You are here

Glossary of Common Legal Terms


There are a lot of specialized terms used in court.  Here are some common terms when beginning a new case:
  • Civil Action: A legal proceeding in which one person (the plaintiff) demands something (often money) from another person (the defendant) based on an injury or loss to the plaintiff.

  • Complaint: The legal document that starts a civil action.

  • Plaintiff: The person who files the complaint against another party (the defendant).

  • Defendant: The person against whom the plaintiff files the complaint.

  • Pro se:  Used to describe someone filing a civil action without an attorney, pronounced “pro say.”

  • In Forma Pauperis: Used to describe someone who is unable to pay the court’s filing fee due to poverty, pronounced “in form-a paw-per-iss.”


For definitions of more terms you may hear during your case and in court, visit the United States Courts Glossary.


The Court neither endorses nor verifies the accuracy of any content in these links.  Nothing in these links should be viewed as legal advice.