation" and a "visitation order".
PAROLE
The conditional release from prison before the end of a sentence. If the parolee (the person released) follows the rules set for him or her (the conditions), he or she won't have to serve the rest of the prison term.
PARTIAL GUARDIAN
A guardian with some, but not all, of the legal rights and powers to take care of a developmentally disabled person or the person's property. The probate court judge gives the guardian only certain powers and control in a court order. See MCL 330.1600(e). See DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED PERSON, GUARDIAN, MENTAL HEALTH CODE.
PARTY
1. A person or organization involved in a lawsuit, either the plaintiff or defendant.
2. A person or organization that was involved in a matter or transaction. A person who agrees to and signs a contract is a party to the contract.
PASSPORT DENIAL PROGRAM
A program in which the names of people who owe more than $5,000 in child support are sent to the U.S. Department of State. If the person applies for a passport, they are denied. The names of the people are also sent to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, and if they are due a tax refund, it is "offset" and given to the "payee".
PATERNITY
Fatherhood.
PATERNITY SUIT
A lawsuit to legally identify a child's father and decide how much support the man should pay.
PAYEE
The person or organization who is supposed to receive money paid.
PAYOR
The person or organization who pays money to someone else.
PEACE OFFICER
Another name for a police officer. Any public employee who has the authority to arrest a person to enforce the law and preserve the peace, is a peace officer. It includes a sheriff or deputy sheriff, a state or city or village police officer, and any state conservation officer.
PER CAPITA
The equal division of a person's estate. The estate is divided by the number of people who are supposed to receive a share, and each person gets the same share.
PER STIRPES
By right of representation; it is the way of dividing an estate where a group of people who are supposed to receive a share of the estate take the share to which their deceased ancestor would have been entitled-for example, children would take the share to which their parent would have been entitled if the parent was still living.
PERJURY
A lie told on purpose while under oath. It is a crime to commit perjury.
PENDING
Waiting; still to be decided; a case that is not finished.
PERMANENT INJUNCTION
A court order that requires someone to act or to not do a certain act. It is meant to stay in force unless the court changes it later. It lasts longer than short-term relief like that of a Temporary Restraining Order or a Preliminary Injunction.
PERMANENT WARD
A child who is placed under the care of the court or a guardian permanently because the parents' rights have been terminated (ended) by the family division of the circuit court.
PERSONAL INJURY
A kind of civil case that asks for money damages because someone got hurt or was killed.
PERSONAL PROPERTY
Anything owned by someone except real estate. Real estate is "real property."
PERSONAL PROTECTION ORDER ("PPO")
A court order that protects a person from stalking or domestic abuse. It forbids the person named in the order from contacting the person who requested the PPO. If the person breaks the rules set in the PPO, he or she can be arrested. See MCL 600.2950, 600.2950a, MCR 3.701-3.709. See also DOMESTIC ABUSE, STALKING.
PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE
In a criminal case, the release a defendant gets without having to post bail or get a surety to sign a bond with the court. The defendant promises that he or she will return to court when scheduled and the court takes the defendant's word for it.
PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE
The person who takes care of and divides the estate (property) of a decedent (the person who has died).
PERSONAL SERVICE
When court forms are delivered or given to someone in person. The person who serves the forms must tell the other person that these are legal papers, and leave the papers near (or with) the person. Service is complete even if the person does not accept the papers or say anything or sign anything.
PETITION
1. An application or request made in writing to a court asking the court to do something.
2. In juvenile delinquency or child protective proceedings, it is the paper that describes the charges against the person. It must be "verified", which means that the person signs it under oath and promises that everything in the petition is true.
PLAINTIFF
In civil cases, the person who starts the lawsuit. In criminal cases, the prosecuting attorney is the plaintiff.
PLEA
The defendant's response to a criminal charge (e.g., guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere (or not contest).
PLEA-BARGAINING
In criminal cases, a process where the prosecutor and the defendant or his lawyer try to work out a deal to end the case without a trial. Usually, the prosecutor agrees to drop the charge(s) against the defendant if the defendant pleads guilty to another (usually lesser) crime.
PLEADINGS
The papers filed with the court in which the parties say what their claims and defenses are. The plaintiff's pleading (the complaint) says what his or her claims against the defendant are. The defendant's pleading (the answer) answers the plaintiff's claims and explains his or her defenses to the plaintiff's claims. In Michigan, the only papers considered "pleadings" are the complaint, cross-claim, counterclaim, third-party complaint, an answer to a complaint, cross-claim, counterclaim or third-party complaint, or a reply to an answer.
PLENARY GUARDIAN
Under the Mental Health Code, a guardian with full power over the person and/or property of a developmentally disabled person. See MCL 330.1600(d). See DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED PERSON, GUARDIAN, MENTAL HEALTH CODE.
POWER OF ATTORNEY
A formal legal paper that authorizes the named person to act in place of the signer of the paper. The person holding a power of attorney is called an attorney in fact, and may or may not be a lawyer. The attorney in fact is the signer's agent.
PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION
A hearing in a felony case to decide whether there is enough evidence to bring the charges against the defendant and try the defendant in circuit court. It takes place before a district court judge. The prosecution must show that there is "probable cause" to think that a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed the crime. Witnesses testify and some physical evidence may be shown in court. If the judge decides that there is probable cause, the defendant is "bound over" to the circuit court. See PROBABLE CAUSE.
PRELIMINARY HEARING
The first court hearing in a juvenile delinquency or child protective case. It is required when the juvenile is in custody, or if officials want to take the child into custody or place him or her in foster care.
PRESENTENCE INVESTIGATION & PRESENTENCE REPORT
The required investigation into the background of a defendant who has been convicted of a felony. The probation officer writes a report for the judge to help the judge decide on a sentence for the crime. The report includes information about the defendant's family, personal history including his or her school and job history, other crimes he or she may have committed, the details of the crime and how it affected the victims, and recommendations for sentencing in line with the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. The report is called the PRESENTENCE REPORT or the "PSIR".
PRESIDING JUDGE
The judge running a hearing or trial; the judge in charge of a case.
PRETRIAL CONFERENCE
An informal hearing in a criminal or civil case between the judge and the attorneys to talk about questions or issues that can be answered or settled before trial so that the trial is simpler or faster. Often the parties are encouraged to settle the case.
PRETRIAL HEARING
See PRETRIAL CONFERENCE.
PRINCIPAL
1. The person for whom an AGENT works; A person who has allowed or told someone else (the agent) to act for his or her benefit.
2. The person who is the first person responsible for a debt (in contrast to a guarantor or surety who only pays if the principal does not).
3. The property or asset itself in contrast to the income from or interest on the property. For example, a share of stock is the principal, and any dividend paid is the interest. And the amount left to pay on a loan is the principal, and the cost of the loan is the interest.
PRO BONO
The name for legal work a lawyer does for a client for free.
PRO CON DIVORCE
An uncontested divorce. It is used only when the spouses agree on everything-custody, support, and the division of property. The hearing is short, only the plaintiff appears because the defendant agrees with everything, and the judge grants the divorce and signs the judgment.
PRO PER LITIGANT
A person who doesn't hire a lawyer to work for him or her in court, but appears for himself or herself. Also known as PRO SE LITIGANT.
PROBABLE CAUSE
In criminal cases, enough proof to believe that the judge should issue a search or arrest warrant or bind over a defendant to circuit court. The test is whether an ordinarily careful person, looking at all of the facts and what happened, would believe that the crime happened and the defendant did it.
PROBATE
The process by which a decedent's estate is transferred to its rightful (or true) owners. The property of the person who has died is gathered, bills are paid, and the money that is left is paid to the people who are supposed to get it by law or by the will.
PROBATE COURT
The court in Michigan that handles the transfer of property from a person who has died to the property's rightful owners-the people who are supposed to get the property by law or by will It also handles guardianships, conservatorships, trusts, and the sending of mentally ill people to a mental hospital (commitment).
PROBATE REGISTER
A person who acts as a clerk of the probate court and sometimes in a sort of judicial manner when dealing with decedent's estates.
PROBATION
An alternative to going to prison, where a person convicted of a crime lives the community as long as he or she follows the rules (called the conditions) of probation. A probation officer watches the person, and if the person doesn't follow the rules, the court can revoke (or take back) the probation, and the person is resentenced to jail or prison.
PROCEEDING
Any hearing or court appearance related to the determination and completion of a case.
PROCESS
A court order to appear in court. Subpoenas and summonses are examples of process.
PROCESS SERVER
A person hired to deliver or give "process" or a summons or complaint to a person being sued or a subpoena to a witness.
PROOF
In a court case, evidence that shows that a fact exists or is true.
PROOF OF SERVICE
The form filed with the court that shows that court papers were formally served on (given or delivered to) a party in a court case on a certain date.
PROPERTY
Anything that can be owned by someone. See PERSONAL PROPERTY, REAL PROPERTY.
PROPRIA PERSONA
See PRO PER LITIGANT.
PRO SE LITIGANT
For himself; in his own behalf. A person who doesn't hire a lawyer and appears for him or her self in court.
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY
A public officer whose job is to prosecute criminals (bring them to court for trial) for of the people of the State of Michigan. A prosecuting attorney usually works for a specific county.
PROSECUTOR
A prosecuting attorney. In Michigan, the official "prosecutor" for each county is the chief law enforcement officer of the county and is elected.
PROSECUTORIAL WAIVER
See WAIVER OF JURISDICTION.
PROTECTED PERSON
A minor or legally incapacitated person whose property is taken care of by a conservator. See MCL 700.9(5).
PS
An abbreviation for the Protective Services unit of the Family Independence Agency. See CHILDREN'S PROTECTIVE SERVICES.
PUBLIC DEFENDER
A lawyer paid by the county to defend a person who doesn't have money to pay for a lawyer (someone who is indigent).
PUBLIC RECORD
A court (or other government) record that anyone may see and inspect.
PUTATIVE FATHER
The person who is assumed (or alleged) to be the father of a child but who hasn't been proven so by medical evidence or named by the court as the legal father.