The Court System


alternative dispute resolution

process used to resolve disputes without going through the court system


pleading in which the defendant replies to each allegation in the complaint, asserts any affirmative defenses, and presents any counterclaims

appellate jurisdiction

reviewing court's power to examine the trial court's decision to determine whether it was legally correct


dispute resolution method where the parties present their dispute to an agreed-upon, private decision maker

binding arbitration clause

provision in a contract that requires all or certain disputes arising out of the contract to be resolved by arbitration

civil law

set of rules that regulate noncriminal matters and provide remedies such as money damages

collaborative law

dispute resolution process, used most commonly in family law, in which the parties try to reach a settlement outside court


pleading in which the plaintiff sets forth the applicable facts and legal claims against the defendant

criminal law

set of rules regulating crimes against public order, such as felonies and misdemeanors, and punishable by fines and incarceration

default judgment

when the court finds in favor of the plaintiff because the defendant failed to file an answer on time

directed verdict

request for the court to overrule a jury verdict because the other party failed to prove their case


opportunity for the parties to gather information relevant to the case

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP)

specific regulations and procedures for civil legal suits within the U.S. federal court system

inchoate crime

offense initiated with substantial steps taken but not completed, such as "attempted" crime, solicitation, and conspiracy

judicial activism

philosophy that courts should play an active role in social, economic, and political change

judicial restraint

philosophy that courts should not rule on the constitutionality of a law unless it is absolutely necessary

judicial review

judge's authority to rule on whether a law passed by the legislative branch or executive branch violates the Constitution

long-arm statute

state law that establishes jurisdiction over a party that lives or is located outside the state where the lawsuit is filed


dispute resolution method where a neutral third party helps guide both parties toward a voluntary resolution

neutral evaluation

dispute resolution process in which a third party reviews the evidence, listens to the parties' arguments, and examines the value of the case to help the parties agree on a settlement

opening statement

when each party's attorney explains to the court the facts they intend to prove, the legal conclusions the facts will support, and the conclusion that their client should win

original jurisdiction

most commonly exists with the trial court; allows the trial court to hear a case first and render a decision

personal crime

crime against a person that causes harm, such as battery, kidnapping, homicide, and rape

personal jurisdiction

power a court has to give orders to a particular party, both during the litigation phase and when enforcing a judgment

property crime

crime that involves interference with a person's right to use or enjoy their property, such as burglary, embezzlement, arson, trespass, and forgery


in the context of contract law, the idea that the invalidity of part of a contract will not make other parts invalid

subject-matter jurisdiction

court's power to hear a type of case


court order for a party to appear in court at a particular date and time

voir dire

process in which potential jurors are questioned to determine whether they will give an unbiased opinion