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Words about people, papers, places, and procedures in your civil court case

These are words and terms you may find in Louisiana state court. These words and terms are mainly for people with civil, not criminal, issues. These words and terms do not cover issues you may find in federal court, like United States District Court or a United States Court of Appeals.

Look for free legal help in Louisiana:louisianalawhelp.org.

Words about People

Adversary

The other side of the dispute or case -- your opponent.

Bailiff

Court employee or officer who keeps order in the courtroom.

Clerk of Court

The Clerk of Court keeps official court records and files. You go to the office of the Clerk of Court to file court papers.

Defendant

The person or party being sued.

Indigent

An "indigent" is a poor person. In court, an indigent often refers to someone with no money for court costs and fees.

Judge

The judge handles the case in court and moves it along. Some cases are tried to a judge instead of a jury. Then the judge would take the evidence, apply the law, and decide the case.

Hearing Officer

Some courts use hearing officers.

The Hearing Officer is not a judge but an administrative officer. The Hearing Officer tries to resolve the issues between the parties, especially if the parties can come to an agreement. If not, the Hearing Officer will make findings of facts and recommendations to the Judge. If one side does not agree with the Hearing Officer's recommendations, it is important for that side to file an objection so that the case can be heard by the Judge or Domestic Commissioner. The recommendations of the Hearing Officer are usually made the "interim orders" of the Court until the Judge can hear the case.

Lawyer (or Attorney)

A lawyer is a person licensed to practice law and to represent people in court. A Louisiana lawyer is a person licensed by the State of Louisiana to practice law and to represent people in Louisiana state courts. Some lawyers are also licensed to appear in federal court. A lawyer may be licensed in one or more states.

Litigant

Person or party involved in a lawsuit.

Major (Age of Majority)

In Louisiana, someone who is 18 years old or older.

Minor (Age of Minority)

In Louisiana, someone less than 18 years old.

Mover (or Movant)

Person in a case who asks, or moves, the court to do something.

Notary Public

A Notary Public is a person licensed to notarize papers, like affidavits. A Notary Public must have a license. The notary typically signs the paper and may also use his or her official seal to make a raised mark on the paper.

WARNING! Make sure you are dealing with a real Notary Public licensed in Louisiana.

Sometimes a person is a lawyer as well as a Notary Public. These are two different things. Not every lawyer is a Notary Public and not every Notary Public is a lawyer. A Notary Public who is not also a lawyer cannot legally do things that only a lawyer can do.

Party

A party is one side to a lawsuit. A case may have few or many parties. A party is often a person. Sometimes a party is a government agency or something other than an actual person, like a business.

Petitioner (or Plaintiff)

A Petitioner is someone who files a Petition to take legal action in court.

Pro Se Litigant (or Self-Represented Litigant)

A pro se litigant is someone handling his or her own case without a lawyer. In some places this is also called "pro per" or "in proper person."

Respondent

A respondent is the party who answers ("responds") to court papers filed by a Petitioner.

Sheriff's Deputy

A sheriff's deputy has the power to deliver, or "serve," court papers.

Some kinds of court papers have to be delivered, or served, by the Sheriff's office.

Witness

A witness can testify or swear to facts he or she personally knows.

Some court papers must be signed by a witness who swears that certain things in the papers are true.

Witnesses can help you tell your side of the story in court. The other side can bring witnesses, too. The other side gets a chance to ask questions of your witness and you get a chance to ask questions of the other side's witnesses.

Go to the next page to see Words about Papers.

Words about Papers

Affidavit

This is a paper signed by a person who swears that the things said in the paper are true. The person must sign the affidavit in front of a Notary Public. The Notary Public also signs, or notarizes, the affidavit.

Answer

The "Answer" is one way a defendant responds to a lawsuit. You can lose important rights if you do not file an Answer on time. Try to talk with a lawyer before filing an Answer or other court papers.

Certificate of Service

The certificate of service is a statement on court papers that says when and how the papers were delivered to those involved in the case. These papers usually do not require service by the Sheriff. Court rules say how court papers must be served (delivered).

Some court papers must be served by the Sheriff's office. Some court papers can be served by mail or in other ways.

You must find out how court papers have to be delivered to others involved in your case.

Court Papers and Copies

It is important to know the difference between original court papers and different kinds of copies of court papers.

WARNING! The clerk will not actually file the papers in the record if the filing fee has not been paidor if there is not a court order saying that the person does not need to pay the filing fee in advance.

Certified Copies

Certified copies are photocopies of original court papers with a special mark from the Clerk of Court. The mark shows that the papers are certified copies of the original. Only the office of the Clerk of Court can give you certified, copies. There may be a fee to get certified copies.

File-Stamped Copies

File-stamped copies are sometimes called "clocked" copies. They are copies of original papers stamped with the date and time of filing by the Clerk of Court. These are not the same as certified copies.

True copies

While these are copies of the original document, they are not certified with the seal of the Clerk of Court but instead will have a stamp stating that the document is a true copy.

Original Court Papers and Documents

Original court papers or other documents have original signatures and any original notary signatures or seals. They are not copies or photocopies.

Clerk's Record

The clerk's record is the court's official collection of paperwork and related items in the case.

Complaint (or Petition)

A complaint is a court paper used to start a case. The complaint spells out the basic facts, legal issues and what the person bringing the case wants the court to do.

Consent Decree or Consent Judgment

A judicially-approved agreement between the parties.

Default Judgment

The court might issue a default judgment when one side one side does not file papers or appear in court to oppose the case.

Demand Letter

A demand letter asks someone to do something by a given deadline to avoid legal action.

Example: A letter demanding return of a security deposit within the time allowed by law.

Deposition

A deposition is a question and answer session that is recorded by a person qualified to take down all of the questions and answers. The person answering questions swears to tell the truth.

A deposition is sometimes used by one side to find out more about a case, or to save important information. If you get a notice to go to a deposition, try to talk with a lawyer first.

Docket

Docket can mean different things in different situations. Here are some kinds of dockets:

Case Docket

A case docket can mean the list of documents and events in a case.

Hearing (or Trial Docket, or Calendar)

A hearing docket or hearing calendar can be a list of cases scheduled for court on a certain day.

Judge's Docket

A judge's docket can be a list of cases assigned to a particular judge.

In Forma Pauperis(or "IFP")

These words mean "in the manner of a pauper," or a person with no money. This term may come up when someone does not have money to pay filing fees and other costs.

The terms In Forma Pauperis or "IFP" can refer to someone who gets a court order to go forward with a case without paying costs and fees in advance. See the procedures section for more about this.

Judgment

A judgment is the court's final decision on all or part of a case. Sometimes one case has judgments on different issues. A judge sometimes decides one or more issues in an

Interim Judgment. Read your judgment and be sure you understand what issues it takes care of.

Motion

Way to ask the court to do something. Many motions must be in writing.

Order

An Order is the Court's ruling on a specific issue. An Order may also tell people what to do, like to show up in court at a specific day and time.

Rule for Possession

A Rule for Possession is a court paper filed to try to get someone evicted. These cases can be heard very soon after they are filed. Do not wait to look for legal help if you get a Rule for Possession.

Rule to Show Cause

A Rule to Show Cause asks the court to order the parties to show up in court at a certain date and time to deal with a particular issue. The Rule to Show Cause asks the Court to order the opposing side to show up and "show cause" why the person who filed the rule should not get what he or she is asking for in the case.

Subpoena

There is more than one type of subpoena. A subpoena may order a person to show up at court or for another proceeding. A subpoenaduces tecum orders someone to produce documents or things. The court may punish a person who ignores a subpoena.

Service and Citation

Service is the official way to deliver court papers to someone. The Citation is a special paper that should tell the person when to answer the court papers or show up in court. If you do not respond to court papers or show up in court, you could lose the case.

Transcript

Written record of everything said at a hearing, trial, deposition or other event.

Verification

Some court papers need "verification." The verification is a statement a person signs in front of a Notary Public. The verification swears that the things said in the court papers are true. Example: in an uncontested divorce case, the person filing the divorce must sign verification in front of a Notary Public, and the verification must swear that the contents of the Petition are true.

Go to the next page to see Words about Places

Words about Places

Be sure you know which court and which courthouse you need before you take legal action.

You must bring your case in the right kind of court for your legal issue. The court also must be in the right place or location for your issue.

Try to talk with a lawyer before filing papers or starting a case. If you do not bring your case in the right place any judgment you win might not be valid.

Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction is the court's power to hear and decide a case. Different courts have different kinds of jurisdiction. It is your job to find out which court is right for your issue.

Venue

Venue is whether the court is in the right location or place for your case. A case has to be filed in the right place. This means picking the right court and the right parish. If you do not bring your case in the right venue the case may not be valid, even if you win.

Domicile

A person's "domicile" is that person's real and permanent home. People living for a time someplace else sometimes are still "domiciled" where they were living before.

City Court

A city court handles smaller civil cases. Check to see if your city has a city court and what cases it handles.

WARNING! Check first with the court to see if your case involves more money than the court allows.

Louisiana State Judicial District Court

A Louisiana Judicial District Court (sometimes called "JDC" typically handles criminal and civil cases, but there are exceptions. Judicial Districts general have numbers, like the 10th Judicial District, the 32nd Judicial District, and so on. A judicial district sometimes covers more than one parish.

Find out which judicial district you need, which parish you need and which court inside that parish you need.

Justice of the Peace Court

Justice of the Peace Court generally handles smaller cases.

WARNING! Check first to see if your case involves more money than the court allows.

Parish Court

Parish Courts generally handle smaller cases.

WARNING! Check first to see if your case involves more money than the court allows.

Court of Appeal

Most appeals from trial courts go to the Court of Appeal for that area. There are exceptions. If you have to appeal anything, talk to a lawyer.

Supreme Court of Louisiana

This is Louisiana's highest state court. This court hears only certain cases. It can be very hard to get this court to review your case.

Civil Sheriff's Office

You go to the office of the Civil Sheriff to get papers served on someone by a court official.

Clerk of Court, Clerk's Office

The Clerk of Court's office is usually in the courthouse, but it may be in a different place. This is the office where you file court papers. There is only one Clerk of Court for each court. The Clerk of Court may have staff, like deputy or assistant clerks.

Domestic Violence Shelter

This is a place where people facing family violence can go to try to be safe. These places may offer a place to sleep plus other help, like counseling. The Louisiana Domestic Violence Hotline is open 24 hours a day: 1-888-411-1333.

Judge's Chambers and Courtroom

The Judge's offices are called chambers. The courtroom is where the judge usually holds court.

Free Legal Services Programs

There are many nonprofit law firms that give people free legal help. People usually have to fall below certain income limits to get help, and there may be other rules about what kind of cases these offices can take. Sometimes these programs are called "legal aid" offices.

Find Louisiana programs that offer free legal help to qualified people onlouisianalawhelp.org.

"Pro Bono" Lawyers

Some programs try to link people with free legal help from "pro bono" lawyers. The lawyers are sometimes called "volunteer" lawyers because they donate their time for free. Offices that try to connect free lawyers with people who need them are sometimes called "pro bono programs" or "volunteer lawyer" programs. These offices offer clinics to teach people about legal issues. Call your local pro bono program or volunteer lawyer program to find out more.

Find Louisiana programs that offer free legal help to qualified people onlouisianalawhelp.org.

Go to the next page to see Words about Procedures

Words about Procedures

In court, procedure is the name for the steps used to move a case through the court system.

Contempt of Court

Contempt of court means that someone has violated a court order, court rule, or has done something serious that shows no respect for the court. In some situations, one side files a contempt motion to argue to the judge that the other side is not doing what it is supposed to do in the case, like following a court order.

Continuance

A continuance is a delay in the case. One side can ask for a delay, but the judge can say no. There are rules for how you must ask for a continuance, or delay, and you should have a really good reason before you even try.

IMPORTANT: If the court refuses to "continue' or delay the case you must come to your hearing or trial or risk losing your case because you did not show up.

Default Judgment

The court might issue a default judgment if one side dos not file any papers or show up for court. In some cases, both sides want the same thing, like an uncontested divorce. One side might let the other win by default by agreeing not to object to the case.

Evidence

Each side uses evidence to prove its side of the story. This includes testimony from people, or certain records, documents and things, like photographs. Both sides may argue over what evidence should be let in. The judge decides those issues.

Ex Parte

Latin phrase for an action you take in court without telling the other side. Most of the time you have to let the other side know when you file court papers or contact the judge, so that the other side has a chance to object.

Important: There are very narrow rules about what you can do ex parte. You should not try to do anything ex parte without making sure the law lets you do so.

Filing Fee

What you pay to file papers in court.

Important: Your lawsuit is not officially filed until you pay the fee or until you get a court order letting you file papers without paying in advance.

If you have been sued you may need to pay to file papers to fight the case. Ask the court ahead of time what the fee is to file your court papers.

Court Costs

Court costs may include filing fees as well as costs incurred for tests, reports, or other things that help move the case through court. The judge may order one or more parties to pay court costs.

Hearsay

Hearsay is the name for information that is not considered reliable enough to count as evidence.

Hearsay can refer to statements from people or statements in papers. There are rules about what is considered hearsay. There are also exceptions to the hearsay rules.

In Forma Pauperis (or IFP)

These Latin words mean "in the manner of a pauper" or person with no money.

Low-income people can file In Forma Pauperis papers to ask the court to let you file court papers without paying court fees ahead of time. You must prove that you do not have money to pay. You can ask the Clerk of Court for an In Forma Pauperis form you can fill out.

Here is an IFP form from the Louisiana Supreme Court's website: http://www.lasc.org/rules/dist.ct/COURTRULESAPPENDIX8.0.pdf

After you file your form, the judge will review it. The judge's Order may either say yes or no to your request. If the judge says no, you must pay to file papers or do certain things in court. You can try to challenge an Order, but this is hard to do without a lawyer.

Caution! Your court papers are not filed officially until you pay court fees or get an In Forma Pauperis Order.

WARNING! The judge might order you to pay the court costs and fees when the case is over.

Motion

This is a formal way to ask or "move" the court to do something during a case. Motions are usually in writing. Some motions can be spoken in court.

Notice (or Proper Notice)

Notice is how you must tell others about certain events or developments that affect the case. Notice is very important. Failure to give the right kind of notice can make you lose your case or ruin a step you took in a case.

Example: In an eviction case, you and your landlord may argue over whether the landlord gave you proper "notice" to get out of the apartment before going to court to try to evict you. In a fight over a security deposit, you and your landlord might argue over whether you gave the right kind of notice that you moved out.

Objection

The term objection can mean different things in different situations. An objection can mean one party's way of trying to keep out evidence in court. The court needs a good reason for the objection. The judge may agree with you and "sustain" your objection. The judge may disagree and "overrule" your objection.

Preliminary Injunction

A preliminary injunction is a court order to "enjoin" or stop something. There is usually a follow-up court hearing to see if the preliminary injunction will become permanent.

Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)

An order a party gets without giving the other side a chance to respond. The order is temporary until there can be a court hearing. In family violence cases, people try to get a TRO to keep away a violent or harmful person.

Permanent injunction

An order to stop someone from harming someone or doing something else that the court says is illegal.

Prescription

Prescription is the deadline by which you have to bring a court action to protect your legal rights. Missing the deadline destroys your right to bring your case, except in very rare situations. There are different deadlines for different kinds of cases.

Important:Prescription deadlines are very serious! If you think you need to take legal action to protect your rights, talk with a lawyer right away!

Pro Se(or Self-Represented)

This is a name for someone handling his or her case without a lawyer.

FilingCourt Papers or Documents

A document is "filed" with the court when it is accepted by the court and added to the record in the case.

WARNING! Giving papers to the Clerk of Court to file does not necessarily mean the papers are filed.

If you do not pay the fee orget an In Forma Pauperis Order, the court may find you did not really "file" the papers and that your case never started.

Service

Service is the official way court papers are delivered to someone. The court has rules about how court papers must be served and who must be served with the papers. Some papers must be served by the Sheriff's office; other papers can be mailed.

Summary Judgment (or Motion for Summary Judgment)

A Motion for Summary Judgment asks the court to decide the case or part of a case without a trial. The motion argues that the key facts are not in dispute and that all the court needs to do is to apply the law. The two sides may fight over whether any important facts still need to be decided and what the law says about how the case should turn out.

There are strict rules about how to fight a Motion for Summary Judgment and what kind of evidence can be used to fight against the motion.

You must give the court the right kind of evidence to fight a summary judgment motion.

Trial

This is the formal way the court hears evidence in court. Some trials are heard by a jury and some trials are heard by the judge alone.

Bench Trial

A bench trial is a trial before a judge. There is no jury.

Waive/Waiver

A waiver gives up your right to something. This can mean giving up your right to fight a claim, to have court papers delivered to you, or to get notice of court hearings.

Example: In an uncontested divorce case, the other spouse may waive or give up the right to be served with court papers or to get notice of court hearings or the trial in the case. This kind of waiver must be signed in front of a notary by the person giving up his or her rights.

For more information about legal issues for low-income people in Louisiana, go to louisianalawhelp.org

Louisiana public interest and pro bono advocates can find information and resources on www.probono.net/la

Louisiana Civil Justice Center (LCJC) legal information help line: (504) 355-0970 or (800) 310-7029

Words about people, papers, places, and procedures in your civil court case

These are words and terms you may find in Louisiana state court. These words and terms are mainly for people with civil, not criminal, issues. These words and terms do not cover issues you may find in federal court, like United States District Court or a United States Court of Appeals.

Look for free legal help in Louisiana:louisianalawhelp.org.

Words about People

Adversary

The other side of the dispute or case -- your opponent.

Bailiff

Court employee or officer who keeps order in the courtroom.

Clerk of Court

The Clerk of Court keeps official court records and files. You go to the office of the Clerk of Court to file court papers.

Defendant

The person or party being sued.

Indigent

An "indigent" is a poor person. In court, an indigent often refers to someone with no money for court costs and fees.

Judge

The judge handles the case in court and moves it along. Some cases are tried to a judge instead of a jury. Then the judge would take the evidence, apply the law, and decide the case.

Hearing Officer

Some courts use hearing officers.

The Hearing Officer is not a judge but an administrative officer. The Hearing Officer tries to resolve the issues between the parties, especially if the parties can come to an agreement. If not, the Hearing Officer will make findings of facts and recommendations to the Judge. If one side does not agree with the Hearing Officer's recommendations, it is important for that side to file an objection so that the case can be heard by the Judge or Domestic Commissioner. The recommendations of the Hearing Officer are usually made the "interim orders" of the Court until the Judge can hear the case.

Lawyer (or Attorney)

A lawyer is a person licensed to practice law and to represent people in court. A Louisiana lawyer is a person licensed by the State of Louisiana to practice law and to represent people in Louisiana state courts. Some lawyers are also licensed to appear in federal court. A lawyer may be licensed in one or more states.

Litigant

Person or party involved in a lawsuit.

Major (Age of Majority)

In Louisiana, someone who is 18 years old or older.

Minor (Age of Minority)

In Louisiana, someone less than 18 years old.

Mover (or Movant)

Person in a case who asks, or moves, the court to do something.

Notary Public

A Notary Public is a person licensed to notarize papers, like affidavits. A Notary Public must have a license. The notary typically signs the paper and may also use his or her official seal to make a raised mark on the paper.

WARNING! Make sure you are dealing with a real Notary Public licensed in Louisiana.

Sometimes a person is a lawyer as well as a Notary Public. These are two different things. Not every lawyer is a Notary Public and not every Notary Public is a lawyer. A Notary Public who is not also a lawyer cannot legally do things that only a lawyer can do.

Party

A party is one side to a lawsuit. A case may have few or many parties. A party is often a person. Sometimes a party is a government agency or something other than an actual person, like a business.

Petitioner (or Plaintiff)

A Petitioner is someone who files a Petition to take legal action in court.

Pro Se Litigant (or Self-Represented Litigant)

A pro se litigant is someone handling his or her own case without a lawyer. In some places this is also called "pro per" or "in proper person."

Respondent

A respondent is the party who answers ("responds") to court papers filed by a Petitioner.

Sheriff's Deputy

A sheriff's deputy has the power to deliver, or "serve," court papers.

Some kinds of court papers have to be delivered, or served, by the Sheriff's office.

Witness

A witness can testify or swear to facts he or she personally knows.

Some court papers must be signed by a witness who swears that certain things in the papers are true.

Witnesses can help you tell your side of the story in court. The other side can bring witnesses, too. The other side gets a chance to ask questions of your witness and you get a chance to ask questions of the other side's witnesses.

Go to the next page to see Words about Papers.

Words about Papers

Affidavit

This is a paper signed by a person who swears that the things said in the paper are true. The person must sign the affidavit in front of a Notary Public. The Notary Public also signs, or notarizes, the affidavit.

Answer

The "Answer" is one way a defendant responds to a lawsuit. You can lose important rights if you do not file an Answer on time. Try to talk with a lawyer before filing an Answer or other court papers.

Certificate of Service

The certificate of service is a statement on court papers that says when and how the papers were delivered to those involved in the case. These papers usually do not require service by the Sheriff. Court rules say how court papers must be served (delivered).

Some court papers must be served by the Sheriff's office. Some court papers can be served by mail or in other ways.

You must find out how court papers have to be delivered to others involved in your case.

Court Papers and Copies

It is important to know the difference between original court papers and different kinds of copies of court papers.

WARNING! The clerk will not actually file the papers in the record if the filing fee has not been paidor if there is not a court order saying that the person does not need to pay the filing fee in advance.

Certified Copies

Certified copies are photocopies of original court papers with a special mark from the Clerk of Court. The mark shows that the papers are certified copies of the original. Only the office of the Clerk of Court can give you certified, copies. There may be a fee to get certified copies.

File-Stamped Copies

File-stamped copies are sometimes called "clocked" copies. They are copies of original papers stamped with the date and time of filing by the Clerk of Court. These are not the same as certified copies.

True copies

While these are copies of the original document, they are not certified with the seal of the Clerk of Court but instead will have a stamp stating that the document is a true copy.

Original Court Papers and Documents

Original court papers or other documents have original signatures and any original notary signatures or seals. They are not copies or photocopies.

Clerk's Record

The clerk's record is the court's official collection of paperwork and related items in the case.

Complaint (or Petition)

A complaint is a court paper used to start a case. The complaint spells out the basic facts, legal issues and what the person bringing the case wants the court to do.

Consent Decree or Consent Judgment

A judicially-approved agreement between the parties.

Default Judgment

The court might issue a default judgment when one side one side does not file papers or appear in court to oppose the case.

Demand Letter

A demand letter asks someone to do something by a given deadline to avoid legal action.

Example: A letter demanding return of a security deposit within the time allowed by law.

Deposition

A deposition is a question and answer session that is recorded by a person qualified to take down all of the questions and answers. The person answering questions swears to tell the truth.

A deposition is sometimes used by one side to find out more about a case, or to save important information. If you get a notice to go to a deposition, try to talk with a lawyer first.

Docket

Docket can mean different things in different situations. Here are some kinds of dockets:

Case Docket

A case docket can mean the list of documents and events in a case.

Hearing (or Trial Docket, or Calendar)

A hearing docket or hearing calendar can be a list of cases scheduled for court on a certain day.

Judge's Docket

A judge's docket can be a list of cases assigned to a particular judge.

In Forma Pauperis(or "IFP")

These words mean "in the manner of a pauper," or a person with no money. This term may come up when someone does not have money to pay filing fees and other costs.

The terms In Forma Pauperis or "IFP" can refer to someone who gets a court order to go forward with a case without paying costs and fees in advance. See the procedures section for more about this.

Judgment

A judgment is the court's final decision on all or part of a case. Sometimes one case has judgments on different issues. A judge sometimes decides one or more issues in an

Interim Judgment. Read your judgment and be sure you understand what issues it takes care of.

Motion

Way to ask the court to do something. Many motions must be in writing.

Order

An Order is the Court's ruling on a specific issue. An Order may also tell people what to do, like to show up in court at a specific day and time.

Rule for Possession

A Rule for Possession is a court paper filed to try to get someone evicted. These cases can be heard very soon after they are filed. Do not wait to look for legal help if you get a Rule for Possession.

Rule to Show Cause

A Rule to Show Cause asks the court to order the parties to show up in court at a certain date and time to deal with a particular issue. The Rule to Show Cause asks the Court to order the opposing side to show up and "show cause" why the person who filed the rule should not get what he or she is asking for in the case.

Subpoena

There is more than one type of subpoena. A subpoena may order a person to show up at court or for another proceeding. A subpoenaduces tecum orders someone to produce documents or things. The court may punish a person who ignores a subpoena.

Service and Citation

Service is the official way to deliver court papers to someone. The Citation is a special paper that should tell the person when to answer the court papers or show up in court. If you do not respond to court papers or show up in court, you could lose the case.

Transcript

Written record of everything said at a hearing, trial, deposition or other event.

Verification

Some court papers need "verification." The verification is a statement a person signs in front of a Notary Public. The verification swears that the things said in the court papers are true. Example: in an uncontested divorce case, the person filing the divorce must sign verification in front of a Notary Public, and the verification must swear that the contents of the Petition are true.

Go to the next page to see Words about Places

Words about Places

Be sure you know which court and which courthouse you need before you take legal action.

You must bring your case in the right kind of court for your legal issue. The court also must be in the right place or location for your issue.

Try to talk with a lawyer before filing papers or starting a case. If you do not bring your case in the right place any judgment you win might not be valid.

Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction is the court's power to hear and decide a case. Different courts have different kinds of jurisdiction. It is your job to find out which court is right for your issue.

Venue

Venue is whether the court is in the right location or place for your case. A case has to be filed in the right place. This means picking the right court and the right parish. If you do not bring your case in the right venue the case may not be valid, even if you win.

Domicile

A person's "domicile" is that person's real and permanent home. People living for a time someplace else sometimes are still "domiciled" where they were living before.

City Court

A city court handles smaller civil cases. Check to see if your city has a city court and what cases it handles.

WARNING! Check first with the court to see if your case involves more money than the court allows.

Louisiana State Judicial District Court

A Louisiana Judicial District Court (sometimes called "JDC" typically handles criminal and civil cases, but there are exceptions. Judicial Districts general have numbers, like the 10th Judicial District, the 32nd Judicial District, and so on. A judicial district sometimes covers more than one parish.

Find out which judicial district you need, which parish you need and which court inside that parish you need.

Justice of the Peace Court

Justice of the Peace Court generally handles smaller cases.

WARNING! Check first to see if your case involves more money than the court allows.

Parish Court

Parish Courts generally handle smaller cases.

WARNING! Check first to see if your case involves more money than the court allows.

Court of Appeal

Most appeals from trial courts go to the Court of Appeal for that area. There are exceptions. If you have to appeal anything, talk to a lawyer.

Supreme Court of Louisiana

This is Louisiana's highest state court. This court hears only certain cases. It can be very hard to get this court to review your case.

Civil Sheriff's Office

You go to the office of the Civil Sheriff to get papers served on someone by a court official.

Clerk of Court, Clerk's Office

The Clerk of Court's office is usually in the courthouse, but it may be in a different place. This is the office where you file court papers. There is only one Clerk of Court for each court. The Clerk of Court may have staff, like deputy or assistant clerks.

Domestic Violence Shelter

This is a place where people facing family violence can go to try to be safe. These places may offer a place to sleep plus other help, like counseling. The Louisiana Domestic Violence Hotline is open 24 hours a day: 1-888-411-1333.

Judge's Chambers and Courtroom

The Judge's offices are called chambers. The courtroom is where the judge usually holds court.

Free Legal Services Programs

There are many nonprofit law firms that give people free legal help. People usually have to fall below certain income limits to get help, and there may be other rules about what kind of cases these offices can take. Sometimes these programs are called "legal aid" offices.

Find Louisiana programs that offer free legal help to qualified people onlouisianalawhelp.org.

"Pro Bono" Lawyers

Some programs try to link people with free legal help from "pro bono" lawyers. The lawyers are sometimes called "volunteer" lawyers because they donate their time for free. Offices that try to connect free lawyers with people who need them are sometimes called "pro bono programs" or "volunteer lawyer" programs. These offices offer clinics to teach people about legal issues. Call your local pro bono program or volunteer lawyer program to find out more.

Find Louisiana programs that offer free legal help to qualified people onlouisianalawhelp.org.

Go to the next page to see Words about Procedures

Words about Procedures

In court, procedure is the name for the steps used to move a case through the court system.

Contempt of Court

Contempt of court means that someone has violated a court order, court rule, or has done something serious that shows no respect for the court. In some situations, one side files a contempt motion to argue to the judge that the other side is not doing what it is supposed to do in the case, like following a court order.

Continuance

A continuance is a delay in the case. One side can ask for a delay, but the judge can say no. There are rules for how you must ask for a continuance, or delay, and you should have a really good reason before you even try.

IMPORTANT: If the court refuses to "continue' or delay the case you must come to your hearing or trial or risk losing your case because you did not show up.

Default Judgment

The court might issue a default judgment if one side dos not file any papers or show up for court. In some cases, both sides want the same thing, like an uncontested divorce. One side might let the other win by default by agreeing not to object to the case.

Evidence

Each side uses evidence to prove its side of the story. This includes testimony from people, or certain records, documents and things, like photographs. Both sides may argue over what evidence should be let in. The judge decides those issues.

Ex Parte

Latin phrase for an action you take in court without telling the other side. Most of the time you have to let the other side know when you file court papers or contact the judge, so that the other side has a chance to object.

Important: There are very narrow rules about what you can do ex parte. You should not try to do anything ex parte without making sure the law lets you do so.

Filing Fee

What you pay to file papers in court.

Important: Your lawsuit is not officially filed until you pay the fee or until you get a court order letting you file papers without paying in advance.

If you have been sued you may need to pay to file papers to fight the case. Ask the court ahead of time what the fee is to file your court papers.

Court Costs

Court costs may include filing fees as well as costs incurred for tests, reports, or other things that help move the case through court. The judge may order one or more parties to pay court costs.

Hearsay

Hearsay is the name for information that is not considered reliable enough to count as evidence.

Hearsay can refer to statements from people or statements in papers. There are rules about what is considered hearsay. There are also exceptions to the hearsay rules.

In Forma Pauperis (or IFP)

These Latin words mean "in the manner of a pauper" or person with no money.

Low-income people can file In Forma Pauperis papers to ask the court to let you file court papers without paying court fees ahead of time. You must prove that you do not have money to pay. You can ask the Clerk of Court for an In Forma Pauperis form you can fill out.

Here is an IFP form from the Louisiana Supreme Court's website:http://www.lasc.org/rules/dist.ct/COURTRULESAPPENDIX8.0.pdf

After you file your form, the judge will review it. The judge's Order may either say yes or no to your request. If the judge says no, you must pay to file papers or do certain things in court. You can try to challenge an Order, but this is hard to do without a lawyer.

Caution! Your court papers are not filed officially until you pay court fees or get an In Forma Pauperis Order.

WARNING! The judge might order you to pay the court costs and fees when the case is over.

Motion

This is a formal way to ask or "move" the court to do something during a case. Motions are usually in writing. Some motions can be spoken in court.

Notice (or Proper Notice)

Notice is how you must tell others about certain events or developments that affect the case. Notice is very important. Failure to give the right kind of notice can make you lose your case or ruin a step you took in a case.

Example: In an eviction case, you and your landlord may argue over whether the landlord gave you proper "notice" to get out of the apartment before going to court to try to evict you. In a fight over a security deposit, you and your landlord might argue over whether you gave the right kind of notice that you moved out.

Objection

The term objection can mean different things in different situations. An objection can mean one party's way of trying to keep out evidence in court. The court needs a good reason for the objection. The judge may agree with you and "sustain" your objection. The judge may disagree and "overrule" your objection.

Preliminary Injunction

A preliminary injunction is a court order to "enjoin" or stop something. There is usually a follow-up court hearing to see if the preliminary injunction will become permanent.

Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)

An order a party gets without giving the other side a chance to respond. The order is temporary until there can be a court hearing. In family violence cases, people try to get a TRO to keep away a violent or harmful person.

Permanent injunction

An order to stop someone from harming someone or doing something else that the court says is illegal.

Prescription

Prescription is the deadline by which you have to bring a court action to protect your legal rights. Missing the deadline destroys your right to bring your case, except in very rare situations. There are different deadlines for different kinds of cases.

Important:Prescription deadlines are very serious! If you think you need to take legal action to protect your rights, talk with a lawyer right away!

Pro Se(or Self-Represented)

This is a name for someone handling his or her case without a lawyer.

FilingCourt Papers or Documents

A document is "filed" with the court when it is accepted by the court and added to the record in the case.

WARNING! Giving papers to the Clerk of Court to file does not necessarily mean the papers are filed.

If you do not pay the fee orget an In Forma Pauperis Order, the court may find you did not really "file" the papers and that your case never started.

Service

Service is the official way court papers are delivered to someone. The court has rules about how court papers must be served and who must be served with the papers. Some papers must be served by the Sheriff's office; other papers can be mailed.

Summary Judgment (or Motion for Summary Judgment)

A Motion for Summary Judgment asks the court to decide the case or part of a case without a trial. The motion argues that the key facts are not in dispute and that all the court needs to do is to apply the law. The two sides may fight over whether any important facts still need to be decided and what the law says about how the case should turn out.

There are strict rules about how to fight a Motion for Summary Judgment and what kind of evidence can be used to fight against the motion.

You must give the court the right kind of evidence to fight a summary judgment motion.

Trial

This is the formal way the court hears evidence in court. Some trials are heard by a jury and some trials are heard by the judge alone.

Bench Trial

A bench trial is a trial before a judge. There is no jury.

Waive/Waiver

A waiver gives up your right to something. This can mean giving up your right to fight a claim, to have court papers delivered to you, or to get notice of court hearings.

Example: In an uncontested divorce case, the other spouse may waive or give up the right to be served with court papers or to get notice of court hearings or the trial in the case. This kind of waiver must be signed in front of a notary by the person giving up his or her rights.

For more information about legal issues for low-income people in Louisiana, go tolouisianalawhelp.org

Louisiana public interest and pro bono advocates can find information and resources onwww.probono.net/la

Louisiana Civil Justice Center (LCJC) legal information help line: (504) 355-0970 or (800) 310-7029

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Last Review and Update: Aug 19, 2011
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