Common Legal Terms
If you want you watch TV like Law and Order or classic movies like Witness For the Prosecution, you will have heard quite a few legal terms.
For instance, the witness is sworn in by holding up their right hand and putting their left hand on the Bible. Actually, the Bible is no longer present. But the rising of the right hand continues. It is believed that this is due to the branding that used to be done on the palm of the right-hand in some areas. That’s when you raised your right hand to prove you’re not a felon and you were allowed to testify. But actually the right hand dates all way back to a passage in Psalms in the Old Testament.
The witness takes the stand. The stand ironically is a place to sit. But there was a time where the person testifying had to stand and face everyone so that his body language could be judged.
Separating the gallery of spectators from the lawyers and the witnesses is a bar. It is this bar that is referred to when someone now takes the bar exam in order to be admitted as a lawyer. Or when they join organizations like the Memphis Bar Association or the Tennessee Bar Association. A practicing lawyer is known as a member of the bar.
Sometimes a witness is forced to testify because they are served with a subpoena. The word subpoena is derived from the idea of “under penalty” for not showing up.
Sometimes a witness can be impeached for biases showing that maybe they are giving testimony in exchange for let’s say a lighter sentence. In that case it might be suggested that there is a “quid pro quo” in the works. It means this for that.
In cases where a minor or an incompetent person has to have a court work on their behalf to approve the settlement offer, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem will meet with the person and do a report on the settlement to advise the court it’s fair and in their best interest. A guardian ad litem is basically made just for this case that you were appointed as guardian.
Sometimes attorneys do free work for those that are underprivileged or for nonprofit organizations. This is referred to as pro bono employment.
Contingent fee cases include the type I do such as personal injury, malpractice, disability, and truck accidents. This means that I get paid nothing unless the case is settled or we win a verdict. Thus my fee is entirely contingent based on the results. The folks who are on the other side of these cases defending insurance companies, get paid hundreds of dollars per hour– no matter what —win or lose. If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of going through a divorce or a business law suit with a set of lawyers, you found out that every time they thought about the case, you got a bill, every time they dictated a letter you got a bill, every time they appear in court or drive anywhere you got a bill.
Finally if a client wants to represent himself he appears pro se.
Mr. Peel seeks justice for those injured in motorcycle, truck and car accidents, disability and medical malpractice. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Mr. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.