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Glossary


Parens patriae
The doctrine under which the court protects the interests of a juvenile.
Parole
The supervised conditional release of a prisoner before the expiration of his/her sentence. If the parolee observes the conditions, he/she need not serve the rest of his/her term.
Party
A person, business, or government agency actively involved in the prosecution or defense of a legal proceeding.
Patent
A government grant giving an inventor the exclusive right to make or sell his/her invention for a term of years.
Perjury
The criminal offense of making a false statement under oath.
Permanent injunction
A court order requiring that some action be taken, or that some party refrain from taking action. It differs from forms of temporary relief, such as a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.
Person in need of supervision
Juvenile found to have committed a status offense rather than a crime that would provide a basis for a finding of delinquency. Typical status offenses are habitual truancy. Violating a curfew, or running away from home. These are not crimes, but they might be enough to place a child under supervision. In different states, status offenders might be called children in need of supervision or minors in need of supervision.
Personal property
Tangible physical property (such as cars, clothing, furniture and jewelry) and intangible personal property. This does not include real property such as land or rights in land.
Personal recognizance
In criminal proceedings, the pretrial release of a defendant without bail upon his/her promise to return to court. See also own regognizance.
Personal representative
The person who administers an estate. If named in a will, that person’s title is an executor. If there is no valid will, that person’s title is an administrator.
Petitioner
The person filing an action in a court of original jurisdiction. Also, the person who appeals the judgment of a lower court. The opposing party is called the respondent.
Plaintiff
The person who files the complaint in a civil lawsuit. Also called the complainant.
Plea
Defendant’s answer to the charge - guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere.
Plea
In a criminal proceeding, it is the defendant’s declaration in open court that he or she is guilty or not guilty. The defendant’s answer to the charges made in the indictment or information.
Plea bargaining or plea negotiating
The process through which an accused person and a prosecutor negotiate a mutually satisfactory disposition of a case. Usually it is a legal transaction in which a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for some form of leniency. It often involves a guilty plea to lesser charges or a guilty plea to some of the charges if other charges are dropped. Such bargains are not binding on the court.
Plea negotiation
Negotiations arrived at by the state and the defense for a fair disposition of the case and requiring approval by the court.
Pleadings
The written statements of fact and law filed by the parties to a lawsuit.
Point information
Penalty points imposed by the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles after conviction in traffic court.
Polling the jury
The act, after a jury verdict has been announced, of asking jurors individually whether they agree with the verdict.
Pour - over Will
 A will that leaves some or all estate assets to a trust established before the will-maker’s death.
Power of attorney
Formal authorization of a person to act in the interests of another person.
Praecipe
A writ commanding the Clerk of Court to issue a subpoena or summons.
Pre - injunction
Court order requiring action or forbidding action until a decision can be made whether to issue a permanent injunction. If differs from a temporary restraining order.
Pre - sentence investigation
 A background investigation of the defendant by the Department of Corrections, returnable to the sentencing judge on or before a certain date.
Pre - Trial conference
A meeting between the judge and the lawyers involved in a lawsuit to narrow the issues in the suit, agree on what will be presented at the trial, and make a final effort to settle the case without a trial.
Pre - trial intervention
A county program to aid certain qualifying defendants by diverting them from court proceedings upon successful completion of the program.
Pre - trial release (PTR)
Release by sheriff’s personnel after arrest and before any court appearance, setting a court appearance date.
Precedent
A previously decided case that guides the decision of future cases.
Preemptory challenge
A challenge that may be used to reject a certain number of prospective jurors without giving a reason.
Preliminary hearing
Another term for arraignment.
Preponderance of the evidence
Greater weight of the evidence; the common standard of proof in civil cases.
Presentment
Declaration or document issued by a grand jury that either makes a neutral report or notes misdeeds by officials charged with specified public duties. It ordinarily does not include a formal charge of crim
Pretermitted child
A child born after a will is executed, who is not provided for by the will. Most states have laws that provide for a share of estate property to go to such children.
Prime facie
On the face of it - factually
Pro bono publico
For the public good. Lawyers representing clients without a fee are said to be working pro bono publico.
Pro se
In one’s own behalf.
Probable cause
Reasonable belief that a crime was committed and that the named person committed the crime.
Probate
The court-supervised process by which a will is determined to be the will-maker’s final statement regarding how the will maker wants his/her property distributed. It also confirms the appointment of the personal representative of the estate. Probate also means the process by which assets are gathered; applied to pay debts, taxes, and the expenses of administration; and distribution to those designated as beneficiaries in the will.
Probate Court
The court with authority to supervise estate administration.
Probate Estate
Estate property that may be disposed of by a will.
Probation
Suspension of sentence with or without adjudication and placing the defendant under supervision of the Department of Corrections for a specified period of time and possible conditions.
Prosecutor
A trial lawyer representing the government in a criminal case and the interests of the state in civil matters. In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding who and when to prosecute.
Proximate cause
The act that caused an event to occur. A person generally is liable only if an injury was proximately caused by his/her action or by his/her failure to act when he/she had a duty to act.
Public defender
A court-appointed attorney for those defendants who are declared indigent.