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Sunday, April 03, 2011

"Ask the Judge" Column today (Sunday) in La Prensa on Jargon

Ask the Judge: In the Justice of the Peace Court attorneys and judges use various legal terms in relation to cases heard in the court.

Definition of the term Docket:
1. Caseload of a Judge or Court
2. List of legal cases to be heard by a Judge

In Justice of the Peace Court, we have six separate dockets in our courtroom that reference numerous legal terms.
1. Truancy
2. Disorderly Students (ex: disruption of class, assault by contact, minors in possession of alcohol, drugs, cigarettes)
3. Evictions
4. Misdemeanor/Traffic Tickets
5. Civil Claims
6. Small Claims

Over the past five weeks we have addressed the dockets in some detail for those who may find themselves in the courtroom as a plaintiff or defendant. While we didn’t address Civil Claims in particular, it should be noted that the Small Claims docket and the Civil Claims docket are very similar.

The difference is the Civil Claims, adheres to slightly different guidelines and tends to be more formal in the presentation. Normally the Civil Claims docket usually involves both sides represented by attorneys rather than themselves, although you are allowed to represent yourself. (Representing yourself “without an attorney” is called Pro Se)

Many of the terms used in a courtroom are familiar to most citizens. Watching reruns of NBC’s variations of Law & Order & Harry’s Law, CBS’s The Defenders, and even Judge Judy and Judge Mathis can be helpful.

A Default Judgment means the defendant did not show up for court and automatically loses in the Small & Civil Claims docket.

A Complaint details a grievance against a defendant with specifics of the alleged offense.

Burden of Proof requires plaintiff to present facts to prove their case. The defendant does not have to verbally respond in court if they choose not to speak.

A Bench Warrant is issued by a Judge for a defendant to appear before that Judge that may also include bail.

Nolo Contendre means defendant neither admits nor denies guilt but accepts Judges ruling.

Non-suit references a plaintiff suing the wrong person for an alleged grievance. And finally Ex-Parte conversation with the Judge is prohibited unless the other party in the law suit is present.

Lastly as always, if you are due in court, be sure to show up to court on time. It is in everyone’s best interest.

Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2 Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and a former Journalist.

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