Difficult Words and Terms in Legal Transcription


Difficult Words and Terms in Legal Transcription
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

7/24/2008

No doubt, one of the things that makes legal language hardest to understand is its unusual words and terms. Some legal terms, such as judge, court, interrogation, etc. are relatively well-known, whereas others are a complete mystery to people who are not involved in the legal field. Some legal writings tend to consist of very long sentences, sometimes hundreds of words in length. Here are some difficult legal words and terms. Without knowing these, transcribing legal documents can seem almost impossible.


  • Arbitration - A method of alternative dispute resolution in which the disputing parties agrees to abide by the decision of an arbitrator.
  • Assignment - The transfer of legal rights, from one person to another.
  • Bankruptcy - This is a process governed by the federal law to help people, when they cannot or will not pay their bills.
  • Bifurcation - Splitting a trial into two parts: a liability phase and a penalty phase.
  • Certiorari - It refers to the order of a court so that it can review the decision and proceedings in the lower court.
  • Deed - A written legal document that describes a piece of property and outlines its boundaries.
  • Defamation - The publication of the statement that injures a person’s reputation.
  • Deposition - It is a process in which a witness testifies under oath, before trial.
  • Escrow - The deed of a property will be in escrow( in pending), until the completion of the real estate transaction.
  • Foreclosure - When a borrower cannot repay a loan and the lender seeks to sell the property.
  • Immunity - Exemption from a legal duty or penalty.
  • Implied warranty - A guarantee imposed by law in a sale.
  • Intestate - To die without a will.
  • Plaintiff - The person who initiates a lawsuit.
  • Pro se - A person who represents himself in court alone without the help of the lawyer.
  • Quash - To nullify or declare invalid.
  • Slander - Defamatory oral statements and gestures
  • Subpoena - An order compelling a person to appear in court or produce documents.
  • Suvoir Dire - Means speak the truth.
  • Alternate Juror - A juror who is selected the same way as a regular juror and hears all the evidence; however, he doesn't provide assistance in deciding the case till he is invited to be replaced by a regular juror.
  • Amicus Curiae - It's a Latin term for the phrase “friend of the court.” It is advice formally offered to the court in a brief filed by someone interested in, but is not a party to the case.
  • Article III Judge - A federal judge is a lifetime appointee, during “good behavior,” under Article III of the Constitution. Article III judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
  • Bench Trial - A trial in the absence of a jury, in which the judge serves as the fact-finder.
  • Burden of Proof - It's the duty of proving disputed facts. In civil cases, this is the responsibility of a plaintiff whereas in criminal cases, the government has the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt.
  • De Facto - It's a Latin term, which means “in fact” or “actually.” To elaborate, it's something that exists in fact but not as a matter of law.
  • De Jure - A Latin term meaning “in law.” It signifies something that exists by operation of law.
  • De Novo - A Latin term, meaning “anew.” A trial de novo is a completely new trial.
  • En Banc - A French term, meaning “on the bench.” It purports all judges of an appellate court sitting together to hear a case, as opposed to the regular disposition by panels of three judges.
  • Habeas Corpus - A Latin term, meaning “you have the body.” A habeas corpus writ generally is a judicial order forcing law enforcement authorities to produce a prisoner they are holding and to justify the prisoner’s continued confinement.
  • In Camera - A Latin term, meaning in a judge’s chambers or outside the presence of a jury and the public. In private.
  • Motion in Limine - A pretrial motion requesting the court to proscribe the other side from presenting, or even referring to, evidence on matters said to be so highly detrimental that no steps taken by the judge can prevent the jury from being overly influenced.
  • Nolo Contendere - No contest. This type of plea has the same effect as a plea of guilty, as far as the criminal sentence is concerned, but may not be considered as an admission of guilt for any other purpose.
  • Petit Jury or Trial Jury - This term means a group of citizens who listen to the evidence presented by both sides at trial and determine the facts in dispute.
  • Sanction - In legal parlance, sanction means a penalty or other type of enforcement used to bring about compliance with the law or with rules and regulations.

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the Director of Operations for GMR Transcription Services, Inc an Orange County, California based company that has been providing accurate and affordable transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed success at GMR for almost ten years now and has helped the company grow. Within two years of Beth managing GMR Transcription, it had doubled in sales and was named one of the OC Business Journal’s fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she likes spending time with her husband and two kids.