Saturday, April 11, 2015

Legal Definitions - J


JD / Juris Doctor – A person who graduates law school is a doctor, just not a medical doctor. So when my kids want to stay home from school, I can give them an official “doctor note." Just don't tell the school my doctorate doesn't begin with the word medical.

Joint and several – Each defendant/debtor is responsible for paying the entire judgment, or each tenant on a rental agreement [even if they have an understanding that each pays half] is responsible for paying the entire amount of rent. The creditor or landlord can't collect the entire amount from BOTH parties [a double-recovery], but can collect the entire amount from person 1 or person 2, or some from each, until the entire amount is paid. One-hundred percent of divorced persons believe the entire debt is owed by “my deadbeat ex-spouse.”

Judge – also called “the court,” as in “if it would please the court....” or “the court ruled....” Judges in courts of appeal and supreme courts are usually called justices instead of judges. The judge is responsible for making decisions, sometimes difficult decisions, sometimes unpleasant decisions, and sometimes decisions which don't seem “fair.” Contrary to popular belief, the law is not necessarily fair.

JNOV / Judgment notwithstanding the verdict – When the judge overrules the decision of the jury, because “no reasonable jury could have made that decision.” Usually confined to civil cases, because it cannot be done in a criminal case to overrule the decision of the jury of “not guilty” and turn it into “guilty,” because that would violate the rights of the criminal defendant. The abbreviation comes from judgment non obstante veredicto, because lawyers don't think you'll be awed by how intellectual they are unless they call things by their Latin names.

Judicial discretion – Many types of motions are decided “in the discretion of the court,” meaning if the judge wants to do it and can think of at least one obscure, outdated law that might support his decision, he can do it.

Judicial foreclosure – Some states only allow lenders to foreclose on mortgages by filing a case in court. California is a non-judicial foreclosure state, meaning lenders can foreclose on mortgages without filing a case in court, so long as they follow specific procedures. This means that in California and other non-judicial states, a foreclosure is quicker and less expensive for the lender than in a judicial state.

Jury – A group of citizens of a county who hear the evidence in a case and decide the facts. Legal questions are decided by the judge but the facts are decided by the jury [or by the judge in a bench trial]. In most US states, a criminal jury consists of 12 individuals and their decision must be unanimous. In a civil case, the jury can consist of 6, 8, 10, or 12 jurors, and the decision does not usually need to be unanimous. Generally, three-fourths of civil jurors must agree on whether one party owes another party money, and if so, the amount of money owed. A hung jury, either criminal or civil, means insufficient jurors have agreed one way or the other, and the prosecution or plaintiff may try the case again. This usually doesn't happen if the skew favored the defendant. In California, eviction defendants [especially defendants who qualify for free legal aid attorneys] usually demand a jury trial, because they know that plaintiffs/landlords don't want to spend the money to pay their attorney for a jury trial, thereby twisting the plaintiff/landlord's arm into giving them the settlement they want. This is also called extortion.

Jury box - The jury sits in the jury box.  Lawyers can determine which side of counsel table to stand at by looking for the jury box. The prosecution, or the civil plaintiff, has the burden of proof. Therefore, the prosecution or civil plaintiff stands at the table nearest the jury box. In some courtrooms during criminal arraignments and pre-trials, defendants out on bail or OR will sit in the courtroom gallery, and defendants still in custody will wear their jail uniforms [usually a bright obnoxious neon color like orange] and sit in the jury box. This gives new meaning to the phrase “a jury of one's peers.”


  1. One thing doctors, lawyers, and theologians all have in common is an inordinately large amount of Latin in their formal terminology. This, of course, goes back to the fact that medieval higher education consisted of those three courses. If you were getting a degree, you were going into medicine, the law, or the church.

    I've considered getting a Ph.D., or a Th.D. (Doctor of Theology), but right now it would be so I could call myself The Doctor. Not really the best of reasons... :)

    1. Sure, that's as good a reason as any LOL. My brother has a M.Div. Does that make him The Master? =)