Legal Jargon Explained
Acknowledgement of service
When the particulars of a claim form (outlining details of the claim) are served on (delivered to) a defendant, they receive a response pack including a form which they must use to acknowledge they have received the claim. The defendant must file (return) the acknowledgment form within 14 days of receiving the particulars of the claim. The particulars can be served with, or separately from the claim form.
Postponement of the hearing of a case by order of the Court (maybe for a short period, e.g. to next day).
Admission (including part admissions)
A party involved in a claim may admit the truth of all or part of the other party’s case, at any stage during proceedings. For example, a defendant may agree that he or she owes some money, but less than the amount being claimed. If the defendant makes an admission, the claimant may apply for judgment, on the admission.
(see Statement) A written statement of evidence confirmed on oath or by affirmation to be true and taken before someone who has authority to administer it.
Declaration by a witness who has no religious belief, or has religious beliefs that prevent him/her taking the oath. They declare by affirmation that the evidence he/she is giving is the truth.
The process by which a judge assigns a defended civil case, to one of three case management tracks, the small claims track, the fast track or the multi-track.
A case (claim) is allocated to a case management track, when an allocation questionnaire has been returned completed by the people involved (parties) in the case. Reponses to the questionnaire provide a judge with information on case value and other matters, to assist him or her to allocate the case to the correct track.
Alternative dispute resolution
These are schemes such as arbitration and mediation which are designed to allow parties to find a resolution to their problem, without legal action. A party’s refusal to consider ADR could lead to sanctions (penalties) against that party, by a judge, even if the party wins the case.
The process by which corrections to court documents, such as statements of case, can be made. A statement of case can be amended at any time, before it is served or with permission of all other parties or the court, (once served). The court may reject the amendment, even if the party concerned has permission of other parties to the case.
Application to a higher court or other body for review of a decision taken by a lower court or tribunal. The higher court may overturn or uphold (i.e. reject) the lower court’s decision. Often, permission (leave) is required, to for an appeal to occur.
A person appealing to a higher court or body against a decision made in a lower court or body Applicant Person making the request or demand, e.g. person who issues an application.
The act of applying to a civil court to ask it to do something, for example to start proceedings.
Arbitrator or Arbitration
A process in which both sides agree to use an independent arbitrator (an impartial person) who gives a binding decision in the matter. The person making the claim (claimant) has to choose between going to arbitration and court – it is not usually possible to take a claim to court after it has been through arbitration.
Attachment of earnings order
An order that instructs an employer to deduct a regular amount, fixed by the court, from a debtor's earnings and to pay that money into court. The court pays the money to the person or people to whom it is owed Automatic transfer Providing that a number of criteria are met, proceedings must be transferred automatically to the court nearest to the defendant’s home.
Result of an arbitration hearing or the amount of damages assessed by a Court.
Bailiffs and enforcement officers are people authorised to remove and sell possessions in order to pay the money a debtor owes to a person or an organisation. They may also conduct evictions, and arrest people.
A bailiff can also serve (deliver) court documents on people.
Case Management Conference (CMC)
This is a meeting between all parties to a case and the Judge to check the progress of the case, with regards to costs and other matters. The numbers of CMCs held depend on the complexity of the case.
Case management tracks
Civil cases are allocated to one of three case management tracks, depending on financial value, issues of law and the likely duration (length) of the case. The three tracks are (i) the small claims track in which cases to the value of five thousand pounds can be considered and the claimant does not have to have legal representation (ii) the fast track for cases of value between five and fifteen thousand pounds and (iii) the multi- track for cases of value over fifteen thousand pounds. Legal representation is advisable in the fast and multi-tracks.
A unique reference number allocated to each case by the issuing Court.
Certificate of service
A document stating the date and manner in which the parties were served (given) a document. For example where a claim form is served by the claimant court rule requires the claimant to file a certificate of service within seven days of service of the claim form otherwise he may not obtain judgment in default.
Private room, or Court from which the public are excluded in which a District Judge or Judge may conduct certain sorts of hearings. Or, offices used by a barrister.
A court order directing that a charge be put on the judgment debtors’ property, such as a house or piece of land to secure payment of money due. This prevents the debtor from selling the property or land - without paying what is owed to the claimant.
A judge between the level of a High Court Judge and a District Judge, who sits in the County Court and/or Crown Court.
Matters concerning private rights and not offences against the state.
Civil Procedure Rules
The rules and procedures for proceedings in civil courts England and Wales. An important feature is active case management by the courts.
Proceedings issued in the County or High Court. Previously known as an Action.
Proceedings in a civil court start with the issuing of a claim form. The form, which is issued by the court (after the claimant has filed the form in court), includes a summary of the nature of the claim and the remedy (compensation or amends) sought.
A person making a claim. Previously known as the Plaintiff.
Usually a sum of money offered in recompense (to make amends) for an act, error or omission that harmed someone. The harm suffered may have been loss, personal injury or inconvenience.
A person who makes a complaint.
Contempt of Court
Disobedience or wilful disregard to the judicial process. In civil cases, for example, failing to appear as a witness without informing the court or the party that called you. A person found to be in civil contempt of court could be fined.
A claim made by a defendant against a claimant in an action. There is no limit imposed on a counterclaim, but a fee is payable according to the amount counterclaimed.
County courts deal with civil matters such as disputes over contracts, unpaid debts and negligence claims. County courts deal with all monetary claims up to £50,000. There are 218 county courts in England and Wales. The county court is a court of the first instance – where civil cases start.
County court judgment (CCJ)
A judgment of the county court that orders a defendant to pay a sum of money to the claimant. CCJs are recorded on the Register of County Court Judgments for six years and can affect a defendant’s ability to borrow money.
A person or organisation to whom money is owed.
The questioning of a witness for the other side in a case.
An award, typically of money, paid to a person or organisation for loss or injury.
A person who owes money to someone or to an organisation.
Court order setting out the rights of a party in the form of a statement e.g. a declaration of ownership.
May be obtained without a hearing by the claimant if the defendant fails to reply or pay within a 14 day period after service of the claim. A claimant can apply for a default judgment if the amount claimed is specified or for a judgment on liability if the amount claimed is unspecified.
Defence or defending a claim
When the defendant disputes the claim made by the claimant.
The person who has a claim made against them. They can defend (dispute the claim) or admit liability, in part or in full.
If the defendant offers to pay to the claimant an amount by instalments and the claimant refuses the offer, an officer of the court will make an assessment of what would be reasonable for the defendant to pay.
Case management instructions given by the judge which give a time-table for pre-trial procedures. In cases allocated to the small claims track the judge will usually give standard directions, in cases allocate to the multi-track, there may be several hearings on directions.
The inability of a person to handle their own affairs (e.g. through mental illness or a minor under 18 years of age) which prevents involvement in civil legal proceedings without representation.
Fees that are paid to organisations as required as part of legal services e.g. fee to a barrister, fee to an expert etc.
Parties to a civil case must disclose (show to the other party) documents they intend to rely on in court to support their case.
Notice given by the Court, on instruction by the claimant, that they no longer wish to proceed with the case.
Discovery of documents
(see INSPECTION OF DOCUMENTS) Mutual exchange of evidence and all relevant information held by each party relating to the case.
Being treated unfairly or differently because of factors such as disability, race, religion or belief, sex or sexuality.
To make order or decision that a claim be ceased.
Enforcement / enforcing a judgment
When a judgment/order has not been paid or terms obeyed with, enforcement proceedings can be issued to ensure compliance. A court can order such action as the seizure of a defendant’s property for sale.
Entering judgment on admission
The claimant can ask the court to enter judgment on admission when the defendant has admitted all or part of the case and offered payment or other restitution.
Entry of Judgment
Decision of the Court in favour of one or other of the parties.
Seizure of debtors goods following non-payment of a Court order.
Item or document referred to in an affidavit or used as evidence during a Court trial or hearing.
Person employed to give evidence on a subject in which they are qualified or have expertise.
The process of delivering or presenting forms and other documents to a court. For example a claim or a defence to a claim must be filed.
Costs in civil cases that are set at a certain level and can be claimed in specific circumstances. For example, if a defendant does not acknowledge a claim, the claimant can obtain judgment and an order for fixed costs to offset the cost of beginning the claim.
A type of private company with shares, but the shares cannot be traded publicly on the stock exchange: the shareholders have limited liability which means that only the money invested in the company can be lost in case of insolvency.
Inspection of Documents
(see Disclosure of documents) Arrangements made by the parties to allow mutual exchange and copying of documents.
A method of paying a debt in several parts at intervals. Payment by instalments is agreed to make the burden of repayment lighter.
A charge for borrowed money, a percentage of the sum borrowed.
An order made during proceedings which is not a final order.
In law, interim proceedings are hearings that take place between the first hearing and the final hearing.
Interim, pending a full order/decision, e.g. interlocutory judgment for damages pending further hearing to assess amount to be awarded and entered as final judgment.
Issue / issuing
To initiate legal proceedings in pursuit of a claim.
The decision or sentence issued by a court in legal proceedings.
Judgment set aside
A judgment or order can be set aside (made void) at the request of a party to the case in certain circumstances, for example if they were too ill to attend court on the day of the judgment.
Judges have the power to decide how best to manage the case on the individual facts. They do not necessarily have to look at how similar cases are managed. The judge has very wide case management powers under Rule 3 of the civil procedure rules to decide on the evidence parties produce how best to manage their case.
The area and matters over which a court has legal authority.
Leave means ‘permission’. Some steps in legal action require the permission of the court. For example a losing party may be granted leave to appeal.
When someone is legally responsible for something.
Can mean something that is a hindrance or puts an individual or group at a disadvantage, or it can be something a person is responsible for.
A legal right to withhold the goods/property of another until payment is made.
Questionnaire This form is used to ensure that all issues are resolved and that the parties are ready for trial. Used for Fast track and Multi track claims only.
Litigant in person
A person who starts or defends a case without legal representation. Such a person is entitled to be accompanied by another person who may advise them, but may not address the court.
Legal proceedings or court action. Litigation can be either civil or criminal proceedings.
A person who conducts legal proceedings on behalf of a child or a mentally incapacitated person.
A process for resolving disagreements in which an impartial third party (the mediator) helps people in dispute to find a mutually acceptable resolution. If mediation fails court proceedings can be initiated or re-activated.
Money Claim Online (MCOL)
An online Service that allows claimants to start legal proceedings which relate to money. Defendants can use the service to respond to a claim against them also.
Notice of Issue
Notice sent by a Court to the claimant giving notification of the case number allocated to their action and details of fees paid. Confirms date of service.
To call upon God to witness that what you say at the hearing is the truth or binding. (see affirmation).
Disagreement with an argument or set out by another at the hearing.
A civil servant who works for the Department of trade and Industry and is appointed by the Court to act as:- i) a liquidator when a company is being wound up; ii) a trustee when an individual is made bankrupt. The duties of an official receiver will include examining the company/bankrupt's property which is available to pay the debts and distributing the money amongst the creditors.
A solicitor or barrister appointed by the Lord Chancellor and working in the Lord Chancellor's Department. The duties include representing, in legal proceedings, people who are incapable of looking after their own affairs i.e. children/persons suffering from mental illness.
Independent ‘referees’ who consider complaints against public and private organisations in a wide range of fields including housing, health and banking. They are often used as a last resort when complaints cannot be resolved through an organisation’s own complaints procedure. Ombudsman services are free to use. Recommendations made by ombudsmen are not binding on the person making the complaint (complainant). They can still go to court even if the ombudsman decided against them.
Evidence given to a court, verbally rather than in writing.
A method of questioning a person under oath before an officer of the Court to obtain details of their financial affairs.
A direction by a Court.
An agreement between the two sides to settle the case privately before the court makes its decision.
Particulars of claim
This document contains details of the claimant’s claim which must be contained in the claim form or served shortly after the claim form has been served. The particulars should be a concise statement of the facts of the claim.
Party / Parties
People involved in court proceedings either as the defendant(s) or claimant(s).
These are steps to be followed by parties to a dispute prior to legal action. The aim of the to increase co-operation between parties and therefore the chances of an early settlement.
These are steps to be followed by parties to a dispute prior to legal action. The aim is to increase co-operation between parties and therefore the chances of an early settlement.
The decision of a case which established principles of law that act as an authority for future cases of a similar nature.
A hearing in which the Judge ensures that the parties understand what they must do to comply with any directions and offers guidance on such matters as the use of an expert witness. This hearing is before the final hearing.
President of the Family Division
Senior judge and head of the family Division of the High Court of Justice.
A pre-trial checklist is completed before the trial. The checklist is for the parties and the Judge, as a reminder of the issues to be considered. The checklist will then be reviewed at a pre-trial review just before the final hearing.
A meeting at which the Judge considers the issues before the timetable for the trial /final hearing date is finalised.
A Latin term used to describe something that appears on the face of it to be true.
In a damages claim the amount to be determined by the court.
Transferring the case from one allocated track to another. This can happen if the value of the case increases above the small claims limit.
Register of judgments, orders and fines
A public register containing details of county court and High Court judgments, fines enforced by magistrates' courts and county court administration orders.
The defending party (person) in an appeal or in a petition to the courts. See also Appellant.
A response pack is sent to the defendant in a civil claim with the claim form or with the particulars of claim (if they were served separately). The pack contains all the forms needed to reply to the claim.
Right of Audience
Entitlement to appear before a Court in a legal capacity and conduct proceedings on behalf of a party to the proceedings.
A penalty imposed on a person involved in a case if he or she, for example, fails to comply with directions or refuses to consider an alternative to court. Even though a person wins a case, the judge may order them to pay the other party’s costs.
Paying a debt or settling an obligation by an act or deed.
Delivery by post, or in person, of the claim form, or other court documents.
Set aside judgment
See judgment set aside.
A voluntarily agreement by the claimant and defendant to settle their civil case.
A written summary of the main points of a case to be heard by an appeal court.
Small Claims Track
The path that defended claims of no more than £10,000 (and personal injury and housing disrepair claims of no more than £1,000) are allocated to.
A type of claim which is issued for a fixed amount of money allegedly owing. Previously known as a liquidated claim/
A written account by a witness of the facts of details of a matter.
Statement of case
The statement of case contains the outline of the claimant’s case and includes: (i) a claim form, (ii) the particulars of claim – where these are not included in the claim form; (iii) the defence and (iv) a reply to the defence (v) any counterclaim.
Statement of truth
Every statement of case must be verified by a statement of truth, signed by the parties involved. A statement of truth is a statement that says that a party believes the facts they have written down are true.
A suspension of court proceedings. This remains in effect until an order has been followed. No action may be taken in the case other than an application to have the stay lifted. A case can also be stayed when an offer of payment is accepted or if the court feels it is necessary.
Stay of Execution
An order following which judgment cannot be enforced without leave of the court.
Striking a case out (striking out)
The court can strike out a case (prevent all further proceedings) if a party fails to comply with a rule, practice direction or court order. It can also happen if it appears there are no reasonable grounds for bringing or defending a claim. Either party (the defendant or the claimant) can ask the court to strike a case out.
A summons issued to a person directing their attendance in Court to give evidence.
A judgment obtained by a claimant where there is no defence to the case or the defence contains no valid grounds. A summary judgment can be obtained without a trial or hearing. A defendant can also obtain summary judgment if he or she can establish that the claimant has no real prospect of succeeding on the claim. You have to apply to the court for a summary judgement hearing to take place.
Order to appear or to produce evidence to a court Third party debt order An order issued by a Claimant, against a third party, to seize money or other assets in their keeping, but belonging to the debtor. Orders can be granted preventing a defendant from withdrawing money from their bank or building society account. The money is paid to the claimant from the account. A third party debt order can also be sent to anyone who owes the defendant money.
These are the documents that are likely to be referred to in a trial or tribunal hearing. Identical bundles are prepared for the judge and the parties to the case.
A period of time within which the case must be listed for trial.
A promise, which can be enforced by law, made by a party (person) or their legal representative during legal proceedings.
A claim where the amount to be awarded is left to the Court to determine, e.g. damages to be assessed for personal injuries. Previously known as an unliquidated claim.
A person who regularly brings court cases which have little chance of succeeding. The Attorney General can apply to the High Court for an order to prevent such as person form starting legal proceedings without permission.
A signed agreement by a debtor not to remove goods levied by a bailiff under the authority of a warrant of execution and to allow the bailiff access at any time to inspect the goods, in consideration of which the bailiff leaves the goods in the possession of the debtor.
Warrant of Delivery
Method of enforcing a judgment for the return of goods (or value of the goods) whereby a bailiff is authorised to recover the goods (or their value) from the debtor and return them to the creditor.
Warrant of Execution
A method of enforcing a judgment, The bailiff is authorised to remove goods belonging to a defendant from their home or business for sale at public auction.
A document issued by a court which requires a person to give evidence in court or to produce a report or other documentation for the court.