Legal Glossary 

Appeal

A proceeding undertaken to have a decision reconsidered by bringing it to a higher authority, especially the submission of a lower court’s or agency’s decision to a higher court for review and possible reversal.

Arraignment

The initial step in a criminal prosecution whereby the defendant is brought before the court to hear charges and to enter a plea.

Bail

A security such as cash or a bond, especially security required by a court for the release of a prisoner who must appear at a future time.

Commissioner

A person who directs a commission; a member of a commission.

Complaint

The initial pleading that starts a civil action and states the basis for the court’s jurisdiction, the basis for the plaintiff’s claim and the demand for relief; a formal charge accusing a person of an offense.

Garnishment

A judicial proceeding in which a creditor (or potential creditor) asks the court to order a third party who is indebted to or is bailee for the debtor to turn over to the creditor any of the debtor’s property (such as wages or bank accounts) held by that third party.

Grand jury

A body of often 23 people who are chosen to sit permanently for at least a month and sometime a year and who in ex parte proceedings decide whether to issue indictments.

Indictment/Information

The formal written accusation of a crime, made by a grand jury and presented to a court for prosecution against an accused person.

Summons

Formerly a writ directing a sheriff to summon a defendant to appear in court.

Third party complaint

A complaint filed by the defendant against a third party, alleging that the third party may be liable for some or all of the damages the plaintiff is trying to recover from the defendant.