J

n. abbreviation for Judge, as in the Hon. William B. Boone, J.

Jane Doe

n. 1) a fictitious name used for a possible female defendant who is unknown at the time a complaint is filed to start a lawsuit. 2) the temporary fictitious name given to an unidentified hospitalized or dead woman.

Jaywalking

n. walking across a street outside of marked cross-walks, and not at a corner, and/or against a signal light. If there is vehicle traffic or clear markings of a place to cross, this is a traffic misdemeanor subject to fine, and may be (but not conclusively) contributory negligence in the event of injury to the jaywalker by a vehicle.

JD

n. short for Juris Doctor, identifying the holder as having re-ceived that law degree. n. the law degree granted upon graduation by many university law schools with accepted high standards of admission and grading. This often supersedes the Bachelor of Laws in recognition that the law curriculum entitles a person to a graduate degree.

Jeopardy

n. peril, particularly danger of being charged with or convicted of a particular crime.

Jobber

n. a merchant who buys products (usually in bulk or lots) and then sells them to various retailers. This middleman generally specializes in specific types of products, such as auto parts, electrical and plumbing materials, or petroleum. A jobber differs from a broker or agent, who buys and acts for specific clients.

John Doe

n. 1) a fictitious name used for a possible male defendant who is unknown at the time a complaint is filed to start a lawsuit. 2) the temporary fictitious name given to an unidentified hospitalized or dead man.

Joinder

n. the joining together of several lawsuits or several parties all in one lawsuit, provided that the legal issues and the factual situation are the same for all plaintiffs and defendants. Joinder requires a) that one of the parties to one of the lawsuits make a motion to join the suits and the parties in a single case; b) notice must be made to all parties; c) there must be a hearing before a judge to show why joinder will not cause prejudice (hurt) to any of the parties to the existing lawsuits; and d) an order of the judge permitting joinder. Joinder may be mandatory if a person necessary to a fair result was not included in the original lawsuit, or it may be permissive if joining the cases together is only a matter of convenience or economy.

Joinder of issue

n. that point in a lawsuit when the defendant has challenged (denied) some or all of plaintiff’s allegations of facts, and/or when it is known which legal questions are in dispute. This is stated in the expression: “the issue is joined,” in the same manner as a military man would say: “the battle has been joined,” meaning the fight is underway. Thus, the pre-trial legal underbrush has been cleared away, the motions made, and the pre-trial discovery (depositions, requests for documents, written questions and answers, and other demands for information) sufficiently completed, all of which makes clear what matters are to be decided by trial.

Joint

adj., adv. referring to property, rights or obligations which are united, undivided and shared by two or more persons or entities. Thus, a joint property held by both cannot be effectively transferred unless all owners join in the transaction. If a creditor sues to collect a joint debt, he/she must include all the debtors in the lawsuit, unless the debt is specifically “joint and several,” meaning any one of the debtors may be individually liable. Therefore, care must be taken in drafting deeds, sales agreements, promissory notes, joint venture agreements and other documents. A joint tenancy is treated specially, since it includes the right of the survivor to get the entire property when the other dies (right of survivorship).

Joint and several

adj. referring to a debt or a judgment for negligence, in which each debtor (one who owes) or each judgment defendant (one who has a judgment against him/her) is responsible (liable) for the entire amount of the debt or judgment. Thus, in drafting a promissory note for a debt, it is important to state that if there is more than one person owing the funds to be paid, the debt is joint and several, since then the person owed money (creditor, promisee) can collect the entire amount from any of the joint signers of the note, and not be limited to a share from each debtor. If a party injured in an accident sues several parties for causing his/her damages, the court may find that several people were “jointly” negligent and contributed to the damages. The entire judgment may be collected from any of the defendants found responsible, unless the court finds different amounts of negligence of each defendant contributed to the injury. Defense attorneys should require the trier of fact (jury or judge sitting without a jury) to break down the amount of negligence of each defendant and the plaintiff if there is contributory negligence. Often the court will refuse to do so, allowing the plaintiff to collect from whichever defendant has the “deep pocket” (lots of money), and letting the defendant who pays demand contributions from the other defendants.

Joint custody

An arrangement by which parents who do not live together share the upbringing of a child. Joint custody can be joint legal custody (in which both parents have a say in decisions affecting the child) joint physical custody (in which the child spends a significant amount of time with both parents) or, very rarely, both.

Joint enterprise

n. a generic term for an activity of two or more people, usually (but not necessarily) for profit, which may include partnership, joint venture or any business in which more than one person invests, works, has equal management control and/or is otherwise involved for an agreed upon goal or purpose. One significant factor is that if a court finds that two or more people are involved in a joint enterprise and there is negligent damage to an outside party by any one of the enterprisers, or breach of a contract made by the joint enterprise, each of those who are part of the enterprise will be liable for all the damages to the party. However, not all joint enterprises are partnerships or joint ventures, although the terms are often used improperly as if they were synonymous.

Joint liability

n. when two or more persons are both responsible for a debt, claim or judgment. It can be important to the person making the claim, as well as to a person who is sued, who can demand that anyone with joint liability for the alleged debt or claim for damages be joined in (brought into) the lawsuit.

Joint powers agreement

n. a contract between a city, a county and/or a special district in which the city or county agrees to perform services, cooperate with, or lend its powers to the special district or other government entity.

Joint tenancy

A way for two or more people to share ownership of real estate or other property. When two or more people own property as joint tenants and one owner dies, the other owners automatically own the deceased owner’s share. For example, if a parent and child own a house as joint tenants and the parent dies, the child automatically becomes full owner. Because of this right of survivorship, no will is required to transfer the property; it goes directly to the surviving joint tenants without the delay and costs of probate.

Joint tortfeasors

n. two or more persons whose negligence in a single accident or event causes damages to another person. In many cases the joint tortfeasors are jointly and severally liable for the damages, meaning that any of them can be responsible to pay the entire amount, no matter how unequal the negligence of each party was. Example: Harry Hotrod is doing 90 miles an hour along a two-lane road in the early evening, Adele Aimster has stopped her car to study a map with her car sticking out into the lane by six inches. Hotrod swings out a couple of feet to miss Aimster’s vehicle, never touches the brake, and hits Victor Victim, driving from the other direction, killing him. While Hotrod is grossly negligent for the high speed and failure to slow down, Aimster is also negligent for her car’s slight intrusion into the lane. As a joint tortfeasor she may have to pay all the damages, particularly if Hotrod has no money or insurance. However, comparative negligence rules by statute or case law in most jurisdictions will apportion the liability by percentages of negligence among the tortfeasors (wrongdoers) and the injured parties.

Joint venture

n. an enterprise entered into by two or more people for profit, for a limited purpose, such as purchase, improvement and sale or leasing of real estate. A joint venture has most of the elements of a partnership, such as shared management, the power of each venturer to bind the others in the business, division of profits and joint responsibility for losses. However, unlike a partnership, a joint venture anticipates a specific area of activity and/or period of operation, so after the purpose is completed, bills are paid, profits (or losses) are divided, and the joint venture is terminated.

Joint work

For copyright purposes, a collaboration between two or more authors in which their contributions are joined into a single cohesive work. Each author of a joint work has equal rights to register and enforce the copyright, regardless of how their shares in the work are divided.

Jones Act

n., adj. a federal law which covers injuries to crewmen at sea, gives jurisdiction to the federal courts and sets up various rules for conduct of these cases under maritime law. A claim for recompense (payment) for damages at sea is called a “Jones Act case.”

Judge

1) n. an official with the authority and responsibility to preside in a court, try lawsuits and make legal rulings. Judges are almost always attorneys. In some states, “justices of the peace” may need only to pass a test, and federal and state “administrative law judges” are often lawyer or non-lawyer hearing officers specializing in the subject matter upon which they are asked to rule. The word “court” often refers to the judge, as in the phrase “the court found the defendant at fault,” or “may it please the court,” when addressing the judge. The word “bench” also refers to the judge or judges in general. Judges on appeals courts are usually called “justices.” Judges of courts established by a state at the county, district, city or township level, gain office by election, by appointment by the Governor or by some judicial selection process in case of a vacancy. Federal judges are appointed for life by the President of the United States with confirmation by the U.S. Senate. A senator of the same party as the President has considerable clout in recommending Federal judges from his/her home state. 2) v. to rule on a legal matter, including determining the result in a trial if there is no jury.

Judge advocate

n. a military officer with legal training who has the mixed duties of giving advice on legal matters to the group of officers sitting as a court-martial (both judge and jury) and acting as the prosecutor of the accused serviceman or woman. A judge advocate holds responsibility to protect the accused from procedural improprieties such as questions from the members of the court which might incriminate the accused in violation of the Constitution. The accused person also has a military officer as counsel, who may not be an attorney.

Judge advocate general

(J.A.G.) n. a military officer who advises the government on courts-martial and administers the conduct of courts-martial. The officers who are judge advocates and counsel assigned to the accused come from the office of the judge advocate general or are appointed by it to work on certain courts-martial.

Judgment

A final court ruling resolving the key questions in a lawsuit and determining the rights and obligations of the opposing parties. For example, after a trial involving a vehicle accident, a court will issue a judgment determining which party was at fault and how much money that party must pay the other.

Judgment creditor

n. the winning plaintiff in a lawsuit to whom the court decides the defendant owes money. A judgment creditor can use various means to collect the judgment. The judgment is good for a specified number of years and then may be renewed by a filed request. If the defendant debtor files for bankruptcy, the judgment creditor will have priority (the right to share in assets) ahead of general creditors who are not secured by mortgages or deeds of trust and do not have judgments. However, if the bankrupt person has no assets, this becomes an empty advantage.

Judgment debt

n. the amount of money in a judgment award to the winning party, which is owed to the winner by the losing party.

Judgment debtor

n. the losing defendant in a lawsuit who owes the amount of the judgment to the winner.

Judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV)

Reversal of a jury’s verdict by a judge when the judge believes that there were insufficient facts on which to base the jury’s verdict, or that the verdict did not correctly apply the law. This procedure is similar to a situation in which a judge orders a jury to arrive at a particular verdict, called a directed verdict. In fact, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict is occasionally made when a jury refuses to follow a judge’s instruction to arrive at a certain verdict. Incidentally, for those of a scholarly bent, this term has its roots in the Latin “non obstante verdicto,” meaning notwithstanding the verdict.

Judicial

adj., adv. 1) referring to a judge, court or the court system. 2) fair.

Judicial discretion

n. the power of the judge to make decisions on some matters without being bound by precedent or strict rules established by statutes. On appeal a higher court will usually accept and confirm decisions of trial judges when exercising permitted discretion, unless capricious, showing a pattern of bias, or exercising discretion beyond his/her authority.

Judicial foreclosure

n. a judgment by a court in favor of foreclosure of a mortgage or deed of trust, which orders that the real property which secured the debt be sold under foreclosure proceedings to pay the debt. The party suing probably has chosen to seek a judicial foreclosure rather than use the foreclosure provisions of the mortgage or deed of trust. Usually this move is made to get a “deficiency judgment” for any amount still owed after the foreclosure sale. In many states (such as California) a foreclosure on the deed of trust limits the recovery to the amount of sale proceeds (sales price minus other debts), so a lawsuit for judicial foreclosure may help the party recover the total money owed to him/her if it was secured by the debtor’s real property.

Judicial notice

n. the authority of a judge to accept as facts certain matters which are of common knowledge from sources which guarantee accuracy or are a matter of official record, without the need for evidence establishing the fact. Examples of matters given judicial notice are public and court records, tides, times of sunset and sunrise, government rainfall and temperature records, known historic events or the fact that ice melts in the sun.

Judicial proceedings

n. any action by a judge re: trials, hearings, petitions or other matters formally before the court.

Judicial sale

n. a sale of goods by an official (keeper, trustee or sheriff) appointed by the court and ordered by a court, usually to satisfy a judgment or implement another order of the court. Such sales require public notice of time, place and a description of the goods to be sold.

Jump bail

v. to fail to appear for a court appearance after depositing (posting) bail with the intention of avoiding prosecution, sentencing or going to jail. Posting bail guarantees that the accused person will give up the money if he/she does not show up in court. It allows the accused person to remain free pending the final decision on his/her criminal case. In some circumstances a criminal defendant can be declared to have jumped bail even before missing an appearance in court, if it is discovered he/she has left the state, the country, disappeared or made plans to flee. At that point the court can revoke the bail and issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. It is also called “skipping” bail.

Jurat

Latin for “been sworn,” the portion of an affidavit in which a person has sworn that the contents of his/her written statement are true, filled in by the notary public with the date, name of the person swearing, sometimes the place where sworn, and the name of the person before whom the oath was made. A jurat is not to be confused with an “acknowledgment” in which the signer of a document such as a deed to real property has sworn to the notary public that he/she executed the document, and the notary signs and seals the document to that effect.

Jurisdiction

The authority of a court to hear and decide a case. To make a legally valid decision in a case, a court must have both “subject matter jurisdiction” (power to hear the type of case in question, which is granted by the state legislatures and Congress) and “personal jurisdiction” (power to make a decision affecting the parties involved in the lawsuit, which a court gets as a result of the parties’ actions). For example, state court’s subject matter jurisdiction includes the civil and criminal laws that the state legislature has passed, but does not include the right to hear patent disputes or immigration violations, which Congress has decided may only be heard in federal courts. And no court can entertain a case unless the parties agree to be there or live in the state (or federal district) where the court sits, or have enough contacts with the state or district that it’s fair to make them answer to that court. (Doing business in a state, owning property there or driving on its highways will usually be enough to allow the court to hear the case.) The term jurisdiction is also commonly used to define the amount of money a court has the power to award. For example, small claims courts have jurisdiction only to hear cases up to a relatively low monetary amount–depending on the state, typically in the range of $2,000-$10,000. If a court doesn’t have personal jurisdiction over all the parties and the subject matter involved, it “lacks jurisdiction,” which means it doesn’t have the power to render a decision. Refers to a court’s authority to judge over a situation usually acquired in one of three ways: over acts committed in a defined territory (eg. the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Australia is limited to acts committed or originating in Australia), ov.

Jurisdictional amount

The monetary amount that determines whether or not a particular court can hear a case. For example, under the law of a particular state, the jurisdictional amount of a justice, municipal or city court might be limited to cases involving less than $25,000. In federal court, cases involving citizens from different states must concern a dispute involving at least $75,000.

Jurisprudence

n. the entire subject of law, the study of law and legal questions.Thus, jurisprudence has come to refer to case law, or the legal decisions which have developed and which accompany statutes in applying the law against situations of fact.

Jurist

n. although it means any attorney or legal scholar, jurist popularly refers to a judge.

Juror

A person who serves on a jury. Lists of potential jurors are obtained from sources such as voter registration rolls and department of motor vehicles’ lists. In most states, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees who are called for jury duty–that is, they cannot demote or fire an employee for serving. And a few states require that the employer continue to pay the absent employee. Individuals who are selected to serve on a jury receive from the court a very small fee for their time and sometimes the cost of traveling from home to court.

Jury

A group of people selected to apply the law, as stated by the judge, to the facts of a case and render a decision, called the verdict. Traditionally, an American jury was made up of 12 people who had to arrive at a unanimous decision. But today, in many states, juries in civil cases may be composed of as few as six members and non-unanimous verdicts may be permitted. (Most states still require 12-person, unanimous verdicts for criminal trials.) Tracing its history back over 1,000 years, the jury system was brought to England by William the Conqueror in 1066. The philosophy behind the jury system is that–especially in a criminal case–an accused’s guilt or innocence should be judged by a group of people from her community (“a jury of her peers”). Recently, some courts have been experimenting with increasing the traditionally rather passive role of the jury by encouraging jurors to take notes and ask questions.

Jury box

n. the enclosed area in which the jury sits in assigned seats during a jury trial.

Jury fees

n. the rather minimal amount paid each day to jurors, plus payment for mileage from home to court. In criminal trials this amount is paid by the government (usually county government in state cases), but in civil lawsuits the jury fees are paid by the parties to the lawsuit in equal amounts. It is important for a party requesting a jury trial to deposit (“post”) the first day’s jury fees with the clerk of the court a set time in advance of the trial date, or the right to a jury trial may be lost on the basis that he/she/it has “waived” the right to a jury. The winner of the lawsuit (prevailing party) is usually entitled to reimbursement (payment by the loser) of jury fees as a court cost.

Jury nullification

A decision by the jury to acquit a defendant who has violated a law that the jury believes is unjust or wrong. Jury nullification has always been an option for juries in England and the United States, although judges will prevent a defense lawyer from urging the jury to acquit on this basis. Nullification was evident during the Vietnam war (when selective service protesters were acquitted by juries opposed to the war) and currently appears in criminal cases when the jury disagrees with the punishment–for example, in “three strikes” cases when the jury realizes that conviction of a relatively minor offense will result in lifetime imprisonment.

Jury of one’s peers

n. a guaranteed right of criminal defendants, in which “peer” means an “equal.” This has been interpreted by courts to mean that the available jurors include a broad spectrum of the population, particularly of race, national origin and gender. Jury selection may include no process which excludes those of a particular race or intentionally narrows the spectrum of possible jurors. It does not mean that women are to be tried by women, Asians by Asians, or African Americans by African Americans.

Jury panel

n. the list from which jurors for a particular trial may be chosen.

Jury selection

n. the means by which a jury is chosen, with a panel of potential jurors called, questioning of the jury by the judge and attorneys (voir dire), dismissal for cause, peremptory challenges by the attorneys without stating a cause and finally impaneling of the jury.

Jury stress

n. a form of mental, emotional, psychological, physical and sexual tension found to affect juries in long trials due to exhaustion, sequestration, the mountain of evidence and the desire to do the right thing.

Jury tampering

n. the crime of attempting to influence a jury through any means other than presenting evidence and argument in court, including conversations about the case outside the court, offering bribes, making threats or asking acquaintances to intercede with a juror.

Jury trial

n. a trial of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution in which the case is presented to a jury and the factual questions and the final judgment are determined by a jury. This is distinguished from a “court trial” in which the judge decides factual as well as legal questions, and makes the final judgment.

Jus cogens

Latin. Principles of international law so fundamental that no nation may ignore them or attempt to contract out of them through treaties. For example, genocide and participating in a slave trade are thought to be jus cogens.

Jus naturale

Latin for “natural law.” This is a system of legal principles ostensibly derived from universal divine truths.

Just compensation

n. 1) in general a fair and reasonable amount of money to be paid for work performed or to make one “whole” after loss due to damages. 2) the full value to be paid for property taken by the government for public purposes, which states: “…nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” If the amount offered by the governmental agency taking the property is not considered sufficient, the property owner may demand a trial to determine just compensation.

Justice

n. 1) fairness. 2) moral rightness. 3) a scheme or system of law in which every person receives his/ her/its due from the system, including all rights, both natural and legal. One problem is that attorneys, judges and legislatures often get caught up more in procedure than in achieving justice for all. Example: the adage “justice delayed is justice denied,” applies to the burdensome procedures, lack of sufficient courts, the clogging of the system with meritless cases and the use of the courts to settle matters which could be resolved by negotiation. The imbalance between court privileges obtained by attorneys for the wealthy and for the person of modest means, the use of delay and “blizzards” of unnecessary paper by large law firms, and judges who fail to cut through the underbrush of procedure all erode justice. 4) an appellate judge, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, a member of a Federal Court of Appeal and judges of any of the various state appellate courts.

Justice of the peace

(JP) n. a judge who handles minor legal matters such as misdemeanors, small claims actions and traffic matters in “justice courts.” Dating back to early English common law, “JPs” were very common up to the 1950s, but they now exist primarily in rural “justice districts” from which it is unreasonable for the public to travel to the county seat for trials of minor matters. A justice of the peace is usually an attorney, but some states still allow laypersons to qualify by taking a test.

Justice system

A term lawyers use to describe the courts and other bureaucracies that handle American’s criminal legal business, including offices of various state and federal prosecutors and public defenders. Many people caught up in this system refer to it by less flattering names.

Justiciable

n. referring to a matter which is capable of being decided by a court. Usually it is combined in such terms as: “justiciable issue,” “justiciable cause of action” or “justiciable case.”

Justifiable homicide

n. a killing without evil or criminal intent, for which there can be no blame, such as self-defense to protect oneself or to protect another or the shooting by a law enforcement officer in fulfilling his/her duties. This is not to be confused with a crime of passion or claim of diminished capacity, which refer to defenses aimed at reducing the penalty or degree of crime.

Juvenile court

n. a special court or department of a trial court which deals with under-age defendants charged with crimes or who are neglected or out of the control of their parents. The normal age of these defendants is under 18, but juvenile court does not have jurisdiction in cases in which minors are charged as adults. The procedure in juvenile court is not always adversarial (although the minor is entitled to legal representation by a lawyer). It can be an attempt to involve parents or social workers and probation officers in the process to achieve positive results and save the minor from involvement in future crimes. However, serious crimes and repeated offenses can result in sentencing juvenile offenders to prison, with transfer to state prison upon reaching adulthood with limited maximum sentences. Where parental neglect or loss of control is a problem, the juvenile court may seek out foster homes for the juvenile, treating the child as a ward of the court.

Juvenile delinquent

n. a person who is under age (usually below 18), who is found to have committed a crime in states which have declared by law that a minor lacks responsibility and thus may not be sentenced as an adult. However, the legislatures of several states have reduced the age of criminal responsibility for serious crimes or for repeat offenders to as low as 14.