Terms to Know
We know that courtroom language is not everyday language and may be confusing at times. As you prepare for court, the glossary below can serve as the understanding you need.
AcquittalWhen a defendant is found “not guilty” in a criminal or traffic case or a defendant in a civil case is found not responsible for an alleged wrongdoing.
AdmissibleEvidence that can legally and properly be introduced in court under the Ohio Rules of Evidence.
AffidavitA sworn and notarized statement made by a person.
AllegationA written statement of issues a person is prepared to prove in court.
Answer – A written statement from a defendant in a civil case that answers the allegations against that defendant.
Appeal – A request made after a case is concluded to have the case reviewed to see if it was properly conducted.
Appear or appearance – When a person is required to come to court for a scheduled event in a criminal, traffic or civil case.
Arraignment – The first court appearance of a person charged with a felony or misdemeanor at which the charges and case proceedings will be explained and bond may be set.
Arrest – When someone is taken into custody by a legal authority for violating a law or court order.
Attorney – An advocate or counsel licensed by the State of Ohio who prepares, manages and tries a case.
Automatic stay – When a case involving a money claim is suspended because the defendant filed for bankruptcy.
Bail – Money or other security posted to allow a person’s release from jail and to assure that person’s appearance in court. “Bond” and “bail” are interchangeable.
Bailiff – Court employee who runs the operations of a particular courtroom.
Bench trial – A trial to a judge as opposed to a trial to a jury.
Brief – A written argument that states the facts, the law, and how that law applies to that specific case; also known as a “memorandum of law.”
Burden of proof – How much proof is needed to win a case. In criminal cases the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In civil cases, the burden of proof is generally by a “preponderance of the evidence” although in some situations, it is by “clear and convincing evidence.”
Caption – The heading on a case file or pleading that tells who the parties are, who the judge is, what type of case it is, and what the case number is.
Case file – The physical file that contains all the records in a civil, traffic or criminal case.
Case law – Decisions in other past cases that guide current cases.
Caseload – The cases handled by a particular judge or court.
Cause of action – The facts and claims that give a person the right to seek relief in the court.
Charge – The specific law the police think was broken.
Civil case – A case where one person sues another for an alleged wrongdoing.
Clerk of courts – An elected official who oversees the filing of cases and pleadings, court records, payments of money and the flow of cases throughout the court.
Common Pleas Court – The State court located at 107 W. Liberty Street Wooster, OH which handles felony trials, civil claims over $15,000, domestic cases, probate cases and jury services.
Community service – The option a criminal or traffic defendant has to work at a local agency instead of paying fines and costs or going to jail.
Complaint – A written statement by one person stating the wrongs allegedly committed by another person.
Continuance – When a scheduled event in a case is delayed to a later date.
Contract – An oral or written agreement between two people which requires both to do certain things.
Conviction – When someone is found guilty in a criminal or traffic case.
Counsel – Legal advice, or a term used to refer to lawyers.
Counterclaim – When the defendant in a civil case formally alleges that he or she was also harmed by the plaintiff in the civil suit.
Court – For the purposes of this website, “court” means the Akron Municipal Court.
Court Administrator – The official appointed by the judges to be responsible for coordinating the judicial court functions.
Court costs – Specific, designated amounts charged to people or parties in cases.
Court reporter – Court employee who makes a word-for-word record of what is said in court and then, upon request, prepares a transcript of that record.
Court security – Police officers assigned to transport and supervise prisoners while the prisoners are in court.
Criminal case – A case where law enforcement claims that a person broke a law.
DamagesMoney sought by a person as compensation from someone who allegedly injured them.
Default judgmentA judgment entered because a defendant failed to answer a complaint or appear in court.
DefendantIn a civil case, the person being sued; in a criminal case, the person charged with violating a law.
DiscoveryMethods to obtain facts and information in a case before trial.
Dismissal with prejudice – When a case is terminated and cannot be re-filed at a later date.
Dismissal without prejudice – When a case is terminated but may be re-filed at a later date.
Diversion – Removal of some criminal or traffic cases from the full court trial process on the condition that the defendant gets help or pays restitution.
Docket – A listing of all filings in a case; a trial docket is a list of all cases to be heard within a specific period of time or by a specific judge or magistrate.
Due process – The right of all people to receive the same guarantees and safeguards in cases.
Et al. – Latin term used in case captions which means “and others”.
Eviction – A case filed by a landlord against tenant to remove the tenant from the rental property. Eviction cases must follow Chapter 1923 and 5321 of the Ohio Revised Code.
Evidence – Testimony, documents or physical evidence given to a court that is used to decide the case.
Ex parte – When something is done by one party in a case without letting the other party know about it.
Exhibit – A physical drawing, document or item used in court.
Expungement – The process, spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code, to destroy or seal records of a conviction or arrest.
Felony – A serious crime that may result in prison time.
File – To deliver to the Clerk of Courts Office a pleading or other paper to be included in a case file. Also, physical folders in which case records are kept.
Fines – Financial penalties that may be given to a criminal or traffic defendant.
Hearsay – A type of evidence that is not allowed in court because it is not presented by its actual source.
House Arrest – A form of pretrial release or sentencing where a defendant must stay at home and is monitored by an ankle bracelet.
In forma pauperis – When a person is given permission to file, without paying court costs, pleadings in case because the court has determined that the person cannot afford to pay court costs.
Indictment – A written accusation from a grand jury charging someone with a felony.
Interview – Typically a meeting between a prosecutor and people involved with a criminal case to get evidence of the alleged crime.
Issue – A disputed point in a case; or when the court formally sends out an order or decision.
Judge – One of the six elected officials in the Akron Municipal Court who have the authority to decide cases in the court.
Judgment – The official decision of a court in a case.
Jurisdiction – The limits to the authority a court has to hear cases- a court is limited to certain types of claims, certain dollar amount limits, and certain locations. Akron Municipal Court handles felony cases through indictment in Common Pleas Court, misdemeanor cases to conclusion, civil cases with damage claims that are less than $15,000, Small Claims case with damage claims less than $6,000, and only cases with ties to Akron, Fairlawn, Bath, Richfield, Lakemore, Springfield, and a part of Mogadore in Summit County, Ohio.
Jury – A group of people selected from the community who decide a case.
Jury/jury trial – When a case is heard and decided by a person selected from the community.
Lawsuit – A case started by plaintiff against a defendant and based on a claim or claims about the parties.
Litigation – A case, controversy, or lawsuit. The parties in litigation are known as litigants.
Local rules – Rules that must be followed in the Wayne County Municipal Court only. Local rules are available on the court’s website.
Magistrate – An attorney appointed by the court to assist judges in deciding cases.
Marsy’s Law – Ohio’s latest victims’ right law.
Mediation – When parties discuss their case with an unbiased third party to try to agree how to end the case without a trial.
Misdemeanor – A less serious crime for which a person may go to jail, but not for more than six months.
Motion – A pleading filed to get a particular issue heard in court. Depending on the type of motion, motions may be filed before, after and during a trial.
A formal, written challenge to a magistrate’s decision.
Opinion or decision
A judge or magistrate’s written explanation of how that judge or magistrate decided a case.
A written local law contained in a city, village or township code.
A person, business or governmental entity involved in a case.
Plaintiff – In a civil case, the person suing another person; in a criminal case, a City or State whose law has allegedly been broken.
Plea – In a criminal case, the defendant’s answer to a case; plea options are “guilty”, “not guilty” and “no contest.”
Plea deal – An agreement between a criminal or traffic defendant and a prosecutor, subject to the approval by a judge or magistrate, to end a criminal or traffic case without going to trial.
Poverty affidavit – A form that must be completed by anyone who wants to proceed in forma pauperis, A poverty affidavit must be approved by the court before that person can file items without paying court costs.
Pretrial – A meeting between opposing parties and attorneys to narrow down issues in a case or to try to end a case without going to trial.
Pretrial services – Supervision or requirements, usually tied to a lower bond, that a criminal or traffic defendant may be ordered to follow while the criminal or traffic case is pending.
Pro se – A Latin term to describe people who represent themselves in cases. Pro se litigants must follow all rules other parties must follow.
Probable cause – A reasonable belief that a crime has been committed and a requirement for all lawful searches, seizures, arrests, and summonses.
Probation – A number of programs offered as an alternative to imprisonment, such as diversion programs, and supervision, that allow defendants convicted of a crime to remain in the community instead of going to jail.
Procedure – The rules for how court cases are handled. Ohio has Criminal Rules, Civil Rules, Traffic Rules, and Evidence Rules while the Wayne County Municipal Court also has the “Wayne County Municipal Court Local Rules.”
Prosecutor – An attorney who represents the City or State in criminal and traffic cases.
Public defender – An attorney assigned by the court to represent criminal or traffic defendants facing possible jail or prison but who cannot afford to hire their own attorney.
Record – All the documents, evidence and transcripts from a case.
Rent escrow case – When a tenant pays rent to the court instead of to a landlord because the tenant alleges that there are problems with the rental property.
Rights form – A document signed by criminal and traffic defendants acknowledging their rights, formalizing their pleas, confirming or denying US citizenship, and acknowledging that a “guilty” or “no contest” waives certain rights.
Rules of Civil Procedure – Rules from the Ohio Supreme Court that all parties must follow in civil cases, and which are usually available online.
Rules of Criminal Procedure – Rules from the Ohio Supreme Court that all parties must follow in criminal cases, and which are usually available online.
Rules of Evidence – Rules from the Ohio Supreme Court that control what evidence can be used in cases and how it can be used, and which are usually available online.
An optional second part of an eviction case where a landlord may seek money damages from a tenant.
The punishment a criminal or traffic defendant receives from the court after a conviction.
Service or service of process
How people find out that a civil case, traffic case, or criminal case has been filed against them. The type of service required varies with the type of case.
A person, business or governmental entity involved in a case.
Set-out date – The date and time when a tenant is to be out of a rental property after a writ of restitution has been issued against them.
Settlement – An agreement between the parties to end a case based on certain conditions.
Small Claims case – A minor civil case with damage claims of $6,000 or less which is governed by Chapter 1925 of the Ohio Revised Code.
Speedy trial – The right criminal and traffic defendants have that allows them to not have their cases continue past legal time limits.
Statute – A written State law contained in the Ohio Revised Code.
Sua sponte – When a court makes a decision on its own as opposed to making a decision based on a request from a party in the case.
Subpoena – A command to appear in court to give testimony.
Subpoena duces tecum – A court order that requires someone to provide specific documents or records.
Summary judgment – A decision on a case based on pleadings, the law, and evidence submitted. Summary judgment eliminates the need for a trial.
Summons – In criminal or traffic cases, a written ticket issued to someone instead of arresting that person; in civil cases, a document to start a civil case and that gives the court jurisdiction over the person who received it.
Temporary protection order – A court order forbidding one person from having any kind of contact with a specific person.
Testify/testimony – To speak or answer questions in court.
Transcript – A written version of what was said in court.
Trial – When both parties in a case present witnesses, cross-examine witnesses, and make arguments in court so a case can be decided.
Verdict – The decision of a judge or jury about a case.
Victim advocate – Someone who assists victims of crime.
Waive – When a party in a case does not object to something that happened or may happen so that party is considered to be in agreement with what happened or may happen.
Warrant – A written order from the court to either arrest a person (arrest warrant) or allow the police to search a specific location (search warrant).
Witness – Someone who testifies in a case.
Writ of restitution – An order requiring a tenant to leave a landlord’s property.