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Glossary of Legal Terms


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Select the first letter of the word from the list above to jump to appropriate section of the glossary.

- I -

 

Immigrants - Persons who come into a foreign country or region to live.

Immigration - The entry of foreign persons into a country to live permanently.

Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) - A federal agency which regulates immigration and naturalization of aliens.

Immunity - Grant by the court, which assures someone will not face prosecution in return for providing criminal evidence.

Impeachment - A criminal proceeding against a public official.

Impeachment of a witness - An attack on the credibility (believability) of a witness, through evidence introduced for that purpose.

Implied contract - A contract not created or evidenced by the explicit agreement of the parties but one inferred by law; as the use of electric power in your home implies a contract with the light company.

Inadmissible - That which, under the rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or received as evidence.

Incapacity - Lack of legal ability to act; disability, incompetence; lack of adequate power.

Incarceration - Imprisonment in a jail or penitentiary.

Incompetent - One who lacks ability, legal qualification, or fitness to manage his own affairs.

Independent executor - A special kind of executor, permitted by the laws of certain states, who performs the duties of an executor without intervention by the court.

Indeterminate sentence - A sentence of imprisonment to a specified minimum and maximum period of time, specifically authorized by statute, subject to termination by a parole board or other authorized agency after the prisoner has served the minimum term.

Indictment - A written accusation by a grand jury charging a person with a crime. (See information.)

Indigent - Needy or impoverished. A defendant who can demonstrate his or her indigence to the court may be assigned a court-appointed attorney at public expense.

Initial appearance - The defendant comes before a judge within hours of the arrest to determine whether or not there is probable cause for his or her arrest.

Information - Accusatory document, filed by the prosecutor, detailing the charges against the defendant. An alternative to an indictment, it serves to bring a defendant to trial.

Infraction - A violation of law not punishable by imprisonment. Minor traffic offences generally are considered infractions.

Inheritance tax - A state tax on property that an heir or beneficiary under a will receives from a deceased person's estate. The heir or beneficiary pays this tax.

Injunction - A prohibitive order or remedy issued by the court at the suit of the complaining party, which forbids the defendant to do some act which he is threatening or attempting to do. Conversely, it may require him to perform an act which he is obligated to perform but refuses to do.

Insolvent - When the total debt of an entity is greater than all of its property.

Instructions - Judge's explanation to the jury before it begins deliberations of the question it must answer and the applicable law governing the case. (Also referred to as charge.)

Intangible assets - Non-physical items such as stock certificates, bonds, bank accounts, and pension benefits that have value and must be taken into account in estate planning.

Intentional tort - Wrong perpetrated by one who intends to break the law.

Interlocutory - Temporary; provisional; interim; not final.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - The federal agency which administers the tax laws of the United States.

Interrogatories - A set or series of written questions propounded to a party, witness, or other person having information or interest in a case; a discovery device.

Interstate Commerce (ICC) - A federal agency which regulates all transportation in Commission interstate commerce.

Intervention - An action by which a third person who may be affected by a lawsuit is permitted to become a party to the suit.

Involuntary bankruptcy - A proceeding initiated by creditors requesting the bankruptcy court to place a debtor in liquidation.

Issue - 1. The disputed pint in a disagreement between parties in a lawsuit. 2. To send out officially, as in to issue an order.

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 - J -

Joint and several liability - A legal doctrine that makes each of the parties who are responsible for an injury, liable for all the damages awarded in a lawsuit if the other parties responsible cannot pay.

Joint tenancy - A form of legal co-ownership of property (also known as survivorship). At the death of one co-owner, the surviving co-owner becomes sole owner of the property. Tenancy by the entirety is a special form of joint tenancy between a husband and wife.

Judge - A presiding officer of the court.

Judgment - The official and authentic decision of a court of justice upon the rights and claims of parties to an action or suit submitted to the court for determination. (See also summary judgment.)

Judgment debtor - One who owes money as a result of a judgment in favour of a creditor.

Judicial lien - A lien obtained by judgment or other judicial process against a debtor.

Judicial review - The authority of a court to review the official actions of other branches of government. Also, the authority to declare unconstitutional the actions of other branches.

Judiciary - The branch of government invested with judicial power to interpret and apply the law; the court system; the body of judges; then bench.

Jurat - Certificate of person and officer before whom a writing is sworn to.

Jurisdiction - The power or authority of a court to hear and try a case; the geographic area in which a court has power or the types of cases it has power to hear.

Jurisprudence- The study of law and the structure of the legal system.

Jury - A certain number of men and women selected according to law and sworn to try a question of fact or indict a person for public offence.

Jury Administrator - The court officer responsible for choosing the panel of persons to serve as potential jurors for a particular court term.

Justiciable - Issues and claims capable of being properly examined in court.

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