Court Terms and their Meanings

tribunal – an assembly (including one or more judges) to conduct judicial business

court of justice, court of law, lawcourt, court – a tribunal that is presided over by a magistrate or by one or more judges who administer justice according to the laws

assembly – a group of persons who are gathered together for a common purpose

International Court of Justice, World Court – a court established to settle disputes between members of the United Nations

Bench – the magistrate or judge or judges sitting in court in judicial capacity to compose the court collectively

appeals court, appellate court, court of appeals – a court whose jurisdiction is to review decisions of lower courts or agencies

assizes, court of assize, court of assize and nisi prius – the county courts of England (replaced in 1971 by Crown courts)

chancery, court of chancery – a court with jurisdiction in equity

consistory – a church tribunal or governing body

criminal court – a court having jurisdiction over criminal cases

divorce court – a court having jurisdiction over the termination of marriage contracts

court of domestic relations, domestic relations court, family court – a court in some states in the United States that has jurisdiction over family disputes (especially those involving children)

federal court – a court establish by the authority of a federal government

F.I.S.C., Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – a secret federal court created in 1978 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; responsible for authorizing wiretaps and other forms of electronic surveillance and for authorizing searches of suspected spies and terrorists by the Department of Justice or United States intelligence agencies.

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inferior court, lower court – any court whose decisions can be appealed to a higher court

Inquisition – a former tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church (1232-1820) created to discover and suppress heresy

juvenile court – a court having jurisdiction over dependent and delinquent children

kangaroo court – an irregular unauthorized court

military court – a judicial court of commissioned officers for the discipline and punishment of military personnel

moot court – a mock court where law students argue hypothetical cases

police court – a court that has power to prosecute for minor offenses and to bind over for trial in a superior court anyone accused of serious offenses

probate court – a court having jurisdiction over the probate of wills and the administration of estates

quarter sessions – a local court with criminal jurisdiction and sometimes administrative functions

Rota – (Roman Catholic Church) the supreme ecclesiastical tribunal for cases appealed to the Holy See from diocesan courts

Star Chamber – a former English court that became notorious for its arbitrary methods and severe punishments

superior court – any court that has jurisdiction above an inferior court

high court, state supreme court, supreme court – the highest court in most states of the United States

traffic court – a court that has power to prosecute for traffic offenses

trial court – the first court before which the facts of a case are decided

jury – a body of citizens sworn to give a true verdict according to the evidence presented in a court of law


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