- Caption - The heading of a pleading, motion, deposition, or other legal document which shows the name of the court, the names
of the parties, docket or file number, title of the action, as well as other pertinent information.
- Cause of Action - A combination of law and fact sufficient enough for someone to seek a remedy through a court.
- Certiorari - (Latin: “to be informed of”) Writ issued by a superior to a lower court requiring the lower court to produce a certified record of proceedings for judicial review. The writ is often used as a means of gaining appellate review. In the United States Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the writ is most frequently used as a way of selecting the cases that will be reviewed.
- Change of Venue - The transfer of a lawsuit from one county to another county, or from one court to another court in the same county or district.
- Charge to Jury - The final address by a judge to a jury instructing the jury as to the law relevant to a case and how the law must be applied. The charge is given immediately before the jury retires to deliberate on a verdict.
- Chattel - An article of tangible personal property, as opposed to real property.
- Circuit Court - A court that has jurisdiction over various counties or districts.
- Circumstantial Evidence - Testimony, not based on actual personal knowledge or observation of the facts in controversy, which the court or jury may determine to be true from deductions.
- Citation to Legal Authority - Reference to a statute, code, regulation, court decision, constitutional provision, or quotation from a body of law to support a statement of the law.
- Civil Action - A lawsuit brought to enforce private rights; in general, any type of action except criminal proceedings.
- Clerk of Courts - The officer who generally acts as the administrative agent of the court.
Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, accepting filings,
recording orders of court, and calculating sentences imposed in criminal matters.
- Code - A collection of laws, rules, or regulations systematically arranged and enacted by legislative authority.
- Codicil - A supplement or addition to a will that may explain, modify, add to, subtract from, qualify, alter, restrain, or revoke provisions in the existing will.
- Collateral Estoppel Doctrine - Commonly referred to as “issue preclusion.” When a court renders a decision in a case based upon its disposition of certain issues, those same issues
cannot be litigated again in another case in which a party to the previous case, who litigated or had the opportunity to litigate the decided issues, participated.
- Common Law - The body of principles and rules based on judicial precedent rather than on legislative enactments.
- Common-Law Marriage - Created by two people without a ceremony involving an agreement to enter into a marriage relationship, cohabitation, and the parties holding themselves out to the public as married.
- Commutation - The change of a punishment to one that is less severe, such as the reduction of a criminal defendant’s punishment from a death sentence to life imprisonment.
- Comparative Negligence - Under this statute or doctrine, a plaintiff’s recovery will be diminished by the percentage amount of negligence attributable to the plaintiff in causing his or her injuries.
In Pennsylvania, a plaintiff may recover, despite his/her own negligence, if his/her negligence was less than 50 percent of the cause of the injuries. The term also refers to the allocation of percentages of negligence between multiple defendants.
- Compensatory Damages - Awarded in a civil action as compensation, indemnity, or restitution to a plaintiff for losses or damages incurred as a result of the acts of another. The purpose of
compensatory damages is to place the plaintiff in the position that he/she was in prior to the injury. Examples of compensatory damages are economic damages, such as lost wages and medical bills, and non-economic damages, such as pain, suffering, and disfigurement.
- Complaint - The initial pleading filed by a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit. Also refers to the written document detailing criminal charges filed against a criminal defendant.
- Condemnation - The legal process by which private property is appropriated for public use without the owner’s consent through the power of eminent domain, but for which the owner is paid just compensation by the public body for such appropriation.
- Consent Decree - An agreement of parties to a lawsuit, based upon stipulated facts, which is sanctioned by the court. It also refers to a disposition of criminal charges under the Pennsylvania Juvenile
Act, by where a juvenile admits to participation in criminal activity, but does not obtain a record of conviction.
- Consideration - Generally, something of value or a promise to forgo an existing liability provided in exchange for a person’s entering into a contract.
- Contempt of Court - An intentional act designed to hinder a court’s administration of justice. Direct contempt is committed in the immediate presence and view of the court. Constructive, or indirect, contempt is the failure or refusal to obey lawful court orders.
- Contingent Fee - Attorney’s fee calculated as a percentage of the amount recovered by a client.
- Continuance - A postponement granted by the court at the request of either or both parties, or by the court on its own motion.
- Contract - An enforceable oral or written agreement, between two or more parties, which creates an obligation to do or not to do a particular thing.
- Contributory Negligence - The concept that a plaintiff, who sues a defendant on a basis of negligence, is not entitled to recover any damages if he/she committed an act of negligence that contributed
to the injury suffered. Contributory negligence has been abandoned in Pennsylvania to the extent that it would completely preclude a plaintiff’s recovery if the plaintiff is determined to have been in any way causally negligent. See also “Comparative Negligence.”
- Conversion - The improper use, possession, or destruction of another’s personal property.
- Copyright - An intangible right of ownership granted by statute to the author or originator of certain literary, musica,l or other artistic productions.
- Corpus Delicti - Objective proof that a crime has been committed; for example, the corpse of a murdered person or the charred remains of a house burned down.
- Corroborating Evidence - Supplementary evidence tending to strengthen or confirm evidence previously introduced.
- Counterclaim - Claim brought by the defendant in a lawsuit against the plaintiff. A counterclaim neither answers nor denies
the plaintiff’s claim, but rather asserts an independent claim against the plaintiff arising out of the same transaction or occurrence that gave rise to the plaintiff’s original claim.
- Court of Common Pleas - The county courts under the Pennsylvania Constitution. The trial courts are of original and general jurisdiction.
- Court Reporter - A person who transcribes testimony during court proceedings, depositions, or other proceedings authorized by a court or rule of court.
- Cross-claim - Claim brought by a defendant in a lawsuit against a co-defendant in the suit arising out of the same transaction or occurrence that gave rise to the plaintiff’s original claim
or of a counterclaim. It often refers to a claim that another defendant is liable to the plaintiff or is responsible to indemnify another defendant.
- Cross-examination - The questioning of a witness in a legal proceeding by a party that has not called the witness as his/her witness.
- Custodian - Generally, a person or financial institution with control of property or other assets. In bankruptcy law, a third party with authority to take charge of a debtor’s assets for the benefit of all creditors.