CLASS GLOSSARY

amicus curiae

Means, literally, friend of the court. A person with strong interest in or views on the subject matter of an action may petition the court for permission to file a brief, on behalf of a party but actually to suggest a rationale consistent with its own views. Such briefs are commonly filed in appeals concerning matters of broad public interest; i.e. civil rights cases.

appellant

The party who sues on a writ of error by taking an appeal from an inferior court to a higher court for review.

appellate jurisdiction

The power vested in an appellate court to review and revise the judicial action of an inferior court.

appellee

The party in a cause against whom an appeal is taken; that is, the party who has an interest adverse to setting aside or reversing the judgment of the inferior court.

Attorney General

Each state has an attorney general, who is the chief law officer of the state. He gives advice and opinions on the interpretation of laws to the governor and to executive departments and agencies.

bill of information

The charging document filed by the district attorney which sets forth the criminal allegations of the state against the accused.

blood alcohol level

The percentage of alcohol in a person's blood measured in grams of alcohol per hundred cubic centimeters of blood. The amount of alcohol is set by weight.

capital case

One in which the death penalty may, but need not necessarily, be imposed.

case reporter

Published volumes of case decisions by a particular court or a group of courts; i.e. Supreme Court Reporter, Federal Reporter, Louisiana Supreme Court Reporter.

civil law

Laws concerned with private rights and remedies as contrasted with criminal laws.

consent decree

A decree entered with the consent of all parties. An agreement of the parties, made with approval of the court, and in effect, an admission by them that the decree is a just determination of their rights.

constitutional

Not conflicting with any provision of the constitution or fundamental law of the state.

criminal law

In general, refers to the state and federal statutes that define criminal offenses and specify corresponding fines and punishment. Criminal offenses includes certain offenses of a public nature or wrongs committed against the state.

defendant

The person defending or denying: the party against whom relief is sought in a civil case or the accused in a criminal case.

direct appeal

Cases which originate at the trial court level, but bypass review by the intermediate courts of appeal in order to be heard directly by the Supreme Court.

dissent

The explicit disagreement of one or more judges of a court with the decision passed by the majority upon a case before them. In such event, the non-concurring judge is reported as "dissenting."

due process of law

Broadly defined as the constitutional guarantee that no person shall be arbitrarily or unreasonably deprived of life, liberty or property.

equal protection of the law

The constitutional guarantee of "equal protection of the laws" means that no person or class of persons shall be denied the same protection of the laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in like circumstances in their lives, liberty, property and their pursuit of happiness.

expunge

The act of destroying or erasing information--including criminal records--in files, computers or other depositories.

judge

A public officer who presides in a court of justice and who is charged with the control of proceedings and the decisions of questions of law or discretion.

jurisdiction

The power and authority of a court to hear and decide certain judicial cases.

justice

Title given to judges, particularly judges of U.S. and state supreme courts.

legislation

The act of giving or enacting laws via the legislative process; in contrast to court-made laws.

legislative intent

The background and events leading up to the enactment of a law. Such is looked to when court attempts to interpret a statue which is ambiguous or inconsistent.

litigant

A party to a lawsuit.

litigation

A lawsuit. Legal action including all proceedings therein. Contest in a court of law for the purpose of enforcing a right or seeking a remedy.

opinion

The statement by a judge or court of the decision reached in regard to a cause tried or argued before them, expounding the law as applied to the case, and detailing the reasons upon which the judgment was made.

oral argument

A presentation, usually limited in time, by the appellant and appellee providing rationale for affirming, reversing, or modifying the decision of the inferior court.

original jurisdiction

Jurisdiction in the first instance. The Louisiana Supreme Court has exclusive original jurisdiction over cases involving disciplinary actions against lawyers and judges. This means that these cases cannot be heard by any other state court.

plaintiff

A person who complains or sues in a civil action. The prosecuting party (i.e State or United States) in a criminal action.

presumption

A presumption is a rule of law, statutory or judicial, by which finding a basic fact gives rise to existence of a presumed fact until it is rebutted or challenged.

proffer

An offer or endeavor to proceed in an action.

prosecute

To proceed in a judicial proceeding against a criminally accused party.

quash

To overthrow; to abate; to vacate; to annul; to make void.

separation of powers

The governments of states and the United States are divided into three branches: the legislative, which is empowered to make laws, the executive which is required to carry out the laws and the judicial which is charged with interpreting the laws and adjudicating disputes under the laws.

standing

Standing is a requirement that the plaintiffs have been injured or been threatened with injury by governmental action complained of, and focuses on the question of whether the litigant is the proper party to fight the lawsuit.

statutes

Laws enacted or established by the will of the legislative department of government declaring, commanding or prohibiting something.

supervisory jurisdiction

The Supreme Court has supervisory jurisdiction over all courts. Cases from these courts reach the Supreme Court after they have been heard by a lower court. The Supreme Court, however, does not automatically hear these cases. A party must first convince the Supreme Court that their case merits high court review because an error occurred in the opinion, judgment or ruling of the lower court.

unconstitutional

That which is contrary to the constitution and the fundamental laws of the state.

writ of certiorari

An order by an appellate court which is used when the court has discretion on whether or not to hear an appeal. If the writ is denied, the court refuses to hear the appeal and, in effect, the judgment below stands unchanged. If the writ is granted, then it has the effect of ordering the lower court to certify the record and send it up to the higher court which has discretion to hear the appeal.

zero tolerance law

An enforcement policy allowing no exception to the rule of law.