Glossary of Terms
Accused: The defendant in a criminal trial.
Acquittal: The dismissal of a criminal charge – a finding of “not guilty”.
Act: A law passed by Parliament or the Legislature. It is also called a “statute”.
Adjournment: Postponement of court proceedings, usually at the court’s discretion.
Affidavit: A statement in writing either sworn or solemnly affirmed before an authorized official.
Affirmation: A solemn declaration by a person who conscientiously declines to take an oath.
Allege: To suggest that something that has not yet been proven is in fact true.
Amicus curiae : Literally, “a friend of the court”. It is usually someone who, for a variety of reasons, is in a position to provide assistance to the court to understand the issues.
Appeal: The judicial process by which one party to an action resorts to a superior court to correct what he or she perceives to be an incorrect determination of the original proceedings.
Appellant: The main party subject to the appeal.
Applicant: The party who requests relief or a remedy from a court of law or other legal body.
Attorney General: In New Brunswick, the Attorney General is the first law officer of the Crown, and is entrusted with the responsibility to administer justice in the province and to prosecute all offences under the Criminal Code of Canada and the Statutes of New Brunswick. The Minister of Justice is also responsible to administer court services.
Bail bond: A guarantee, usually money, given to a court assuring that an accused will appear, when required, to answer the charge. If the accused does not appear, the bond may be forfeited to the court.
Bench: The Judge or the Court.
Bench warrant: A court order issued for the arrest of an accused who does not appear for trial as required, or a properly subpoenaed witness who does not appear as required.
Beyond a reasonable doubt: The standard by which a judge or jury determines whether a criminal defendant is guilty.
Breach: The invasion of a right, or the violation of a duty.
Brief/Legal brief: A written statement used as the basis for arguing a case. Legal briefs contain legal and factual arguments as well as supporting authorities.
Burden of proof: In criminal matters, the burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil matters, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove his or her case on a balance of probabilities.
Circumstantial evidence: Circumstances from which a fact may reasonably be inferred.
Civil action: Proceedings by way of action as contrasted with criminal proceedings.
Concurrent vs consecutive sentence: Concurrent means running parallel; consecutive means one after the other. Two sentences of three years each, ordered to be served concurrently would be served at the same time. Two sentences of three years each, ordered to be served consecutively, would result in the offences being served one after the other.
Contempt of court: Failure to comply with an order of a court or an act of resistance or insult to the Court.
Counterclaim: An action brought by the defendant against the plaintiff.
Court: The Judge; a judicial tribunal; the place where justice is administered.
Cross-examination: When a witness has been called by either party, the opposite party has a right, after direct examination, to question that witness.
Crown Prosecutor: One who appears on behalf of the government in criminal cases. In New Brunswick, the Crown Prosecutor is an agent of the Attorney General.
Damages: Monetary compensation for loss or injury.
De novo : Anew; for a second time.
Defendant: The person being sued in a civil court case or the accused in a summary conviction matter.
Deponent: A person who makes an affidavit or deposition.
Deposition: A statement of a witness in a judicial proceeding.
Disclosure: Revealing known facts or documents.
Dismissal: Rejection of an action or a claim by the court.
Ex curia: Out of court.
Ex officio: Literally, “by reason of office” (eg. Judges of the Court of Queen’s Bench are ex officio Judges of the Probate Court).
Ex parte: In absence of the other party.
Evidence: Something to prove or disprove the existence of an alleged fact.
Examination for discovery: A pre-trial procedure whereby the parties to a court action are given the right to question one another, for the purposes of ascertaining the grounds on which a claim is made or opposed.
Exhibit: A document or object, formally introduced as evidence in court.
Expert witness: A person with special skills, technical knowledge, or professional qualifications whose opinion on any matter within his or her area of knowledge is admitted into evidence.
Guilty: A plea of a criminal defendant who admits the charge, or a verdict by the court convicting the criminal defendant on the charge.
Habeas corpus: Literally, “you must have the body.” A procedure requiring a person to be brought before a judge to investigate the lawfulness of his or her detention.
Hearsay: Evidence given by a witness based on information received from others rather than personal knowledge.
In camera: The hearing of a case in private, the public being excluded.
Incarceration: To be imprisoned.
Indictable offence: Criminal offences are classified as either summary conviction or indictable. Indictable offences have higher maximum penalties and more serious consequences than summary offences. Some offences may be prosecuted by way of summary conviction or by way of indictment at the option of the Crown Prosecutor.
Indictment: A formal charge setting out an offence.
Information, laying of: In criminal law, a process whereby a person is accused of an offence, causing the launching of a prosecution.
Injunction: A court order to a person or persons to do or not to do a particular act.
Inquest: An inquiry held by a Coroner with the assistance of a jury in circumstances where a death has occurred.
Judgment: Judicial decision in a civil matter; the order of a court in a criminal matter.
Judgment creditor: a person entitled to enforce a Canadian judgment.
Judgment debtor: One against whom judgment is given for a sum of money.
Jurisdiction: The power vested in a court to hear and decide different types of cases.
Jury: A body of persons summoned to decide questions of fact in a court proceeding.
Keeping the peace: To refrain from unacceptable and disorderly conduct.
Law society: In New Brunswick, the governing body of the legal profession. It also deals with misconduct of lawyers, including the right to impose penalties, including disbarment, on lawyers who are found guilty of misconduct.
Lawyer: A person authorized to practice law.
Limitation period: A legally specified period beyond which proceedings cannot be brought.
Litigation: The process of carrying out a lawsuit – going to court.
Mens rea: The blameworthy state of mind required for the commission of the particular crime charged.
Oath: A solemn declaration, accompanied by a swearing to God, that a statement is true.
Petitioner: A person who applies for relief in certain proceedings, for example, divorce.
Plaintiff: One who brings an action at law.
Plea: The declaration made by a person accused of a crime as to whether he or she is guilty of the charge.
Pleadings: A formal statement of the cause of action or defence.
Precedents: A previous judicial decision serving as a guide for future cases of a similar nature.
Preliminary hearing: A hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to force the accused to stand trial.
Q.B.: The Court of Queen’s Bench
Q.C.: Queen’s Counsel
Recognizance: A promise by an accused to appear for trial at the time and place set.
Remand: To return a prisoner to custody.
Respondent: A person against whom a petition is presented, an application is brought, a summons issued, or an appeal is brought.
Search warrant: A court order giving a person the right to enter a specified location, place, receptacle, etc. to search for specific objects.
Seizure and sale: An order addressed to a sheriff to enforce a Judgment of the court.
Sentence: The punishment imposed after a criminal defendant has been found guilty.
Statement of claim: A document prepared by the plaintiff (the person suing), in which he/she sets out the facts that he/she intends to prove in support of the claim.
Statement of defense: A document in which a person who has been sued sets out his or her side of the case in a series of concise statements of fact, which he or she intends to prove in defence.
Statute: An Act passed by Parliament or the Legislature.
Subpoena: A court order requiring a person to be present at a specified place and time for a specific purpose (may also be referred to as a “summons to witness”).
Suit: Any legal proceeding of a civil kind brought by one person against another.
Summary conviction offence: Criminal offences are classified as either summary conviction or indictable. Generally, summary conviction offences have lower penalties and less serious consequences.
Summons: A court order requiring a person to appear before a judge.
Superior court: Judges of the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick and the Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick are superior court judges.
Surcharge: A financial penalty imposed by the court in addition to a fine or other penalty.
Surety: A person who assumes responsibility for the obligation of another, such as the payment of a debt or an appearance in court.
Surety bond: The legal document setting out the surety’s promise and obligations.
Testament: See “Will” below.
Testimony: Oral evidence given under oath or affirmation.
Tort: A civil wrong for which a remedy may be obtained (for example, a monetary award).
Transcript: An official written record of proceedings.
Trial: A judicial examination and determination of issues between parties before a judge, with or without a jury.
Trial de novo: Literally, “trial anew”.
Undertaking: A promise, especially a promise in the course of legal proceedings by a party or his/her counsel.
Verdict: The court’s decision in a case.
Viva voce: By word of mouth; orally.
Voir dire: A trial within a trial to determine the admissibility of evidence.
Warrant: A written authorization by a judge allowing police to search premises, arrest a suspect, etc.
Will: A document by which a person directs the distribution of his or her estate upon death.
Witness: A person who gives evidence in a matter.