J

J.
Abbreviation for Judge, as in Hon. William B. Boone, J.

J.D.
See: Juris Doctor

JAG
See: judge advocate

Jane Doe
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
The act of crossing a street illegally, for example by walking outside marked cross-walks. (The term "jay" once referred to a foolish rural person who cannot navigate city streets.)

Jeopardy
Being put at risk for a criminal conviction. Jeopardy "attaches" once the jury has been sworn. (See also: double jeopardy)

Jim Crow Law
Laws that discriminated against black Americans by requiring segregation -- for example, in public schools, public places, and public transportation. "Jim Crow" was a derogatory term for black Americans, most likely derived from "Jump Jim Crow," a caricature performed in blackface as early as 1832. Jim Crow laws were declared unconstitutional and put to an end during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

JNOV
See: judgment notwithstanding the verdict

Jobber
Someone who buys products (usually in bulk or lots) and then resells them to various retailers. This middleman generally specializes in specific types of products, such as auto parts, electrical and plumbing materials, or petroleum.

Jobs And Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act Of 2003
The $1.47 trillion federal tax cut package that included cuts to individual rates, capital gains, dividends, and the estate tax. The Act also increased the standard deduction and the child tax credit. Virtually all of the tax cuts expired between 2005 and 2010.

John Doe
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.

John G. Roberts, Jr.
Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court beginning in 2005. At 50 years old, Roberts became the youngest Chief Justice since John Marshall took the bench in 1801 at the age of 45. Roberts was nominated to the Court by President George W. Bush and is considered a member of the Court's more conservative bloc.

John Paul Stevens
U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1975 to 2010. Nominated by President Gerald Ford, Stevens was not considered particularly conservative or liberal until the Court shifted towards the right in the late 1980s, and Stevens's opinions began to carry a more liberal bent when compared to those of his colleagues on the Court.

Joinder
The joining together of several lawsuits or several parties all in one lawsuit because the legal issues and the factual situation are the same for all plaintiffs and defendants, or because a party is necessary to the resolution of the case. 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
The point in a lawsuit when the defendant has challenged some or all of the plaintiff's allegations or when it is known which legal questions are in dispute--in other words, the "issue is joined." Usually this point arrives when pretrial discovery is complete.

Joint
Undivided and shared by two or more persons or entities. It can refer to rights, responsibilities, or ownership. For example, when property is held in joint tenancy, each joint tenant (owner) has the right to the use and enjoyment of the entire property.

Joint Adventure
When two or more people go together on a trip or some other action, not necessarily for profit, which may make them all liable for an accident or debt arising out of the activity. (See also: joint venture)

Joint And Several
Refers to a debt or a judgment for negligence against two or more defendants, in which each debtor (person who owes) or defendant is responsible for the entire amount of the debt or judgment, regardless of each individual's precise share of responsibility. For example, a promissory note for a debt often states that if there is more than one debtor, the debt is joint and several. This means the creditor can collect the entire amount from any of the signers of the note. Or, if a party injured in an accident sues several parties for causing damages, the court may find that several people were jointly negligent. The entire judgment may then be collected from any of the defendants found responsible, unless the court finds that different amounts of negligence of each defendant contributed to the injury.

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 both.

Joint Defendant
See: codefendant

Joint Enterprise
An activity joined into by two or more people, with common interests and level of control. The enterprise may be for profit, such as a business partnership or joint venture; or it may be a criminal conspiracy or an instance of group negligence.

Joint Liability
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 with them. Compare: several liability

Joint Ownership
The ownership of property by two or more people, usually with the right of survivorship.

Joint Powers Agreement
A contract between a city and a county and a special district in which the city or county agrees to perform services, cooperate with, or lend its powers to, the special district.

Joint Resolution Of Congress
A type of legislation used by Congress for special legislative purposes or constitutional amendments, identified by the abbreviations "S.J.Res." or "H.J.Res." and a number. Those joint resolutions that are not constitutional amendments must be passed by both houses and signed by the president in order to have the force of law.

Joint Tax Return
A single tax return filed by a married couple on which they report their combined income and deductions.

Joint Tenancy
A way for two or more people to share ownership of real estate or other property. In almost all states, the co-owners (called joint tenants) must own equal shares of the property. When one joint tenant dies, the other owners automatically own the deceased owner's share. For example, if spouses own a house as joint tenants and one dies, the survivor automatically becomes full owner. Because of this right of survivorship, the property goes directly to the surviving joint tenants without the delay and costs of probate. Compare: tenancy by the entirety, tenancy in common

Joint Tortfeasors
Two or more persons whose collective negligence in a single accident or event causes damages to another person. Joint tortfeasors may be held jointly and severally liable for damages, meaning that any of them can be responsible to pay the entire amount, no matter what proportion of responsibility each has.

Joint Venture
An enterprise entered into by two or more people for profit and for a limited purpose, such as the purchase or improvement of real estate. A joint venture has most of the elements of a partnership, except that it anticipates a defined period of operation after which it terminates.

Joint Work
Under copyright law, 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
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.

Journal
See: general journal

Joyriding
Driving someone else's vehicle without permission, without intending to take it permanently.

Judge
1) 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 pass a test, and federal and state "administrative law judges" are often lawyer or nonlawyer hearing officers specializing in the subject matter upon which they are asked to rule. 2) 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. 3) To make a legal conclusion, as in "The court judged the defense of self-defense to be unpersuasive."

Judge Advocate
A military officer who is part of the Judge Advocate General's Corps. The Corps is the judicial arm of each of the U.S. armed forces. Judge advocates are charged with upholding military law, as contained in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Officers of the Corps are the chief officers in courts-martial and military courts of inquiry. Judge advocates also provide legal services to servicemembers, and advise commanders on the laws concerning armed combat.

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

Judgment By Default
See: default judgment

Judgment Creditor
A person or entity that wins a lawsuit and receives a judgment for money damages against the other party.

Judgment Debt
A debt that arises out of a judgment in a lawsuit.

Judgment Debtor
A person or entity that loses a lawsuit and owes a judgment for money damages to the judgment creditor.

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.

Judgment Proof
A condition of having little money and/or property that a creditor who wins a lawsuit could take. A person might be judgment proof because he or she has no property and no steady income. Even a person who owns property might be judgment proof if all of the property is exempt and, therefore, can't be taken by creditors.

Judicial
Referring to a judge, a court, or the court system.

Judicial Discretion
A judge's power to make decisions based on fairness or a weighing of the facts and circumstances, particularly in cases where a party requesting relief or a benefit has no automatic or clearcut legal right to it.

Judicial Foreclosure
A foreclosure in which the foreclosing party files a lawsuit in the county where the real estate is located, seeking a court judgment allowing the property to be sold at a foreclosure sale because the owner has defaulted on mortgage payments. A few states use what are called strict foreclosures, which let the judge order ownership of the property transferred to the foreclosing party without a sale. Judicial foreclosures commonly take much longer than nonjudicial ones. Compare: nonjudicial foreclosure

Judicial Notice
The court's authority to accept matters of common knowledge or indisputable fact without anyone having to present evidence on the point. For example, a court might take judicial notice of the fact that ice melts in the sun.

Judicial Proceeding
Any court proceeding undertaken by a judge, such as a trial or hearing.

Judicial Sale
A sale ordered by a court, or under the supervision of a court, often conducted by an official (keeper, trustee, or sheriff) appointed by the court, usually to satisfy a judgment or implement a court order.

Jumbo Loan
A mortgage loan that's too large to be guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration and which usually comes with a higher interest rate as a result. Compare: conforming loan

Jump Bail
A colloquial term for fleeing or failing to appear for a court appearance after depositing (posting) bail. Also called skipping bail. (See: bail)

Junk Bond
A type of bond with a "BB" (Standard & Poor's) or "Ba" (Moody's)

Jurat
(jur-at) From the Latin "to swear." A jurat is the portion of an affidavit or deposition in which a person swears that the contents of the written statement are true. It usually includes the date, the name of the person swearing, the name of the authority before whom the oath was made, and sometimes the place where sworn -- for example, "Sworn to this 12th day of October, 2008, by Martha J. Milner, before me, a notary public for said state and county. Barbara A. Stenerson, Notary Public." Compare: acknowledgment

Juris Doctor (J.D.)
The degree awarded to a law school graduate in the United States. Also called a Doctor of Jurisprudence.

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, a state court's subject matter jurisdiction includes the civil and criminal laws passed by its own state, but doesn't include patent disputes or immigration violations, which Congress allows to be heard only in federal courts. And no court can hear or decide 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 your 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 to $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.

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. Small claims courts have low jurisdictional limits, usually under $15,000 and sometimes as low as $2,500.

Jurisprudence
The study and philosophy of law and the legal system.

Jurist
1) A judge. 2) Someone who studies the law.

Juror
A person who serves on a jury. Lists of potential jurors are obtained from sources such as voter registration rolls, telephone directories, and department of motor vehicles' lists. 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 nonunanimous verdicts may be permitted. (Almost every state still requires 12-person, unanimous verdicts for criminal trials.) 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 the same community ("a jury of peers"), acting impartially and without bias. 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
The enclosed area in which the jury sits during a jury trial.

Jury Duty
The obligation to serve on a jury. 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.

Jury Fees
The rather minimal amount paid each day to jurors for serving in a trial (a flat fee plus mileage from home to court). In criminal trials this amount is paid by the government, while in civil lawsuits it's paid by the parties to the lawsuit, in equal amounts. The winner is usually entitled to reimbursement of the jury fees paid.

Jury Instruction
A direction or explanation that a judge gives to a jury about the law that applies to a case.

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
The constitutionally guaranteed right of criminal defendants to be tried by their equals, that is, by an impartial group of citizens from the legal jurisdiction where they live. This has been interpreted by courts to mean that the jurors should include a broad representation of the population, particularly with regard to race, national origin, and gender. Notice that this doesn't mean that, for example, women are to be tried by women, Asians by Asians, or African Americans by African Americans. When selecting a jury, the lawyers may not exclude people of a particular race or intentionally narrow the spectrum of possible jurors.

JuryPanel
A list of people who've been summoned to the court for jury duty, from which jurors for a particular trial may be chosen.

Jus Cogens
(jes-kohjens) Latin for "cogent law." A principle or norm of international law that is based on values taken to be fundamental to the international community that cannot be disregarded.

Jus Naturale
(jus natch-ray-lee) Latin for "natural law." This is a system of legal principles ostensibly derived from universal divine truths.

Just Cause
See: good cause

Just Compensation
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 guaranteed by Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Justice
1) A concept of fairness and moral rightness. 2) A scheme or system of law. 3) Judges on the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal courts of appeal, and state appellate courts.

Justice Of The Peace (JP)
An official who handles minor legal matters such as misdemeanors, small claims actions, marriages, and traffic matters. Dating back to early English Common Law, "JPs" were very common up to the 1950s, but are now primarily found in rural areas from which it is unreasonable for the public to travel to the county seat for minor matters.

Justice System
A term that describes the courts and other bureaucracies that handle American's criminal legal business, including offices of various state and federal prosecutors, public defenders, and probation offices.

Justiciable
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
A killing without evil or criminal intent, for which there is no blame. For example, an accidental shooting, a killing in the course of self-defense, or a death that results from the necessary actions of a police officer would all be justifiable homicides. Justifiable deaths are not the same as a crime of passion or a claim of diminished capacity, which refer to defenses aimed at reducing the penalty or degree of crime. (See also: crime of passion, diminished capacity)

Juvenile Court
A court that hears cases involving the morale, health, or welfare of children, usually under the age of 18. Children who are alleged to have committed crimes will normally have their cases heard in juvenile court, but the prosecution may, in extreme cases and where allowed by statute, ask that the case be handled in regular adult court. Children whose parents or guardians have neglected or abused them may also appear in juvenile court, where the case is between the state (which appears on behalf of the child) and the parents.

Juvenile Delinquent
Slang for a minor who has been found to have committed a criminal offense. Minors may not end up with "convictions," (they are often simply adjudged to have committed the crime), and are usually punished by laws that do not apply to adults, such as by confinement in a facility solely for juveniles. Also termed juvenile offender, youthful offender, or delinquent minor.