Arkansas District Court Clerks Association

Glossary of Terms


Abate: To reduce, diminish or defer a cause of action. To destroy or completely end. (This is most often used when a defendant is deceased and has pending charges or an outstanding balance with the court. The charge/balance will be abated by death and dismissed or satisfied.)

Abscond: To go in a clandestine manner out of the jurisdiction of the courts, or to lie concealed, in order to avoid their process. To hide, conceal, or absent onself clandestinely, with the intent to avoid legal process. Postponing limitations. Fleeing from arresting or prosecuting officer of the state.

Absentia: The absence of him who is away in behalf of the republic (on business of the state) ought not be prejudicial either to him or to another.

Abstract of Record: A short summary of the court’s finding of a case as found in the court record. This term commonly refers to the form that the courts prepare and send to the Department of Finance and Administration, Driver Services Division.

Acquittal: To find not guilty and set free. The legal and formal certification of the innocence of a person who has been charged with a crime; a finding of not guilty.

Action: A legal dispute brought before a court. An “action” is also referred to as a case or a lawsuit.

Active Case: A pending case; not disposed of.

Adjourn: To suspend indefinitely, or until a later stated time.

Adjournment: The postponing or putting off of a case or session of court until another time or place.

Adjudicate: To determine judicially; giving or pronouncing the judgment; to enter a finding of guilt or innocence.

Administrative Duties: An act which is necessary to be done to carry out legislative policies.

Administrative Office of the Courts: An agency of the state that operates under the direction and supervision of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This office is responsible for the education of the Arkansas Judges and the City and District Court Clerks.

Adversary System: A system where there are two opposing sides. In, district court the opposing sides are the city/state prosecutor and the defendant. In this type of system, the judge and jury are neutral so that they will be able to determine the truth.

Affiant: One who, being sworn, makes and signs an affidavit.

Affidavit: A written statement, usually about the truth of a set of facts, sworn to before a person who is officially permitted by law to administer an oath.

Afforded: Given or provided, as in the services of a public defender.

Allegation: The assertion, declaration, or statement of a party to an action, made in a pleading, establishing what the party expects to prove.

Alias: A term used to indicate another name by which a person is known. When used in connection with a description of a person, it indicates that he or she has used or been known by another name.

Alias Warrant or Alias Summons: A second warrant or summons issued after the original has not accomplished its purpose. An alias warrant or summons is generally printed when the original has been accidentally or erroneously lost or destroyed. Therefore, a second copy is printed to replace the original. It is customary to make a notation on the second summons or warrant that it is an “Alias”.

Allegation: A declaration, assertion or statement of a party to a lawsuit that sets out what the party is trying to prove.

Ambiguity: The possibility that something can be interpreted in more than one way; uncertainness.

Amend: To alter or change by adding or subtracting. i.e., the Court can amend a judgment, a plaintiff can amend a complaint and defendant can amend an answer.

Annotation: A brief summary of a case interpreting statutes. These summaries are found in annotated compilations of statutes.

Annul: To make void or of no effect. To annul a judgment or judicial proceeding is to deprive it of all force and authority.

Answer: A pleading by which the defendant responds to or answers the claims of the plaintiff’s complaint.

Appeal: The process of having a higher court conduct a new trial or review either the facts and law or just questions of law from a proceeding held in a lower court. All defendants have a right to appeal their cases. There is a new trial in the appellate court, when the case is appealed from this court.

Appeal Bond: The bond presented to the court by a defendant who desires to appeal his or her case to a higher court. The bond may be a professional or cash bond.

Appearance: The formal act by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of a court. The formal proceeding by which a defendant submits himself or herself to the jurisdiction of the court. Other than the defendant, only an attorney hired to represent the defendant may appear for the defendant.

Appellant: The person who appeals a case to a higher court.

Appellate Courts: Courts that have jurisdiction over appeals from lower courts.

Arraign: To bring a person charged with a crime before the court for the purpose of informing him or her of the charges, appointing counsel if necessary, setting bail, making pretrial motions, taking a plea to the charges.

Arraignment: The proceeding in which the court identifies the defendant, explains the charge, appoints counsel if necessary and asks for a plea from the defendant.

Arrest Warrant: An order issued to a peace officer by a judge, requiring the arrest of a named person.

Attachment: The act of seizing a person or property under the authority of a judicial order so that the person or property is before the court, subject to its judgment.

Attest: To certify as being true or genuine.

Attorney of record: A person qualified to practice law who represents the legal interests of another person. The attorney whose name appears in the permanent records or files of a case and bears the responsibility for handling the case on behalf of the person being represented.

Authentication: A certification of an original or copy of an original. An authentication confirms the validity of a document to be true and correct.

Authority: The right to exercise power.


Bail: The security given by the accused that he will appear and answer before the proper court the accusation brought against him. Bail may be made by signature, professional surety or a cash deposit.

Bailiff: A court employee who maintains order in the courtroom and who is responsible for the custody of the prisoners, among other duties.

Bankrupt: The state or condition of a person who is unable to pay its debts as they become due. Further civil action may not ensue against a person who has officially filed for bankruptcy.

Bar: The whole body of attorneys and counselors, or the members of the legal profession, collectively, who are figuratively called the “bar”.

Barred: Subject to hindrance or obstruction by a bar or barrier which, if interposed, will prevent legal redress or recovery; as, when it is said that a claim or cause of action is “barred by the statute of limitations” or when it is ordered that a defendant is “barred from frequenting places where alcoholic beverages are sold.”

Bench: A seat of judgment for the administration of justice. The seat occupied by judges in courts.

Bench Trial: A trial before the judge where there is no jury and the judge makes the decision of guilt or innocence.

Bench Warrant: An order issued by the court for the arrest of a person.

Binding Over – Bound Over: The act of a lower court in transferring a case to a higher court after a finding of probable cause to believe that a defendant committed a crime. A finding at a preliminary examination that sufficient evidence exists to require a trial on the charges made against the defendant.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: The measure of the city/state’s burden of proof in a criminal trial; the city/state must exclude reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt by the presentation of its case.

Bifurcated Trial: Separate hearings for different issues in the same case.

Bill of Rights: The part of the constitution guaranteeing rights and privileges to the individual; the first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Body Attachment: The act of seizing a person under the authority of a judicial order so that the person is before the court, subject to its judgment.

Bond, Bail: Monetary amount or condition of pretrial release from custody, normally set by a judge at the initial appearance. The purpose is to ensure the return of the accused at subsequent proceedings. Bond can be made through a professional bonding/surety company or by a cash deposit.

Branches of Government: Three divisions of government with each having its own obligations, duties and powers. The three distinct divisions called branches are the legislative branch (development and enacts the laws), executive branch (enforces the laws) and judicial branch (interprets and applies the laws).

Brief: A written argument submitted to the court by counsel setting forth facts and/or law supporting his or her client’s case.

Burden of Proof: The requirement that to win a point or have an issue decided in our favor in a lawsuit, you must show that the weight of evidence is on your side. In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In most civil cases, the plaintiff must prove its case by a “preponderance of evidence”.


Cannons of Ethics: A document outlining the professional responsibilities and goals of doctors, lawyers and judges.

Capias: A written order issued by a judge that directs and commands any peace officer in the State of Arkansas to arrest a person accused of an offense and bring the person before the court immediately or on a day or at a term stated in the order.

Case: A legal dispute brought before a court. A “case” is also referred to as an “action,” “lawsuit,” “cause of action,” or “cause.”

Caseflow: The management of cases through the court; the passage of cases through the court system. Ideally cases are to “flow” through the judicial system in a smooth, orderly manner, hence the name “caseflow”.

Caselaw: The law made by courts interpreting cases and laws as opposed to law made by legislatures. In the American system, the primary sources of law are 1) constitutions, 2) statutes/regulations, and 3) case law.

Caseload: The number of cases a judge handles in a specific time period.

Cause of Action: Facts sufficient to support a valid lawsuit. The legal theory upon which a lawsuit is based.

Caveat: A warning. (For example: “Let him or her beware.”)

Certification or Certify: To vouch for something in writing; to put a statement in writing. To attest in writing to the authenticity and accuracy of a written instrument or document, or a copy of it.

Certified Copy: A copy of a document, order or record of the court, signed and certified as an exact duplicate by the officer of the court having custody of the original.

Chambers: A judge’s private office in the courthouse.

Change of venue: The removal of a suite begun in one county or district to another for trial, or from one court to another in the same county or district. In criminal cases, for example, a change of venue will be permitted if the court feels the defendant cannot receive a fair trial where the court is located.

Charge: The statement accusing a person of committing a particular crime.

Charging Instrument: A complaint filed with the court charging a criminal offense; the formal accusation that a person has committed a criminal offense.

Citation: In a criminal case, it is a written notice to appear issued by a peace officer that may be used as the charging instrument in district court.

Civil Law Suit: An action brought in court to enforce, redress or protect private rights. This type of law suit usually requires representation by an attorney.

Clerk of the Court: Court official who keeps court records, files pleadings, motions and judgments, and administers the oath to witnesses.

Code: A grouping of statues relating to a particular subject matter and arranged in classified order. A collection or revision of laws, statutes, rules and regulations enacted by the legislature, i.e., Arkansas Code Annotated.

Commitment: The order by which the court directs: the sending of a person to jail or prison; or the sending of a person to a hospital because of a mental disorder.

Common Law: A body of law developed in England and the American colonies before the American Revolution that our justice system accepts and basis its principles, customs and rules of action.

Complaint: A written affidavit that initiates the filing of a charge or a complaint against a person for committing a crime.

Concurrent: Together; having the same authority; at the same time. Example: Concurrent sentences are prison terms that run at the same time.

Concurrent Jurisdiction: When jurisdiction is shared between courts; cases can be filed in either court.

Conflict of Interest: A relationship that suggests disqualification of a public official from

performing his or her sworn duty; a clash between public interest and the private pecuniary interest or other interest of the individual concerned.

Consecutive: To follow in regular order; one right after another.

Constitution: A document that established the American system of government and its principles.

Contempt: Any act calculated to embarrass, hinder or obstruct a court in the administration of justice, or calculated to lessen its authority or dignity. There are two kinds of contempt: direct and indirect. Direct contempt is committed in the immediate presence of the court; indirect is the term chiefly used with reference to the failure of or refusal to obey a lawful court order.

Contingent: Possible, but not assured; depending on some future events or actions that may or may not happen.

Continuance: The adjournment or postponement to a later date or time of a case pending before the court.

Contumacy: The refusal to appear in court when required to by law or the refusal to obey a court order.

Conviction: The final judgment on a verdict or finding of guilty, a plea of guilty, or a plea of no contest. The result of a criminal trail that ends in a judgment or sentence that the accused is guilty as charged.

Prior Conviction: A conviction that was entered on the offender’s criminal record before sentencing on a new arrest.

Subsequent conviction: A conviction that was entered on the offender’s criminal record after the sentencing of another charge.

Counsel: An attorney; one who gives legal advice.

Counterclaim: A claim presented by a defendant in a civil proceeding in opposition to the claim of a plaintiff.

Courts of Record: Courts whose proceedings are permanently recorded, and which have power to fine or imprison for contempt. The Sebastian County District Court is not a court of record.

Criminal Action: An action brought by the government against a person charged with committing a crime.

Cross-claim: In a civil proceeding, if there are two or more defendants, one defendant can raise a claim against another defendant.

Cross-examination: The questioning of a witness by the lawyer for the opposing side. This may be done by leading questions, questions which suggest the answer.

Custodian of the Records: Anyone who has charge or custody of property or records. District court clerks are responsible for the care, control, maintenance and archiving of district court records.


Damages: Money that a court orders paid to a party (usually the plaintiff) who has suffered a loss by another party who caused the loss (usually the defendant).

Default: Occurs when a defendant fails to respond to the plaintiff’s complaint within the time allowed, or fails to appear at the trial. The court may then enter a default judgment.

Defendant: The accused in a criminal case; the person from whom money or other recovery is sought in a civil case.

Deferred Disposition: A process in which a judge defers imposition of the fine and grants a probation requiring the defendant to adhere to certain terms. If a defendant successfully completes the terms of probation, the judge is required to dismiss the case.

De novo: Trying a matter anew; the same as if it had not been previously heard before and as if no decision had been previously rendered. A new trial ordered based on an appeal.

Default Judgment: A judgment against whichever side (in a lawsuit) has failed to take a required step, such as filing a specific document on time.

Defense Attorney: The attorney representing the accused (defendant).

Denial: A refusal by a court to grant a request presented by a petition or motion. In pleadings, an assertion that the allegations of the opposing party are untrue.

Detainer: A warrant or court order to keep a person in custody when that person might otherwise be released.

Diligence: The attention and care legally expected or required of a person.

Direct Examination: The first questioning of a witness by the attorney for the party on whose behalf the witness is called. Usually proceeds with open ended, non leading questions.

Directed Verdict: The verdict used when the party with the burden of proof has failed to present its case, therefore an acquittal is ruled in the favor of the defendant. A directed verdict may be granted either on the court’s own initiative or on the motion of a party.

Disburse: Pay out money from a fund.

Discharge: To discharge a court order is to cancel or revoke the order. To discharge a prisoner is to release him from custody.

Discovery: The formal and informal exchange of information between sides in a lawsuit. Two (2) types of discoveries are interrogatories and depositions.

Discretion: Sound, professional judgment that encompasses and reflects both equity (fairness) and experience. A latitude of choice within certain legal/procedural boundaries.

Dismissal: A court order that ends a lawsuit or prosecution of a charge. With Prejudice: No further lawsuit or actions may be brought by the same persons on the same subject. Without Prejudice: The lawsuit may be amended to correct a prior error or a new lawsuit may be filed at a later date.

Disposed Case: Not pending, decided or closed case.

Disposition: A final settlement. A result. A court’s disposition of a case is the judgment.

Docket: A formal record with brief entries required to be kept on all complaints filed in the court. A list of the cases and specific actions to be taken by a court. Maintaining the docket is a ministerial duty that the judge may delegate to the clerk.

Duces Tecum: A name for a certain type of subpoena, that commands a person to appear in court with documents or pieces of evidence. A subpoena duces tecum commands a person to come to court and to bring documents or pieces of evidence with them.

Due process: The guarantee of due process requires that no person be deprived of life, liberty, or property without a fair and adequate process. In criminal proceedings this guarantee includes the fundamental aspects of a fair trial, including the right to adequate notice in advance of the trial, the right to counsel, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, the right to refuse self-incriminating testimony, and the right to have all elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Dun: Demand payment on an overdue debt.


Erratum: A mistake.

Et al: An abbreviation of et alii, meaning “and others”. This abbreviation is often affixed to the name of the person first mentioned, where there are several plaintiffs, grantors, personas addresses, etc.

Ethics: Relates to moral action, conduct, motive or character; conforming to professional standards of conduct; the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation; a set of moral principles or values.

Et seq.: An abbreviation for et sequentes. This abbreviation means “and the following”. The first page is referenced and et seq. means and the following pages.

Evidence: Any type of proof legally admitted at a trial of an issue, through the medium of witnesses, records, documents, exhibits, concrete objects, etc., for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court and to prove or disprove elements of a case.

Exclusion of Witnesses: An order of the court requiring all witnesses to remain outside the courtroom until each is called to testify, except the plaintiff or defendant. The witnesses are ordered not to discuss their testimony with each other and may be held in contempt if they violate the order. Commonly referred in open court as “invoking the rule.”

Exclusive Original Jurisdiction: When the court in which a case must be filed has sole jurisdiction (authority over) because no other court has jurisdiction to hear and determine the case.

Execution: A civil process where a defendant’s property may be seized and sold to pay for the municipal court’s judgment of fine and costs.

Exhibit: A paper, document or other article presented and offered into evidence in court during a trial or hearing to prove the facts of a case.

Exonerate: To free from suspicion; to show someone to be free of guilt.

Ex Parte: One side only. An ex parte order is a request made by one side (plaintiff or defendant) without the other side present.

Ex parte Communication: A communication between the court and one party to a lawsuit, made without prior notice to any other party.

Exigence: A sudden event that requires immediate attention.

Expunge: To completely wipe out, erase or take “off of the books”.

Expungement: The process by which the record of a criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed.

Extradition: The surrender by one state to another of an individual accused or convicted of an offense outside its own territory, and within the territorial jurisdiction of the other.


Felony: A classification of criminal offense; felonies are more serious than misdemeanors; felonies are classified according to the relative seriousness of the offense into five categories: (1) capital felonies; (2) felonies of the first degree; (3) felonies of the second degree; (4) felonies of the third degree; and (5) state jail felonies. A “felony” means a violation of a penal law which the offender, upon conviction, may be punished by death or by imprisonment for more than one year.

Fifth Amendment: Among other rights, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that a person cannot be compelled to present self-incriminating testimony in a criminal proceeding.

File: To put in the records, or deposit in the custody or among the records of a court.

Filing: The act of recording the various legal documents pertaining to a suit with the clerk. A “filing” is the original warrant, complaint, or other document which initiates the action.

Filing Fees: Sums of money which must be paid to the court before a civil proceeding may start.

Fine: The monetary penalty assessed by a judge when convicted of an offense.

Foreign Judgment: A judgment issued by a court from another jurisdiction.

Forensic: Having to do with the courts and law, such as specialized testimony.

Forfeiture of Bail: A process that occurs when a defendant posts bond and then fails to appear. When a defendant posts bond, he or she agrees as a condition of being released to appear in court. The failure to perform the condition of the bond causes the forfeiture of the bail to be declared.

Forthwith: Immediately; without delay; directly; within a reasonable time under the circumstances of the case; promptly and with reasonable dispatch.

Foundation: In a trial, a foundation must be laid to establish the basis for the admissibility of certain types of evidence. For example, an expert witnesses’ qualifications must be shown before expert testimony will be admissible.

Fourteenth Amendment: Among other matters, the 14th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution prohibits states from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without adequate due process.

Fourth Amendment: The Fourth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution protects every person against unreasonable search and seizure by government officials.

Frivolous: Legally worthless.

Fugitive: One who flees; always used in law with the implication of a flight, evasion, or escape from a duty or penalty.

Fugitive Warrant: A warrant authorizing the taking into custody of a person who has fled from one state to another to avoid prosecution or punishment of a crime.

Furlough: A temporary leave of absence without duties and pay. For example: If a person is released from jail on a furlough, they will temporarily released from jail and given a date to report back or re-surrender to the jail. The defendant will not be given credit toward their jail time while out on a furlough.


Garnishment: A legal process, taken by a creditor who has received a judgment against a debtor, to get money. This is done by attachment of a bank account or by taking a percentage of the debtor’s regular wage.

Germane: Relevant and pertinent.

Guilty: A plea by which a defendant confesses to the crime with which the defendant is charged, or the verdict by which a defendant is convicted.


Habeas Corpus: A written order issued by a court or judge of competent jurisdiction directed to anyone having a person in his or her custody, or under restraint, commanding him or her to produce the person at a time and place named in the order and show why the person is held in custody or under restraint. A judicial order to someone holding a person, to bring that person to court.

Hearing: Any proceeding before a judge in which evidence and/or argument is presented to determine some issue of fact or both issues of fact and law.

Hearsay: A statement about what someone else said, wrote or otherwise communicated. The hearsay rule bars the use of hearsay as evidence in court to prove the truth, unless it is accepted by the judge as an excited utterance.

Holder in Due Course: One holding a check or promissory note, received for value (he/she paid for it) in good faith and with no suspicion that it might be no good, claimed by another, overdue or previously dishonored (a bank had refused to pay since the account was overdrawn). Such a holder is entitled to payment by the maker of the check or note.

Hoosegow: Jail.

Hostile Witness: A witness who exhibits such antagonism toward the party who called the witness to testify.


Impartial: Not biased; treating all equally.

Incarceration: Commitment to jail or prison.

In Forma Pauperis: Permission to sue or file an action with the court without paying any court cost or fees.

Inadmissable: Describes facts or things that cannot be admitted into evidence at trial.

Incarceration: Imprisonment; confinement in a jail or penitentiary.

Indigent: Poor; unable to pay; one who does not have sufficient financial ability to hire legal counsel or pay a fine and court costs.

Information: The charging instrument that sets out the accusation against a defendant accused of committing a misdemeanor or felony and that initiates the prosecution. This document is issued by the prosecuting attorney.

Innocent: Not guilty; acquitted of a crime.

Interrogatories: In the discovery phase of civil litigation, these written questions are submitted by one party to another party and must be answered in writing under oath.

Integrity: An adherence to one’s moral values or practicing what one claims to believe in.

Irrelevant: Evidence not sufficiently related to the matter in issue.

Impartial: Not biased; treating all equally.

Incarceration: Commitment to jail or prison.

In Forma Pauperis: Permission to sue or file an action with the court without paying any court cost or fees.

Inadmissable: Describes facts or things that cannot be admitted into evidence at trial.

Incarceration: Imprisonment; confinement in a jail or penitentiary.

Indigent: Poor; unable to pay; one who does not have sufficient financial ability to hire legal counsel or pay a fine and court costs.

Information: The charging instrument that sets out the accusation against a defendant accused of committing a misdemeanor or felony and that initiates the prosecution. This document is issued by the prosecuting attorney.

Innocent: Not guilty; acquitted of a crime.

Interrogatories: In the discovery phase of civil litigation, these written questions are submitted by one party to another party and must be answered in writing under oath.

Integrity: An adherence to one’s moral values or practicing what one claims to believe in.

Irrelevant: Evidence not sufficiently related to the matter in issue.


Jail Time Credit: Credit on a defendant’s fine required to be given when a defendant has been confined in jail before being convicted of a crime by the court or after a conviction.

Joint and Several: The liability that two or more individuals share in fulfilling a civil obligation. Two defendants can be ordered to pay a judgment or restitution joint and severally, meaning that each defendant is responsible for satisfying the obligation in full. One defendant may refuse to pay anything toward the restitution/judgment, causing the other defendant to be responsible for the entire balance due. The defendant can be sued jointly or independently for breach of performance.

Judgment: The written declaration of the court signed by the trial judge and entered of record showing the conviction or acquittal of the defendant.

Judicial Duties: A duty that requires exercise of judgment or choice of alternatives in its performance. One that requires exercise of judgment or decision of a question of fact. One that requires use of discretion or examination of evidence and decision of questions of law and fact. Only a judge may perform a judicial duty.

Jurat: A name for the statement on an affidavit about when, where and before whom it was sworn to.

Jurisdiction: The legal power or authority that courts have over certain types of offenses and over certain geographical locations. The power to hear and decide cases.

Juvenile (Minor): In traffic law, a minor is a person who is younger than 17 years of age; in the Alcoholic Beverage Code, a minor is a person who is under 21 years of age.


Kiting: Writing checks on an account before money is put in to cover them


Law Enforcement Officer: Any person vested by law with a duty to maintain public order or to make arrests.

Lawsuit: A legal dispute brought before a court. A “lawsuit” is also referred to as an “action”, “case”, “cause of action” or “cause”.

Leading question: One which virtually instructs a witness how to answer or puts into his mouth words to be echoed back; one which suggests to the witness the answer desired. Ordinarily prohibited on direct examination, although allowed during cross-examination.

Legal Authority: The right and power of judges to require obedience to their orders.

Liability: A legal responsibility, obligation, or debt.

Liaison: A person who establishes and maintains communication and understanding between groups of people.

Lien: A claim against specific property that can be enforced in court to secure payment of a judgment, duty or debt.

Litigant: A party t


Magistrate: A judicial officer whose duty is to preserve the peace within a certain territorial jurisdiction by use of all lawful means, to issue all process intended to aid in preventing and suppressing crime, and to cause the arrest of all offenders by lawful means in order that they may be brought to trial or, after trial, to punishment.

Malfeasance: Unlawful conduct.

Manifest: Clear or indisputable, requiring no proof.

May: Creates discretionary authority or grants permission or a power.

Ministerial Duty: An act which is done under the authority of a superior, which involves obedience to instructions, but demands no special discretion, judgment or skill. A ministerial duty may also be a duty that is imposed by law.

Minor: In traffic law, a minor is a person who is younger than 17 years of age; in the Alcohol Beverage Code, a minor is a person who is under 21 years of age.

Misconduct of Office: Official misconduct means an offense that is an intentional or knowing violation of a law committed by a public servant while acting in an official capacity as a public servant. District court judges, court clerks and deputy clerks are public servants.

Misdemeanor: A classification of criminal offense according to the relative seriousness of the offense; misdemeanors are less serious than felonies; misdemeanors are classified into four categories: Class A, Class B, Class C and Unclassified misdemeanors; Class A and B misdemeanors are punishable by fine and confinement in jail: Class C misdemeanors, over which district courts have jurisdiction, are punishable by fine only.

Moot: A moot point is one that need not be decided, due to a change of circumstances.

Motion: A formal request presented to the court.

Mulet: A fine or penalty.

Must: Creates or recognizes a condition precedent.


Nemo Est Supra Leges: No one is above the law.

No Contest or Nolo Contendere: A plea in which the defendant does not contest the charge. Nolo contendere has the same legal effect as a guilty plea; however it may not be used against the defendant as an admission of guilt in a civil suit based upon or growing out of the act upon which the criminal prosecution is based.

Nolle Prosequi: (Nolle Prossed) The ending of a case because the prosecutor decides or agrees to stop prosecuting.

Nolo Contendere: (No Contest) Not a direct admission of guilt but submits to sentencing or other punishment without contesting the facts of the case.

Non-Resident Violator’s Compact: An agreement between certain states to provide a means through which the party jurisdictions may participate in a reciprocal program to provide for the fair and impartial treatment of traffic violators operating within party jurisdictions in recognition of the motorists’ right of due process and sovereign statue of a party jurisdiction.

Not Guilty Plea: The defendant is informing the court that he denies guilt or has a defense in the case and that the state must prove what it has charged in the complaint. This can also be the verdict or outcome of a case.

Nunc Pro Tunc: A retroactive effect, an order to have a legal effect that starts at an earlier date. (For example: backdating an order.)


Oath of Office: An oath taken by officers when they assume charge of their office, whereby they declare that they will faithfully discharge the duties of the office. Appointed and elected clerks and judges are required to take an oath of office.

Objection: The act of taking exception to some statement or procedure in trial or other proceeding. Used to call the court’s attention to improper evidence or procedure.

Omnibus: Containing two or more separate and independent things or subjects.

Order to show cause: Court order requiring a party to appear and show cause why the court should not take a particular course of action. If the party fails to appear or give sufficient reasons why the court should take no action, the court will take the action.

Ordinance: A law passed by the City of Fort Smith Board of Directors.

Original Jurisdiction: The first jurisdiction to try a cause and pass judgment upon the law and facts.


Pactum: A bargain or agreement.

Parties: The persons who are actively involved in the prosecution or defense of a legal proceeding, including the plaintiff or prosecution, the defendant and any “third party defendant.”

Peace Bond: A type of surety bond required by a judge or magistrate of one who has threatened to harm another person.

Per: By; through; by means of; during.

Perfected: Completed; finished.

Peril: A risk or danger. (For example: a suspended imposition of sentence will put a person in peril of going to jail.)

Perjury: Lying while under oath

Petition: A form of proceeding to raise a cause of action.

Plaintiff: A person who brings an action; the person who complains or sues in a civil action; a person who seeks remedial relief for an injury to rights.

Plea: The defendant’s answer to the accusation or complaint brought against a person by the city/state. In district courts, there are three possible pleas: guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest).

Pleading: The formal allegations by the parties of their respective claims and defenses.

Precedent: A rule of law that is established by an appellate court in an earlier case serves as binding precedent in all subsequent similar cases.

Preliminary Hearing: In district court, a preliminary hearing is a court hearing on a felony charge that allows counsel (prosecutor and defense) to narrow the issues to be tried, secure stipulations, rule on motions and to hear the testimony to be presented in circuit court.

Preponderance of Evidence: Evidence which is (even minimally) of greater weight or more convincing than the evidence which is offered in opposition to it. This is the standard by which a plaintiff must prove his case in a civil suit.

Presumption of Innocence: A principle of criminal law that places the burden of proving every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt and that the defendant has no burden to prove his or her innocence.

Prevail: To win a lawsuit.

Pro Se: For himself or herself; in his or her own behalf. Pro Se representation means that a person will handle his own case in court without a lawyer.

Prima Facie: Literally, “on its face.” A fact presumed to be true unless disproved by some other evidence. In a criminal case, when the prosecution rests, the state’s case is said to be prima facie, if the evidence so far introduced is sufficient to convict.

Privileged Communications: Confidential communications to certain persons that are protected by law against any disclosure, including forced disclosure in legal proceedings. Communications between lawyer and client, physician and patient, psychotherapist and patient, priest, minister or rabbi and penitent are typically privileged.

Probable Cause: The likelihood that a crime has been committed by the person whom the law enforcement officer seeks to arrest. Without probable cause, a judge will not issue an arrest or search warrant.

Process: A series of actions leading to the preparation of court orders, complaints and other required papers, such as a warrant or summons issued by the judge.

Pro se: For himself; in his own behalf. One who does not retain a lawyer and appears for himself in court.

Prosecuting Attorney: Any person legally elected, appointed or designated to prosecute persons accused of a crime or traffic offense.

Public Defender: Lawyers regularly employed by the government to represent people accused of crimes who cannot afford to hire their own. The term may also be used to refer to a private attorney receiving public money to defend indigent criminal defendants.

Purport: To imply, profess outwardly or to give the impression.


Quash: To overthrow or completely do away with. (For example: stopping an order, a warrant or a subpoena before it is served.)

Quid Pro Quo: What for what; something for something; giving one valuable thing for another.

Quorum Court: The legislative body governing the County. The thirteen (13) members of the Quorum Court are called justices of the peace and are elected for two (2) year terms from districts within the county. These district officials meet at least monthly to conduct county business and review ordinances and resolutions for passage. The County Judge is the presiding officer over the Quorum Court without a vote, but with the power to veto. This veto can be overridden with a 3/5 vote from the total membership of the Quorum Court (ACA 1-14-801).


Reasonable Doubt: All persons are presumed innocent and no person may be convicted of an offense unless each element of the offense is proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact that a person has been arrested, confined or indicted for, or otherwise charged with the offense gives rise to no inference of guilt as his or her trial. The law does not require a defendant to prove his innocence or produce any evidence at all.

Rebuttal Evidence: Evidence given to explain, contradict, or disprove facts offered by the adverse party. In criminal cases, the state has the opportunity to rebut the defendant’s case because it has the burden of proof.

Recourse: To recur. The right of a holder of a negotiable instrument to recover against a party secondarily liable. Therefore, if a prior endorser signs “without recourse”, he exempts himself from liability for payment.

Recusal: The process by which a judge is disqualified on objection from either party (or disqualifies himself) from hearing a case because of self interest, bias or prejudice.

Redress: The satisfaction or payment for injury or damage.

Redirect Examination: Follows cross-examination, and is conducted by the party who first examined the witness.

Refund: To repay or restore; to return money in restitution or repayment of cash bonds.

Relevant: The quality of evidence is properly applicable in determining the truth or falsity of the matter in issue between parties.

Remand: To send back; the sending by the appellate court of the case back to the same court out of which it came, for the purpose of having some further action taken on it there.

Rendering Judgment: The judicial act of pronouncing the decision (judgment) of the court.

Replevin: A legal action to get back personal property that is wrongfully held by another person.

Reprieve: Holding off on enforcing a criminal sentence for a period of time after the sentence has been handed down.

Res Judicata: A rule of civil law that once a matter has been litigated and final judgment has been rendered by the trial court, the matter cannot be relitigated by the parties in the same court, or any other trial court. A court will use res judicata to deny reconsideration of a matter.

Rest: A party is said to “rest” or “rest his case” when he has presented all the evidence he intends to offer.

Restitution: Court-ordered payment to restore goods or money to the victim of a crime by the offender.

Retainer: The fee which the client pays when he retains an attorney.


Satisfaction: Act of satisfying. The discharge of an obligation by paying a party what is due to him or what is awarded to him by the judgment of a court. Thus, a judgment is satisfied by the payment of the amount due to the party who has recovered such judgment

Schedule of Property: A list of property and the value of each piece of such property for which the insurer will pay in the event of loss or damage.

Scire Facias: A judicial writ directing a debtor to appear and show cause why a dormant judgment against him should not be revived. It is also a special docket required by law to handle all cases and proceedings involved in the forfeiture of bail bonds. The name scire facias is used to designate both the writ and the whole proceeding.

Seal: A sign adopted by the court that is capable of being impressed to attest to the authentication of a document.

Sealing of Records: The process where court records are closed and the matter is treated for all purposes as if it never occurred. The matter and all of its’ correspondence is removed from all court records (docket books, computerized records, the defendant’s criminal history, etc.) and destroyed.

Sentence: The judgment formally pronounced by the court upon the defendant after conviction in a criminal prosecution imposing the punishment to be inflicted.

Separation of Powers Doctrine: The constitutional requirement that the three branches of government-judicial, legislative and executive- not encroach on the domain or exercise the powers of another branch.

Service: Notifying a person that he has been named as a party to a lawsuit or has been accused of some offense. Process consists of a summons, citation or warrant, to which a copy of the complaint is attached. Subpoenas are court orders which, if properly served, compel the attendance of the witness in court.

Shall: Imposes a duty; not discretionary; mandatory.

Show Cause: A hearing set for the purpose of an individual to show cause or justify why he or she shall not be held in contempt of court by the presiding judge. Being held in contempt of court could result in a monetary penalty or imprisonment at the discretion of the presiding judge.

Statute: A particular law enacted and established by the state legislatures.

Statute of Limitations: Time limit for filing a charge or suit. For all fine-only misdemeanors, a charging instrument must be filed two years from the date the offense occurred.

Stay: A stopping of a judicial proceeding by order of a court.

Stipulation: An agreement between lawyers on opposite sides of a case or lawsuit.

Style of the Action: The title of the case with a case number; for example, City of Fort Smith vs. John Doe case # 02-00001 or State of Arkansas vs. John Doe case# 02-50001.

Subpoena: A command by a court to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony upon a certain matter.

Subpoena Duces Tecum: A command by a court to appear at a certain time and to produce books, papers or other things requested by the court.

Summons: An order from a magistrate or judge directed to a peace officer commanding him to notify a person that he must appear in court on a stated day and time to plead to a complaint filed in the court. (Note: do not confuse this summons with a jury summons that is a notice to prospective juror to appear for jury duty.)

Supersede: To make unnecessary, make void, to set aside or stay. (For example: to replace one document for another.)

Supersedeas: The name of a writ containing a command to stay the proceedings at law. A suspension of power or prohibiting execution during an appeal.

Suppress: To keep evidence from being heard, possibly because it was illegally gathered.

Suspended Sentence: A conviction of a crime followed by sentence that is given formally, but not actually served. A suspended sentence in criminal law means in effect that defendant is not required at the time sentence is imposes to serve the sentence. A suspended imposition of sentence is a sentence ordered by the court but not immediately imposed , which gives the defendant an opportunity to complete the terms and conditions of the probation prior to final disposition of the charge.


Testimony: Evidence given by a competent witness under oath or affirmation. Such evidence is generally delivered from a live witness during the trial of a cause either orally or in the form of an affidavit or deposition.

The Rule: When “The Rule” is invoked either the prosecution or defense asks the court to have witnesses who are not parties in the case remain outside of the courtroom while testimony is being heard, except when testifying or until discharged. Witnesses may not discuss their testimony among each other.

Transcript of Judgment: The printed record as made up in each case of the proceedings and pleadings to reflect the outcome of a case.

Trial: A judicial examination of issues between parties.

Trial de novo: A new trial or retrial held in an appellate court in which the whole case is heard as if no trial had been heard in the lower court.

Trial Docket: Listings of cases set for a particular trial date.

Trier of Fact: The jury or the judge when there is no jury.


Utter: To send or put into circulation, for example: to issue or write a check.

Utterance: Spontaneous declarations as in an “excited utterance”.


Vacate: To annul; to set aside; to cancel or rescind; to render an act as void. The setting aside of a judgment on grounds that it was issued by mistake, inadvertently, surprise, excusable neglect or fraud.

Venue: The particular geographical area in which a court with jurisdiction may hear and determine a case. Jurisdiction issues are generally left to the discretion of the judge.

Verdict: The formal decision or finding made by a jury on matters or questions of fact submitted to the court upon a trial.

Voir Dire: This phrase means “to speak the truth” and describes questioning by the court, defense or prosecutor about a person’s qualifications as a potential juror or witness in a case. The examination of a witness to decide whether that person is competent and should be allowed to testify.


Waiver: The intentional or voluntary relinquishment of a known right, claim or privilege.

Warrant of Arrest: A written order issued by a magistrate or judge directed to a peace officer commanding him to take the body of the person accused of an offense into custody to be dealt with according to law.

With Prejudice: A declaration that the rights and privileges of the party have been waived and lost. A dismissal “with prejudice” bars the right to bring or maintain another action on the same claim or cause of action.

Without Prejudice: A declaration that no rights or privileges of the party concerned are to be considered as waived or lost. A dismissal “without prejudice” allows a new suit to be brought on the same cause of action.

Witness: One who personally sees, observes or is an expert concerning something and later testifies to what was seen, perceived or known; a person whose declaration under oath or affirmation is received as evidence.

Writ: A written judicial order requiring something to be done or authorizing an action to be taken. Writ of Execution: A formal, written command of a court directing the sheriff or other official to enforce a judgment, usually by seizing and selling property of the debtor. Writ of Garnishment: A formal, written command of a court directing a person, employer or bank, who has possession of a debtor’s property, to hold the debtor’s funds to satisfy a judgment.