341 meeting - In a bankruptcy proceeding, a meeting of creditors at
which the debtor is questioned under oath by creditors, a trustee, an
examiner, or the US Trustee about his or her financial affairs.
A jury verdict that a criminal defendant is not guilty, or
the finding of a judge that the evidence is insufficient to support a
A judge in the full-time service of the court. Compare to
Administrative Office of the
United States Courts (AO) The federal agency
responsible for collecting court statistics, administering the federal courts'
budget, and performing many other administrative and programmatic functions,
under the direction and supervision of the Judicial Conference of the United
A term used to describe evidence that may be considered by a
jury or judge in civil and criminal cases.
A lawsuit arising in or related to a bankruptcy case that
begins by filing a complaint with the court, that is, a "trial" that takes
place within the context of a bankruptcy case
A written or printed statement made under oath.
In the practice of the court of appeals, it means that the
court of appeals has concluded that the lower court decision is correct and
will stand as rendered by the lower court.
A juror selected in the same manner as a regular juror who
hears all the evidence but does not help decide the case unless called on to
replace a regular juror.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
(ADR) A procedure for settling a dispute
outside the courtroom. Most forms of ADR are not binding on the parties, and
involve referral of the case to a neutral party such as an arbitrator or
Latin for "friend of the court." It is advice formally
offered to the court in a brief filed by an entity interested in, but not a
party to, the case.
The formal written statement by a defendant in a civil case
that responds to a complaint, articulating the grounds for defense.
A request made after a trial by a party that has lost on one
or more issues that a higher court review the decision to determine if it was
correct. To make such a request is "to appeal" or "to take an appeal." One who
appeals is called the "appellant;" the other party is the "appellee."
The party who appeals a district court's decision, usually
seeking reversal of that decision.
About appeals; an appellate court has the power to review the
judgment of a lower court (trial court) or tribunal. For example, the U.S.
circuit courts of appeals review the decisions of the U.S. district courts.
The party who opposes an appellant's appeal, and who seeks to
persuade the appeals court to affirm the district court's decision.
A proceeding in which a criminal defendant is brought into
court, told of the charges in an indictment or information, and asked to plead
guilty or not guilty.
Article III Judge
A federal judge who is appointed for life, during "good
behavior," under Article III of the Constitution. Article III judges are
nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
Property of all kinds, including real and personal, tangible
An agreement to continue performing duties under a contract
An injunction that automatically stops lawsuits, foreclosure,
garnishments, and most collection activity against the debtor the moment a
bankruptcy petition is filed.
The release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime,
under specified conditions designed to assure that person's appearance in
court when required. Also can refer to the amount of bond money posted as a
financial condition of pretrial release.
Bankruptcy A legal procedure for dealing with debt problems
of individuals and businesses; specifically, a case filed under one of the
chapters of title 11 of the United States Code (the Bankruptcy Code).
An officer of the Judiciary serving in the judicial districts
of Alabama and North Carolina who, like the United States trustee, is
responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates,
and trustees; monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring
creditors' committees; monitoring fee applications; and performing other
The informal name for title 11 of the United States Code (11
U.S.C. §§ 101-1330), the federal bankruptcy law.
The bankruptcy judges in regular active service in
each district; a unit of the district court.
All interests of the debtor in property at the time of the
bankruptcy filing. The estate technically becomes the temporary legal owner of
all of the debtor's property.
A judicial officer of the United States district court who is
the court official with decision-making power over federal bankruptcy cases.
A formal request for the protection of the federal
bankruptcy laws. (There is an official form for bankruptcy petitions.)
A private individual or corporation appointed in all Chapter
7 and Chapter 13 cases to represent the interests of the bankruptcy estate and
the debtor's creditors.
A trial without a jury, in which the judge serves as the
A written statement submitted in a trial or appellate
proceeding that explains one side's legal and factual arguments.
Burden of Proof
The duty to prove disputed facts. In civil cases, a plaintiff
generally has the burden of proving his or her case. In criminal cases, the
government has the burden of proving the defendant's guilt. (See standard of
A bankruptcy case in which the debtor is a business or an
individual involved in business and the debts are for business purposes.
offense A crime punishable by
A complete collection of every document filed in court in a
The law as established in previous court decisions. A synonym
for legal precedent. Akin to common law, which springs from tradition and
The number of cases handled by a judge or a court.
Cause of Action
A legal claim.
The offices of a judge and his or her staff.
The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for
"liquidation," that is, the sale of a debtor's nonexempt property and the
distribution of the proceeds to creditors. In order to be eligible for Chapter
7, the debtor must satisfy a "means test." The court will evaluate the
debtor's income and expenses to determine if the debtor may proceed under
Chapter 7 trustee
A person appointed in a Chapter 7 case to represent the
interests of the bankruptcy estate and the creditors. The trustee's
responsibilities include reviewing the debtor's petition and schedules,
liquidating the property of the estate, and making distributions to creditors.
The trustee may also bring actions against creditors or the debtor to recover
property of the bankruptcy estate.
The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for
reorganization of municipalities (which includes cities and towns, as well as
villages, counties, taxing districts, municipal utilities, and school
A reorganization bankruptcy, usually involving a corporation
or partnership. A Chapter 11 debtor usually proposes a plan of reorganization
to keep its business alive and pay creditors over time. People in business or
individuals can also seek relief in Chapter 11.
The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for adjustment
of debts of a "family farmer," as that term is defined in the Bankruptcy Code.
The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for adjustment
of debts of an individual with regular income, often referred to as a
"wage-earner" plan. Chapter 13 allows a debtor to keep property and use his or
her disposable income to pay debts over time, usually three to five years.
Chapter 13 trustee
A person appointed to administer a Chapter 13 case. A Chapter
13 trustee's responsibilities are similar to those of a Chapter 7 trustee;
however, a Chapter 13 trustee has the additional responsibilities of
overseeing the debtor's plan, receiving payments from debtors, and disbursing
plan payments to creditors.
The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code dealing with cases of
The judge who has primary responsibility for the
administration of a court; chief judges are determined by seniority.
A creditor's assertion of a right to payment from a debtor or
the debtor's property.
A lawsuit in which one or more members of a large group, or
class, of individuals or other entities sue on behalf of the entire class. The
district court must find that the claims of the class members contain
questions of law or fact in common before the lawsuit can proceed as a class
Clerk of Court
The court officer who oversees administrative functions,
especially managing the flow of cases through the court. The clerk's office is
often called a court's central nervous system.
Property that is promised as security for the satisfaction of
The legal system that originated in England and is now in use
in the United States that relies on the articulation of legal principles in a
historical succession of judicial decisions. Common law principles can be
changed by legislation.
special condition the court imposes that requires an
individual to workwithout payfor a civic or nonprofit organization.
A written statement that begins a civil lawsuit, in which the
plaintiff details the claims against the defendant.
Prison terms for two or more offenses to be served at the
same time, rather than one after the other. Example: Two five-year sentences
and one three-year sentence, if served concurrently, result in a maximum of
five years behind bars.
Approval of a plan of reorganization by a bankruptcy judge.
Prison terms for two or more offenses to be served one after
the other. Example: Two five-year sentences and one three-year sentence, if
served consecutively, result in a maximum of 13 years behind bars.
A bankruptcy case filed to reduce or eliminate debts that are
primarily consumer debts.
Debts incurred for personal, as opposed to business, needs.
A claim that may be owed by the debtor under certain
circumstances, e.g., where the debtor is a cosigner on another person's loan
and that person fails to pay.
An agreement between two or more persons that creates an
obligation to do or not to do a particular thing.
A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.
Legal advice; a term also used to refer to the lawyers in a
Government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes.
Judges sometimes use "court" to refer to themselves in the third person, as in
"the court has read the briefs."
A person who makes a word-for-word record of what is said in
court, generally by using a stenographic machine, shorthand or audio
recording, and then produces a transcript of the proceedings upon request.
An allegation in an indictment or information, charging a
defendant with a crime. An indictment or information may contain allegations
that the defendant committed more than one crime. Each allegation is referred
to as a count.
A person to whom or business to which the debtor owes money
or that claims to be owed money by the debtor.
- Credit counseling
Generally refers to two events in individual bankruptcy
cases: (1) the "individual or group briefing" from a nonprofit budget and
credit counseling agency that individual debtors must attend prior to filing
under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code; and (2) the "instructional course
in personal financial management" in chapters 7 and 13 that an individual
debtor must complete before a discharge is entered. There are exceptions to
both requirements for certain categories of debtors, exigent circumstances,
or if the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator have determined that
there are insufficient approved credit counseling agencies available to
provide the necessary counseling.
Money that a defendant pays a plaintiff in a civil case if
the plaintiff has won. Damages may be compensatory (for loss or injury) or
punitive (to punish and deter future misconduct).
A person who has filed a petition for relief under the
Bankruptcy Code. defendant An individual (or business) against whom a lawsuit
A debtor's detailed description of how the debtor proposes to
pay creditors' claims over a fixed period of time.
A judge's statement about someone's rights. For
example, a plaintiff may seek a declaratory judgment that a particular
statute, as written, violates some constitutional right.
Latin, meaning "in fact" or "actually." Something that exists
in fact but not as a matter of law.
A judgment awarding a plaintiff the relief sought in
the complaint because the defendant has failed to appear in court or otherwise
respond to the complaint.
In a civil case, the person or organization against whom the
plaintiff brings suit; in a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.
Latin, meaning "in law." Something that exists by operation
Latin, meaning "anew." A trial de novo is a completely new
trial. Appellate review de novo implies no deference to the trial judge's
An oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to
administer oaths. Such statements are often taken to examine potential
witnesses, to obtain discovery, or to be used later in trial. See discovery.
A release of a debtor from personal liability for certain
dischargeable debts. Notable exceptions to dischargeability are taxes and
student loans. A discharge releases a debtor from personal liability for
certain debts known as dischargeable debts and prevents the creditors owed
those debts from taking any action against the debtor or the debtor's property
to collect the debts. The discharge also prohibits creditors from
communicating with the debtor regarding the debt, including through telephone
calls, letters, and personal contact.
A debt for which the Bankruptcy Code allows the debtor's
personal liability to be eliminated.
A written document prepared by the chapter 11 debtor or other
plan proponent that is designed to provide "adequate information" to creditors
to enable them to evaluate the chapter 11 plan of reorganization.
Procedures used to obtain disclosure of evidence before
Dismissal with Prejudice
Court action that prevents an identical lawsuit from being
Dismissal without Prejudice
Court action that allows the later filing.
Income not reasonably necessary for the maintenance or
support of the debtor or dependents. If the debtor operates a business,
disposable income is defined as those amounts over and above what is necessary
for the payment of ordinary operating expenses.
A log containing the complete history of each case in the
form of brief chronological entries summarizing the court proceedings.
In criminal law, the constitutional guarantee that a
defendant will receive a fair and impartial trial. In civil law, the legal
rights of someone who confronts an adverse action threatening liberty or
French, meaning "on the bench." All judges of an appellate
court sitting together to hear a case, as opposed to the routine disposition
by panels of three judges. In the Ninth Circuit, an en banc panel consists of
the chief judge and 14 other, randomly selected, judges.
Pertaining to civil suits in "equity" rather than in "law."
In English legal history, the courts of "law" could order the payment of
damages and could afford no other remedy. See damages. A separate court of
"equity" could order someone to do something or to cease to do something. See,
e.g., injunction. In American jurisprudence, the federal courts have both
legal and equitable power, but the distinction is still an important one. For
example, a trial by jury is normally available in "law" cases but not in
The value of a debtor's interest in property that remains
after liens and other creditors' interests are considered. (Example: If a
house valued at $60,000 is subject to a $30,000 mortgage, there is $30,000 of
Information presented in testimony or in documents that is
used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case in favor
of one side or the other.
Doctrine that says evidence obtained in violation of a
criminal defendant's constitutional or statutory rights is not admissible at
Evidence indicating that a defendant did not commit the
Contracts or leases under which both parties to the agreement
have duties remaining to be performed. If a contract or lease is executory, a
debtor may assume it (keep the contract) or reject it (terminate the
Property that a debtor is allowed to retain, free from the
claims of creditors who do not have liens on the property.
Exemptions, exempt property
Certain property owned by an individual debtor that the
Bankruptcy Code or applicable state law permits the debtor to keep from
unsecured creditors. For example, in some states the debtor may be able to
exempt all or a portion of the equity in the debtor's primary residence
(homestead exemption), or some or all "tools of the trade" used by the debtor
to make a living (i.e., auto tools for an auto mechanic or dental
tools for a dentist). The availability and amount of property the debtor may
exempt depends on the state the debtor lives in.
A proceeding brought before a court by one party only,
without notice to or challenge by the other side.
Face sheet filing
A bankruptcy case filed either without schedules or with
incomplete schedules listing few creditors and debts. (Face sheet filings are
often made for the purpose of delaying an eviction or foreclosure.)
An individual, individual and spouse, corporation, or
partnership engaged in a farming operation that meets certain debt limits and
other statutory criteria for filing a petition under Chapter 12.
Federal public defender
An attorney employed by the federal courts on a full-time
basis to provide legal defense to defendants who are unable to afford counsel.
The judiciary administers the federal defender program pursuant to the
Criminal Justice Act.
Federal Public Defender
Organization As provided for in the Criminal
Justice Act, an organization established within a federal judicial circuit to
represent criminal defendants who cannot afford an adequate defense. Each
organization is supervised by a federal public defender appointed by the court
of appeals for the circuit.
Federal question jurisdiction
Jurisdiction given to federal courts in cases involving the
interpretation and application of the U.S. Constitution, acts of Congress, and
A serious crime, usually punishable by at least one year in
To place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of
court to enter into the files or records of a case.
A transfer of a debtor's property made with intent to defraud
or for which the debtor receives less than the transferred property's value.
The characterization of a debtor's status after bankruptcy,
i.e., free of most debts. (Giving debtors a fresh start is one purpose of the
A body of 16-23 citizens who listen to evidence of criminal
allegations, which is presented by the prosecutors, and determine whether
there is probable cause to believe an individual committed an offense. See
also indictment and U.S. attorney.
Latin, meaning "you have the body." A writ of habeas corpus
generally is a judicial order forcing law enforcement authorities to produce a
prisoner they are holding, and to justify the prisoner's continued
confinement. Federal judges receive petitions for a writ of habeas corpus from
state prison inmates who say their state prosecutions violated federally
protected rights in some way.
Evidence presented by a witness who did not see or hear the
incident in question but heard about it from someone else. With some
exceptions, hearsay generally is not admissible as evidence at trial.
A special condition the court imposes that requires an
individual to remain at home except for certain approved activities such as
work and medical appointments. Home confinement may include the use of
electronic monitoring equipmenta transmitter attached to the wrist or the
ankleto help ensure that the person stays at home as required.
- The process of calling a witness's
testimony into doubt. For example, if the attorney can show that the witness
may have fabricated portions of his testimony, the witness is said to be
- The constitutional process whereby the
House of Representatives may "impeach" (accuse of misconduct) high officers
of the federal government, who are then tried by the Senate
Latin, meaning in a judge's chambers. Often means outside the
presence of a jury and the public. In private.
Evidence indicating that a defendant did commit the crime.
The formal charge issued by a grand jury stating that there
is enough evidence that the defendant committed the crime to justify having a
trial; it is used primarily for felonies. See also information.
In forma pauperis
"In the manner of a pauper." Permission given by the court to
a person to file a case without payment of the required court fees because the
person cannot pay them.
A formal accusation by a government attorney that the
defendant committed a misdemeanor. See also indictment.
A court order preventing one or more named parties from
taking some action. A preliminary injunction often is issued to allow
fact-finding, so a judge can determine whether a permanent injunction is
Insider (of corporate debtor)
A director, officer, or person in control of the debtor; a
partnership in which the debtor is a general partner; a general partner of the
debtor; or a relative of a general partner, director, officer, or person in
control of the debtor.
Insider (of individual debtor)
Any relative of the debtor or of a general partner of the
debtor; partnership inwhich the debtor is a general partner; general partner
of the debtor; or corporation of which the debtor is a director, officer, or
person in control.
A form of discovery consisting of written questions to be
answered in writing and under oath.
1. The disputed point between parties in a lawsuit; 2. To
send out officially, as in a court issuing an order.
A court-approved mechanism under which two or more cases can
be administered together. (Assuming no conflicts of interest, these separate
businesses or individuals can pool their resources, hire the same
One bankruptcy petition filed by a husband and wife together.
An official of the judicial branch with authority to decide
lawsuits brought before courts. Used generically, the term judge may also
refer to all judicial officers, including Supreme Court justices.
The position of judge. By statute, Congress authorizes the
number of judgeships for each district and appellate court.
The official decision of a court finally resolving the
dispute between the parties to the lawsuit.
Judicial Conference of the
United States The policy-making entity for
the federal court system. A 27-judge body whose presiding officer is the Chief
Justice of the United States.
The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a certain
type of case. It also is used as a synonym for venue, meaning the geographic
area over which the court has territorial jurisdiction to decide cases.
The study of law and the structure of the legal system.
The group of persons selected to hear the evidence in a trial
and render a verdict on matters of fact. See also grand jury.
A judge's directions to the jury before it begins
deliberations regarding the factual questions it must answer and the legal
rules that it must apply.
A legal action started by a plaintiff against a defendant
based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty which
resulted in harm to the plaintiff.
A charge on specific property that is designed to secure
payment of a debt or performance of an obligation. A debtor may still be
responsible for a lien after a discharge.
A case, controversy, or lawsuit. Participants (plaintiffs and
defendants) in lawsuits are called litigants.
A sale of a debtor's property with the proceeds to be used
for the benefit of creditors.
A creditor's claim for a fixed amount of money.
A judicial officer of a district court who conducts initial
proceedings in criminal cases, decides criminal misdemeanor cases, conducts
many pretrial civil and criminal matters on behalf of district judges, and
decides civil cases with the consent of the parties.
Section 707(b)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code applies a "means
test" to determine whether an individual debtor's chapter 7 filing is presumed
to be an abuse of the Bankruptcy Code requiring dismissal or conversion of the
case (generally to chapter 13). Abuse is presumed if the debtor's aggregate
current monthly income (see definition above) over 5 years, net of certain
statutorily allowed expenses is more than (i) $10,000, or (ii) 25% of the
debtor's nonpriority unsecured debt, as long as that amount is at least
$6,000. The debtor may rebut a presumption of abuse only by a showing of
special circumstances that justify additional expenses or adjustments of
current monthly income.
Mental Health Treatment
Special condition the court imposes to require an individual
to undergo evaluation and treatment for a mental disorder. Treatment may
include psychiatric, psychological, and sex offense-specific evaluations,
inpatient or outpatient counseling, and medication.
An offense punishable by one year of imprisonment or less.
See also felony.
An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a
mistrial is declared, the trial must start again with the selection of a new
Not subject to a court ruling because the controversy has not
actually arisen, or has ended.
A request by a litigant to a judge for a decision on an issue
relating to the case.
Motion to lift the automatic
stay A request by a creditor to allow the
creditor to take action against the debtor or the debtor's property that would
otherwise be prohibited by the automatic stay.
Motion in Limine
A pretrial motion requesting the court to prohibit the other
side from presenting, or even referring to, evidence on matters said to be so
highly prejudicial that no steps taken by the judge can prevent the jury from
being unduly influenced.
caseA Chapter 7 case in which
there are no assets available to satisfy any portion of the creditors'
No contest. A plea of nolo contendere has the same effect as
a plea of guilty, as far as the criminal sentence is concerned, but may not be
considered as an admission of guilt for any other purpose.
A debt that cannot be eliminated in bankruptcy. Examples
include a home mortgage, debts for alimony or child support, certain taxes,
debts for most government funded or guaranteed educational loans or benefit
overpayments, debts arising from death or personal injury caused by driving
while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, and debts for restitution
or a criminal fine included in a sentence on the debtor's conviction of a
crime. Some debts, such as debts for money or property obtained by false
pretenses and debts for fraud or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary
capacity may be declared nondischargeable only if a creditor timely files and
prevails in a nondischargeability action.
Property of a debtor that can be liquidated to satisfy claims
to dischargeability A
trustee's or creditor's objection to the debtor being released from personal
liability for certain dischargeable debts. Common reasons include allegations
that the debt to be discharged was incurred by false pretenses or that debt
arose because of the debtor's fraud while acting as a fiduciary.
- Objection to exemptions
A trustee's or creditor's objection to the debtor's attempt
to claim certain property as exempt from liquidation by the trustee to
A judge's written explanation of the decision of the court.
Because a case may be heard by three or more judges in the court of appeals,
the opinion in appellate decisions can take several forms. If all the judges
completely agree on the result, one judge will write the opinion for all. If
all the judges do not agree, the formal decision will be based upon the view
of the majority, and one member of the majority will write the opinion. The
judges who did not agree with the majority may write separately in dissenting
or concurring opinions to present their views. A dissenting opinion disagrees
with the majority opinion because of the reasoning and/or the principles of
law the majority used to decide the case. A concurring opinion agrees with the
decision of the majority opinion, but offers further comment or clarification
or even an entirely different reason for reaching the same result. Only the
majority opinion can serve as binding precedent in future cases. See also
An opportunity for lawyers to summarize their position before
the court and also to answer the judges' questions.
1. In appellate cases, a group of judges (usually three)
assigned to decide the case; 2. In the jury selection process, the group of
potential jurors; 3. The list of attorneys who are both available and
qualified to serve as court-appointed counsel for criminal defendants who
cannot afford their own counsel.
The release of a prison inmategranted by the U.S. Parole
Commissionafter the inmate has completed part of his or her sentence in a
federal prison. When the parolee is released to the community, he or she is
placed under the supervision of a U.S. probation officer.
The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 abolished
parole in favor of a determinate sentencing system in which the sentence is
set by sentencing guidelines. Now, without the option of parole, the term of
imprisonment the court imposes is the actual time the person spends in prison.
- Party in interest
A party who has standing to be heard by the court in a matter
to be decided in the bankruptcy case. The debtor, the U.S. trustee or
bankruptcy administrator, the case trustee and creditors are parties in
interest for most matters.
A business not authorized to practice law that prepares
Latin, meaning "for the court." In appellate courts, often
refers to an unsigned opinion.
A district court may grant each side in a civil or criminal
trial the right to exclude a certain number of prospective jurors without
cause or giving a reason.
Petit Jury (or trial jury)
A group of citizens who hear the evidence presented by both
sides at trial and determine the facts in dispute. Federal criminal juries
consist of 12 persons. Federal civil juries consist of at least six persons.
The document that initiates the filing of a bankruptcy
proceeding, setting forth basic information regarding the debtor, including
name, address, chapter under which the case is filed, and estimated amount of
assets and liabilities.
A federal misdemeanor punishable by six months or less in
A person or business that files a formal complaint with the
A debtor's detailed description of how the debtor proposes to
pay creditors' claims over a fixed period of time.
In a criminal case, the defendant's statement pleading
"guilty" or "not guilty" in answer to the charges. See also
Written statements filed with the court which describe a
party's legal or factual assertions about the case.
A transfer of the debtor's property made after the
commencement of the case.
The arrangement (or rearrangement) of a debtor's property to
allow the debtor to take maximum advantage of exemptions. (Prebankruptcy
planning typically includes converting nonexempt assets into exempt assets.)
A court decision in an earlier case with facts and legal
issues similar to a dispute currently before a court. Judges will generally
"follow precedent" meaning that they use the principles established in
earlier cases to decide new cases that have similar facts and raise similar
legal issues. A judge will disregard precedent if a party can show that the
earlier case was wrongly decided, or that it differed in some significant way
from the current case.
Preferential debt payment
A debt payment made to a creditor in the 90-day period before
a debtor files bankruptcy (or within one year if the creditor was an insider)
that gives the creditor more than the creditor would receive in the debtor's
chapter 7 case.
A report prepared by a court's probation officer, after a
person has been convicted of an offense, summarizing for the court the
background information needed to determine the appropriate sentence.
A meeting of the judge and lawyers to plan the trial, to
discuss which matters should be presented to the jury, to review proposed
evidence and witnesses, and to set a trial schedule. Typically, the judge and
the parties also discuss the possibility of settlement of the case.
A function of the federal courts that takes place at the very
start of the criminal justice processafter a person has been arrested and
charged with a federal crime and before he or she goes to trial. Pretrial
services officers focus on investigating the backgrounds of these persons to
help the court determine whether to release or detain them while they await
trial. The decision is based on whether these individuals are likely to flee
or pose a threat to the community. If the court orders release, a pretrial
services officer supervises the person in the community until he or she
returns to court.
The Bankruptcy Code's statutory ranking of unsecured claims
that determines the order in which unsecured claims will be paid if there is
not enough money to pay all unsecured claims in full.
An unsecured claim that is entitled to be paid ahead of other
unsecured claims that are not entitled to priority status. Priority refers to
the order in which these unsecured claims are to be paid.
Sentencing option in the federal courts. With probation,
instead of sending an individual to prison, the court releases the person to
the community and orders him or her to complete a period of supervision
monitored by a U.S. probation officer and to abide by certain conditions.
Officers of the probation office of a court. Probation
officer duties include conducting presentence investigations, preparing
presentence reports on convicted defendants, and supervising released
The rules for conducting a lawsuit; there are rules of civil
procedure, criminal procedure, evidence, bankruptcy, and appellate procedure.
Proof of claim
A written statement describing the reason a debtor owes a
creditor money, which typically sets forth the amount of money owed. (There is
an official form for this purpose.)
A slang expression sometimes used to refer to a pro se
litigant. It is a corruption of the Latin phrase "in propria persona."
Property of the estate
All legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property as
of the commencement of the case.
Representing oneself. Serving as one's own lawyer.
To charge someone with a crime. A prosecutor tries a criminal
case on behalf of the government.
agreement An agreement by a
debtor to continue paying a dischargeable debt after the bankruptcy, usually
for the purpose of keeping collateral or mortgaged property that would
otherwise be subject to repossession.
A written account of the proceedings in a case, including all
pleadings, evidence, and exhibits submitted in the course of the case.
A procedure in a Chapter 7 case whereby a debtor removes a
secured creditor's lien on collateral by paying the creditor the value of the
property. The debtor may then retain the property.
The act of a court setting aside the decision of a lower
court. A reversal is often accompanied by a remand to the lower court for
A penalty or other type of enforcement used to bring about
compliance with the law or with rules and regulations.
Lists submitted by the debtor along with the petition (or
shortly thereafter) showing the debtor's assets, liabilities, and other
financial information. (There are official forms a debtor must use.)
A secured creditor is an individual or business that holds a
claim against the debtor that is secured by a lien on property of the estate.
The property subject to the lien is the secured creditor's collateral.
Debt backed by a mortgage, pledge of collateral, or other
lien; debt for which the creditor has the right to pursue specific pledged
property upon default. Examples include home mortgages, auto loans and tax
A federal judge who, after attaining the requisite age and
length of judicial experience, takes senior status, thus creating a vacancy
among a court's active judges. A senior judge retains the judicial office and
may cut back his or her workload by as much as 75 percent, but many opt to
keep a larger caseload.
The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted
of a crime.
A set of rules and principles established by the United
States Sentencing Commission that trial judges use to determine the sentence
for a convicted defendant.
Service of process
The delivery of writs or summonses to the appropriate party.
Parties to a lawsuit resolve their dispute without having a
trial. Settlements often involve the payment of compensation by one party in
at least partial satisfaction of the other party's claims, but usually do not
include the admission of fault.
To separate. Sometimes juries are sequestered from outside
influences during their deliberations.
- Small business case
A special type of chapter 11 case in which there is no
creditors' committee (or the creditors' committee is deemed inactive by the
court) and in which the debtor is subject to more oversight by the U.S.
trustee than other chapter 11 debtors. The Bankruptcy Code contains certain
provisions designed to reduce the time a small business debtor is in
Statement of financial affairs
A series of questions the debtor must answer
in writing concerning sources of income, transfers of property, lawsuits by
creditors, etc. (There is an official form a debtor must use.)
Statement of intention
A declaration made by a chapter 7 debtor concerning
plans for dealing with consumer debts that are secured by property of the
Standard of Proof Degree of proof
required. In criminal cases, prosecutors must prove a defendant's guilt
"beyond a reasonable doubt." The majority of civil lawsuits require proof "by
a preponderance of the evidence" (50 percent plus), but in some the standard
is higher and requires "clear and convincing" proof.
A law passed by a legislature.
Statute of Limitations
The time within which a lawsuit must be filed or a criminal
prosecution begun. The deadline can vary, depending on the type of civil case
or the crime charged.
Latin, meaning "of its own will." Often refers to a court
taking an action in a case without being asked to do so by either side.
The act or process by which a person's rights or claims are
ranked below those of others.
A command, issued under a court's authority, to a witness to
appear and give testimony.
Subpoena duces tecum
A command to a witness to appear and produce documents.
Substance abuse treatment
A special condition the court imposes that requires an
individual to undergo testing and treatment for abuse of illegal drugs,
prescription drugs, or alcohol. Treatment may include inpatient or outpatient
counseling and detoxification.
The characterization of a bankruptcy case filed by an
individual whose debts are primarily consumer debts where the court finds that
the granting of relief would be an abuse of chapter 7 because, for example,
the debtor can pay its debts.
Putting the assets and liabilities of two or more related
debtors into a single pool to pay creditors. (Courts are reluctant to allow
substantive consolidation since the action must not only justify the benefit
that one set of creditors receives, but also the harm that other creditors
suffer as a result.)
A decision made on the basis of statements and evidence
presented for the record without a trial. It is used when it is not necessary
to resolve any factual disputes in the case. Summary judgment is granted when
on the undisputed facts in the record one party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.
term of supervision served after a person is released from
prison. The court imposes supervised release during sentencing in addition to
the sentence of imprisonment. Unlike parole, supervised release does not
replace a portion of the sentence of imprisonment but is in addition to the
time spent in prison. U.S. probation officers supervise persons on supervised
restraining order Akin to a
preliminary injunction, it is a judge's short-term order forbidding certain
actions until a full hearing can be conducted. Often referred to as a TRO.
Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials or
before grand juries.
See statute of limitations.
A civil, not criminal, wrong. A negligent or intentional
injury against a person or property, with the exception of breach of contract.
Any mode or means by which a debtor disposes of or parts with
A written, word-for-word record of what was said, either in a
proceeding such as a trial, or during some other formal conversation, such as
a hearing or oral deposition.
The representative of the bankruptcy estate who exercises
statutory powers, principally for the benefit of the unsecured creditors,
under the general supervision of the court and the direct supervision of the
U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator. The trustee is a private individual
or corporation appointed in all chapter 7, chapter 12, and chapter 13 cases
and some chapter 11 cases. The trustee's responsibilities include reviewing
the debtor's petition and schedules and bringing actions against creditors or
the debtor to recover property of the bankruptcy estate. In chapter 7, the
trustee liquidates property of the estate, and makes distributions to
creditors. Trustees in chapter 12 and 13 have similar duties to a chapter 7
trustee and the additional responsibilities of overseeing the debtor's plan,
receiving payments from debtors, and disbursing plan payments to creditors.
A business not authorized to practice law that prepares
bankruptcy petitions. United States trustee An officer of the Justice
Department responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases,
estates, and trustees; monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring
creditors' committees; monitoring fee applications; and performing other
claimA debt secured by
property that is worth less than the amount of the debt. unlawful detainer
action A lawsuit brought by a landlord against a tenant to evict the tenant
from rental propertyusually for nonpayment of rent.
most widely used test for evaluating undue hardship in the dischargeability of
a student loan includes three conditions: (1) the debtor cannot
maintainbased on current income and expensesa minimal standard of living
if forced to repay the loans; (2) there are indications that the state of
affairs is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment
period; and (3) the debtor made good faith efforts to repay the loans.
A lawyer appointed by the President in each judicial district
to prosecute and defend cases for the federal government. The U.S. Attorney
employs a staff of Assistant U.S. Attorneys who appear as the government's
attorneys in individual cases.
An officer of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for
supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and trustees;
monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring creditors' committees;
monitoring fee applications; and performing other statutory duties.
A debt secured by property that is worth less than the full
amount of the debt.
A claim for which a specific value has not been determined.
A debt that should have been listed by the debtor in the
schedules filed with the court but was not. (Depending on the circumstances,
an unscheduled debt may or may not be discharged.)
A claim or debt for which a creditor holds no special
assurance of payment, such as a mortgage or lien; a debt for which credit
was extended based solely upon the creditor's assessment of the debtor's
future ability to pay.
The appellate court agrees with the lower court decision and
allows it to stand. See affirmed.
The geographic area in which a court has jurisdiction. A
change of venue is a change or transfer of a case from one judicial district
The decision of a trial jury or a judge that determines the
guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant, or that determines the final
outcome of a civil case.
Jury selection process of questioning prospective jurors, to
ascertain their qualifications and determine any basis for challenge.
A transfer of a debtor's property with the debtor's consent.
garnishment A nonbankruptcy
legal proceeding whereby a plaintiff or creditor seeks to subject to his or
her claim the future wages of a debtor. In other words, the creditor seeks to
have part of the debtor's future wages paid to the creditor for a debt owed to
Court authorization, most often for law enforcement officers,
to conduct a search or make an arrest.
A person called upon by either side in a lawsuit to give
testimony before the court or jury.
A written court order directing a person to take, or refrain
from taking, a certain act.
Writ of certiorari
An order issued by the U.S. Supreme Court directing the lower
court to transmit records for a case which it will hear on appeal.