Court Terminology


Common terminolgy used in court includes:

  • Argument: Closing Statements, the presentation of the review of the evidence and summation by the parties at the end of the case, after all of the evidence is presented and both parties have rested.
  • Bailiff: The bailiff is an officer of the court, who serves the court and the jury and maintains order in the court.
  • Clerk: The clerk sits at the desk by the judge, is an officer of the court and keeps a record of papers filed. He/she has custody of the records of the trial of the case, orders made by the court during the trial and the verdict at the end of the trial.
  • Cross-Examination: The questions which either prosecution or defense ask of the witness.
  • Defendant: The person charged with an offense.
  • Examination, Direct Examination: The questions which either prosecution or defense asks their own client or their own witnesses are often referred to as "examination,direct examination, or examination in chief.
  • Evidence or Exhibits: Objects, including pictures, books, letters and documents are often received in evidence. These are called exhibits and are given to the jury to take to the jury room while deliberating.
  • Instructions or "Charges" to the Jury: The outline of the rules of law which the jury must follow in their deliberations in deciding the factual issues submitted to them is called either the judge’s charge to the jury or his instructions to the jury.
  • Jury Panel: The whole number of prospective jurors from which the trial jury is chosen.
  • Objection Overruled: This term means that, in the judge’s opinion, the lawyer’s objection is not well take under the rules of law. The judge’s ruling, so far as a juror is concerned, is final and may not be questioned by him/her.
  • Objection Sustained: When either prosecution or defense objects to a question or the form of a question, the judge may say "objection sustained." This means that the judge agrees that, under the rules of the law, the lawyer’s objection was well taken. This ruling likewise is not subject to question by jurors.
  • Opening Statement: Before introducing any evidence, the prosecution and defense is permitted to tell the jury what the case is about and what evidence he/she expects to present to prove their side of the case.
  • Rest: This is a legal phrase that means the prosecution and defense has concluded the evidence he/she wants to introduce in that stage of the trial.
  • Striking Testimony: On some occasions, after a witness has testified, the judge will order certain evidence stricken from the record and will direct the jury to disregard it. When this is done, the jury will treat the evidence stricken as though it had never been given.
  • Subpoena: The document that is issued for service upon a witness to compel their appearance in court.
  • Verdict: The findings made by the jury on the issue submitted to them.