Lawyer Lingo: Common Law Jargon Deciphered

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Over hundreds of years, lawyers and judges seem to have developed their own language, full of Latin terms that you can’t decipher without those ninth-grade notes you lost after finals. This secret language gives legal professionals a certain dramatic mystique that can be intimidating, sexy and, as any law student knows, frustrating to learn.

What do these words mean?

1. Objection

An “objection” is used to object when the opposing attorney asks a witness an inappropriate question, the attorney can also object when the witness has nothing to do with the question at hand.

2. Stable

If the judge “demands” the objection, he or she agrees with it, telling the questioning attorney to drop it and move on.

3. Overrated

When the judge overrules the objection, he tells the witness to go and answer the question.

4. Brought out

A less embarrassing word is “I take it back.”

5. Disclaimer

Return with verified evidence. For example, if the prosecutor says that a bloody candlestick was found in Professor Plum’s study, the defense can deny the fact that the professor sold the candlestick in question to an antiques dealer the previous week.

6. Prima facie

Prima facie is Latin for “at first sight” or “on its face,” and in legal parlance it refers to a situation where someone appears guilty. One of the good things about our legal system is that even when you appear guilty, the system should take a closer look and give you a chance to defend yourself.

For example, in a “primitive” case, the jury may be presented with evidence of your gun found at the scene of your husband’s murder, and everyone expects you to be convicted on that evidence, at least until the fatal bullet. it was shown that they were shot from the gun of the policeman who “discovered” the crime.

7. Problem transaction

This is when the prosecution and defense make a plea deal with the approval of the judge, where the defendant pleads guilty to something. For example, if you rob a liquor store and get caught, you can plead guilty to a short sentence, saving everyone the trouble of going to trial. A defendant can also waive information about other crimes or criminals in exchange for a lighter sentence.

8. Delay

An adjournment is a suspension or postponement of the entire trial until a later date. This sometimes happens when new and surprising evidence is presented that changes the course of the trial.

9. Habeas Corpus

Habeas corpus is Latin for “you have a body,” which sounds ominous, but is actually one of the most basic rights of a citizen. When a writ of habeas corpus is presented to a judge, it means that someone who has imprisoned someone else. the person must show the legal basis for that imprisonment.

In other words, the law of habeas corpus is what prevents police and prison officials from locking people up without trying to show that they have done anything wrong.

10. Intermission

An adjournment is a short break from a trial (not to be confused with an adjournment, which is a long break from a trial). Unfortunately, most courts do not have attached playgrounds, so attorneys tend to spend their breaks doing what they have to do to keep the trial going.

This article was written by Melissa Woodson, Community Manager at @WashULaw on behalf of CAREEREALISM-Approved Partner, 2tor, an education-technology company partnering with Washington University in St. Petersburg. Luis will offer a premiere LLM: degree, degree. In her free time, she likes to run, cook, and do half-baked experiments to train her dog.



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