Legal Jargon 101

The most preposterous statement I ever heard from another attorney was that clients who hire me expect me to use big words that they (the clients) do not understand. I think that attorney was trying to cop out of explaining our legal shorthand or jargon to his client.  My goal as an attorney is to help my client understand our legal jargon.  Needless to say, I told the attorney that he was wrong.  But it is true that we attorneys use certain words or phrases that have a specific legal meaning for us.  We call it a “Term of Art.”  This blog is going to breakdown a couple of the most common legal jargon for you.

Continuance  

Have you ever heard an attorney ask for a “continuance” of a hearing?  According to Google a continuance is a state of remaining in existence or operation.  To the rest of the modern world this should mean that the hearing will proceed.  Not so.  For those of us in the legal community we are asking the Court to postpone the hearing.  If a continuance has been granted the hearing will not take place on the originally scheduled date and time.  

Strike

“Strike that from the record.”  This may conjure up images in your head of the Judge hitting the poor court reporter over the head with the gavel.  While this is a violent image, I assure you that the court reporter is quite safe.  In fact, Judges are very protective of the court reporter.  As a sidebar, always be nice to the court reporter.  (A sidebar is a conversation between the Judge and attorneys.)  In legalese, to strike something from the record means to remove it from the record.  

Argue 

In any client meeting where we are discussing an upcoming hearing and I mention that I will be arguing to the Judge, I can see my client’s eyes get really big and a somewhat fearful look creep across.  I think the client has an image in his head of me yelling at the Judge and arguing with him like he argues with his future ex-wife.  Relax.  I would never dream of talking to a judge the way that people speak with their ex-spouses.  If I tell a client that I am going to argue, what I mean is that I am going to very calmly and respectfully tell the Court how I think it should rule based on sound legal principles and prior relevant cases.  It is very anticlimactic.  

Quash

“Quash” is not a sport and it is not a vegetable.  In legal terms, to “quash” something means to void (not avoid) something, or to put an end to something.  The most common use is to ask the Court to “quash” a prior order.  

Pro Se

Pro what?  Pro se is a legal term used for an individual who represents him or herself.  It is a Latin phrase that means “for oneself”.  A pro se individual is someone who does not have an attorney.  If you are trying to do your divorce or custody action without the assistance of an attorney, you are labeled a pro se party.  It makes it easier for the judge to know whether an individual is represented by an attorney.   

There may be other terms or phrases that attorneys use in their everyday jargon that you may not understand.  What you should take away from this blog is that if you do not understand what your attorney told you, ask.  If your attorney does not believe that he or she needs to take the time to explain a legal term or phrase to you, then it might be time to find a new attorney.  If you ever have any questions regarding the legal process, please contact us at Mundahl Law.  We respect our client’s need to understand their legal process.