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A legal case is in a general sense a dispute between opposing parties which may be resolved by a court, or by some equivalent legal process. A legal case is typically based on either civil or criminal law. In most legal cases there are one or more accusers and one or more defendants. In some instances, a legal case may occur between parties that are not in opposition, but require a legal ruling to formally establish some legal fact, such as a divorce.
A civil case, more commonly known as a lawsuit or controversy, begins when a plaintiff files most a document called a complaint with a court, informing the court of the wrong that the plaintiff has allegedly suffered because of the defendant, and requesting a remedy. The remedy sought may be money, an injunction, which requires the defendant to perform or refrain from performing some action, or a declaratory judgment, which determines that the plaintiff has certain legal rights. The remedy will be prescribed by the court if the plaintiff wins the case. A civil case can also be arbitrated through arbitration, which may result in a faster settlement, with lower costs, than could be obtained by going through a trial.
The plaintiff must make a genuine effort to inform the defendant of the case through service of process, by which the plaintiff delivers to the defendant the same documents that the plaintiff filed with the court.
At any point during the case, the parties can agree to a settlement, which will end the case, although in some circumstances, such as in class actions, a settlement requires court approval in order to be binding.
Cases involving separation including asset division, support (a.k.a. maintenance or alimony), and matters related to children are handled differently in different jurisdictions. Often, the court's procedure for dealing with family cases is very similar to that of a civil case (it requires service and disclosure, and will issue judgments).
Divorce and separation from a spouse is one of the most stressful situations, as rated by the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, and so family proceedings are increasingly being "divorced" from the often very formal and impersonal process of civil proceedings, and given special treatment.
A criminal case, in common law jurisdictions, begins when a person suspected of a crime is indicted by a grand jury or otherwise charged with the offense by a government official called a prosecutor or district attorney.
A criminal case may in some jurisdictions be settled before a trial through a plea bargain. Typically, in a plea bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge than that which was originally brought by the grand jury or prosecutor. A defendant who goes to trial risks greater penalties than would normally be imposed through a plea bargain.
Legal cases, whether criminal or civil, are premised on the idea that a dispute will be fairly resolved when a legal procedure exists by which the dispute can be brought to a factfinder not otherwise involved in the case, who can evaluate evidence to determine the truth with respect to claims of guilt, innocence, liability, or lack of fault. Details of the procedure may depend on both the kind of case and the kind of system in which the case is brought – whether, for example, it is an inquisitorial system or a solo
In most systems, the governing body responsible for overseeing the courts assigns a unique number/letter combination or similar designation to each case in order to track the various disputes that are or have been before it.[ citation needed ] The outcome of the case is recorded, and can later be reviewed by obtaining a copy of the documents associated with the designation previously assigned to the case.
However, it is often more convenient to refer to cases –particularly landmark and other notable cases –by a title of the form Claimant v Defendant (e.g. Arkell v Pressdram ). Where a legal proceeding does not have formally designated adverse parties, a form such as In re , Re or In the matter of is used (e.g. In re Gault ). The "v" separating the parties is an abbreviation of the Latin versus, but, when spoken in Commonwealth countries, it is normally rendered as "and" or "against" (as in, for example, Charles Dickens' Jarndyce and Jarndyce ). Where it is considered necessary to protect the anonymity of a natural person, some cases may have one or both parties replaced by a standard pseudonym (Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade ) or by an initial ( D v D ). In titles such as R v Adams , however, the initial "R" is usually an abbreviation for the Latin Rex or Regina, i.e. for the Crown. (For an explanation of other terms that may appear in case titles, see the Glossary of legal terms.)
The adversarial system or adversary system is a legal system used in the common law countries where two advocates represent their parties' case or position before an impartial person or group of people, usually a judge or jury, who attempt to determine the truth and pass judgment accordingly. It is in contrast to the inquisitorial system used in some civil law systems where a judge investigates the case.
In legal terminology, a complaint is any formal legal document that sets out the facts and legal reasons that the filing party or parties believes are sufficient to support a claim against the party or parties against whom the claim is brought that entitles the plaintiff(s) to a remedy. For example, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) that govern civil litigation in United States courts provide that a civil action is commenced with the filing or service of a pleading called a complaint. Civil court rules in states that have incorporated the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure use the same term for the same pleading.
A jury trial, or trial by jury, is a lawful proceeding in which a jury makes a decision or findings of fact. It is distinguished from a bench trial in which a judge or panel of judges makes all decisions.
Nolo contendere is a legal term that comes from the Latin phrase for "I do not wish to contend". It is also referred to as a plea of no contest.
A plea bargain is any agreement in a criminal case between the prosecutor and defendant whereby the defendant agrees to plead guilty or nolo contendere to a particular charge in return for some concession from the prosecutor. This may mean that the defendant will plead guilty to a less serious charge, or to one of the several charges, in return for the dismissal of other charges; or it may mean that the defendant will plead guilty to the original criminal charge in return for a more lenient sentence.
In legal terms, a plea is simply an answer to a claim made by someone in a criminal case under common law using the adversarial system. Colloquially, a plea has come to mean the assertion by a defendant at arraignment, or otherwise in response to a criminal charge, whether that person pleaded or pled guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere, no case to answer, or Alford plea.
A plaintiff is the party who initiates a lawsuit before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy; if this search is successful, the court will issue judgment in favor of the plaintiff and make the appropriate court order. "Plaintiff" is the term used in civil cases in most English-speaking jurisdictions, the notable exception being England and Wales, where a plaintiff has, since the introduction of the Civil Procedure Rules in 1999, been known as a "claimant", but that term also has other meanings. In criminal cases, the prosecutor brings the case against the defendant, but the key complaining party is often called the "complainant".
Criminal procedure is the adjudication process of the criminal law. While criminal procedure differs dramatically by jurisdiction, the process generally begins with a formal criminal charge with the person on trial either being free on bail or incarcerated, and results in the conviction or acquittal of the defendant. Criminal procedure can be either in form of inquisitorial or adversarial criminal procedure.
In law, the terms moot and mootness have different meanings in British English and American English.
In the United States, a state court has jurisdiction over disputes with some connection to a U.S. state. State courts handle the vast majority of civil and criminal cases in the United States; the United States federal courts are far smaller in terms of both personnel and caseload and handle different types of cases.
Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards that courts follow when adjudicating civil lawsuits. These rules govern how a lawsuit or case may be commenced; what kind of service of process is required; the types of pleadings or statements of case, motions or applications, and orders allowed in civil cases; the timing and manner of depositions and discovery or disclosure; the conduct of trials; the process for judgment; the process for post-trial procedures; various available remedies; and how the courts and clerks must function.
A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the civil court of law. The archaic term "suit in law" is found in only a small number of laws still in effect today. The term "lawsuit" is used in reference to a civil action brought in a court of law in which a plaintiff, a party who claims to have incurred loss as a result of a defendant's actions, demands a legal or equitable remedy. The defendant is required to respond to the plaintiff's complaint. If the plaintiff is successful, judgment is in the plaintiff's favor, and a variety of court orders may be issued to enforce a right, award damages, or impose a temporary or permanent injunction to prevent an act or compel an act. A declaratory judgment may be issued to prevent future legal disputes.
An inquisitorial system is a legal system in which the court, or a part of the court, is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case. This is distinct from an adversarial system, in which the role of the court is primarily that of an impartial referee between the prosecution and the defense. Inquisitorial systems are used primarily in countries with civil legal systems, such as France and Italy, or legal systems based on Islamic law like Saudi Arabia, rather than in common law systems.
In United States law, a motion is a procedural device to bring a limited, contested issue before a court for decision. It is a request to the judge to make a decision about the case. Motions may be made at any point in administrative, criminal or civil proceedings, although that right is regulated by court rules which vary from place to place. The party requesting the motion may be called the movant, or may simply be the moving party. The party opposing the motion is the nonmovant or nonmoving party.
In law, a settlement is a resolution between disputing parties about a legal case, reached either before or after court action begins. The term "settlement" also has other meanings in the context of law. Structured settlements provide for future periodic payments, instead of a one time cash payment.
The Judicature Acts are a series of Acts of Parliament, beginning in the 1870s, which aimed to fuse the hitherto split system of courts in England and Wales. The first two Acts were the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873 and the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1875, with a further series of amending acts.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure govern civil procedure in United States district courts. The FRCP are promulgated by the United States Supreme Court pursuant to the Rules Enabling Act, and then the United States Congress has seven months to veto the rules promulgated or they become part of the FRCP. The Court's modifications to the rules are usually based upon recommendations from the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal judiciary's internal policy-making body.
In law, a trial is a coming together of parties to a dispute, to present information in a tribunal, a formal setting with the authority to adjudicate claims or disputes. One form of tribunal is a court. The tribunal, which may occur before a judge, jury, or other designated trier of fact, aims to achieve a resolution to their dispute.
Plea bargaining in the United States is very common; the vast majority of criminal cases in the United States are settled by plea bargain rather than by a jury trial. They have also been increasing in frequency—they rose from 84% of federal cases in 1984 to 94% by 2001. Plea bargains are subject to the approval of the court, and different States and jurisdictions have different rules. Game theory has been used to analyze the plea bargaining decision.
There are three types of juries in the United States: criminal grand juries, criminal petit juries, and civil juries. In the United States Constitution, juries are mentioned in Article Three and the Fifth, the Sixth, and the Seventh Amendments. Juries are not available in courts of American Samoa established pursuant to the Constitution of American Samoa.
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