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Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
Judicial Branch
Juror Information - Terminology

Action, Case, Suit, Lawsuit. These words mean the same thing. They all refer to a legal dispute brought into court for trial.

Answer. The paper in which the defendant answers the claims of the plaintiff.

Argument. The presentation of the review of the evidence and summation by the attorneys at the end of the case after all of the evidence is in and both parties have rested.

Bailiff. The bailiff is a court officer who waits upon the court and the jury and maintains order in the court.

Civil Case. A lawsuit is called a "civil case" when it is between persons in their private capacities or relations, or when the government, whether federal, state or local, or some department thereof, sues an individual under the law, as distinguished from prosecuting a criminal charge. It results generally in a verdict for the plaintiff or for the defendant and, in many cases, involves the awarding or denying of damages.

Clerk. The clerk sits at the desk in front of the judge, is an officer of the court and keeps a record of papers filed. He/She has custody of the pleadings and records of the trial of the case, orders made by the court during the trial and the verdict at the end of the trial. He/She also administers the oath to the jurors and all witnesses before they testify.

Complaint. The paper in which the person who brings the lawsuit sets forth his claims against the defendant.

Court Reporter. The court reporter takes down in shorthand or on a machine everything that transpires, which constitutes the stenographic record in the case. The notes made are subject to transcription later, should occasion, such as appeal, require it. The court reporter marks all exhibits when they are received in evidence.

Cross-Examination. The questions which a lawyer puts to the opposing party and his witnesses.

Defendant. In a civil case, the defendant is the person against whom the lawsuit is brought. In a criminal case, the defendant is the person charged with an offense.

Deposition. Testimony which is written out in question and answer form just as it would have been given in court is called a "deposition" and may be read at the trial. This is ordinarily done because of illness or absence of a party, or for a similar reason.

Examination, Direct Examination. The questions which the lawyer asks his own client or his own witnesses are often referred to as "examination," "direct examination," or "examination in chief."

Exhibits. Objects, including pictures, books, letters and documents are often received in evidence. These are called "exhibits" and are generally given to the jury to take to the jury room while deliberating.

Instructions or "Charge" to Jury. The outline of the rules of law, which the jury must follow in their deliberations in deciding the factual issues submitted to them is called either the judge's "charge" to the jury or his "instructions" to the jury.

Issue. A disputed question of fact is referred to as an "issue." It is sometimes spoken of as one of the "questions" which the jury must answer in order to reach a verdict.

Jury Panel. The whole number of prospective jurors from which the trial jury is chosen.

Objection Overruled. This term means that, in the judge's opinion, the lawyer's objection is not well taken under the rules of law. The judge's ruling, so far as a juror is concerned, is final and may not be questioned.

Objection Sustained. When a lawyer objects to a question or the form of a question, the judge may say "objection sustained." This means that the judge agrees that, under the rules of law, the lawyer's objection was well taken. This ruling likewise is not subject to question by jurors.

Opening Statement. Before introducing any evidence for his side of the case, a lawyer is permitted to tell the jury what the case is about and what evidence he expects to bring in to prove his side of the case. This is called the "opening statement."

Parties. The plaintiff and defendant in the case. They are also sometimes called the "litigants."

Plaintiff. The person who starts a lawsuit.

Pleadings. The parties in a lawsuit must file in court papers stating their claims against each other. In a civil case, these usually consist of a complaint filed by the plaintiff, an answer filed by the defendant and, oftentimes, a reply filed by the plaintiff. These are called "pleadings."

Record. This refers to the pleadings, the exhibits and the word-for-word record made by the court reporter of all the proceedings at the trial.

Reply. The paper in which the plaintiff answers any claims made by the defendant in his answer.

Rest. This is a legal phrase, which means that the lawyer has concluded the evidence he wants to introduce in that stage of the trial.

Striking Testimony. On some occasions, after a witness has testified, the judge will order certain evidence stricken from the record and will direct the jury to disregard it. When this is done, the jury will treat the evidence stricken, as though it had never been given.

Subpoena. The document which is issued for service upon a witness to compel his appearance in court.

Verdict. The finding made by the jury on the issue submitted to them is the "verdict."