In order to understand the Court Watch Project’s data and the Civil Protection Order process, it will be helpful to understand the following legal terminology:
Adjudicate: To reach, give, or pronounce a judgment or decree.
Allegation: An assertion, declaration, or statement made in a pleading by one of the parties to the action, detailing the matters that the party intends to prove.
Bench Trial: A trial heard by a judge without a jury. CPO Court operates in this fashion (Also called a court trial.)
Bench Warrant: A written order issued by a judge authorizing the arrest of a person charged with some contempt, crime, or misdemeanor.
Burden of Proof: The standard by which a case is decided; the duty of a party in a legal proceeding to persuade the judge or the jury that enough facts exist to prove the allegations of the case. In criminal cases, the prosecutor must prove his/her case beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, the plaintiff must prove his/her case by preponderance of evidence or, in some cases, by clear and convincing evidence.
Civil Protection Order (CPO): A civil injunction, a CPO is designed to protect an individual from further harm and to temporarily resolve issues between the parties that might, if not addressed, cause friction or require communication between the parties during the pendency of the CPO.
Temporary Protection Order (TPO): The Petitioner is entitled to a Temporary Protection Order while the Civil Protection Order is still pending if the Petitioner can prove that his/her safety or welfare is immediately endangered by the Respondent.
Clerk of the Court: The court official who handles most of the administrative work of the court, including maintaining court records, managing the court calendar, and administering the oath to jurors and witnesses.
Contempt of Court: An act or omission that obstructs or interferes with the court, or shows disregard or disrespect for the court or its authority; behavior in or out of court that violates a court order. Contempt of court is punishable by fine or imprisonment.
Contested Hearing: Both parties were not able to consent to the CPO (see consented order) prior to going in front of the judge, thus the judge must hear both parties’ accounts of the incidents of intrafamily offenses described in the petition. The judge must decide who is the more credible source (the respondent or the petition) and will either grant the CPO, or deny it.
Consented Order: before going in front of a judge, both parties meet with a neutral attorney negotiator, who discusses the option of consenting to the order before proceeding to a hearing. Respondents can consent to the order with admissions or without admissions, meaning they can consent to abide by the requests in the Order (stay away, no contact, vacate, etc.) either by admitting guilt of the incidents outlined in the petition, or without admitting guilt.
Continuance: The postponement of a case to a later date as granted by the court. This can happen at the request of the petitioner (particularly if they were not able to serve the respondent with notice to appear), or to trail a criminal case, if one exists, because there is a much higher burden of proof.
Dismissal: A court order terminating a case.
Dismissal With Prejudice: a court order terminating a case and providing that the party who brought the case (the petitioner or plaintiff) cannot bring the same case again.
Dismissal Without Prejudice: a court order terminating a case and providing that the petitioner or plaintiff may re-file the same case in the future.
Docket: A record of the cases before the court each day, which also may include a list of the court proceedings and filings of legal documents in a case.
Domestic Violence Unit: the division within the Superior Court of DC which adjudicates petitions for Civil Protection Orders and Temporary Protection orders.
Intrafamily Offense: a criminal act committed by someone who has (or had) a relationship with the victim (familial, romantic, sexual, shared residence, child in common, partner in common) ; for example, a crime committed by a husband against a wife. There is no relationship needed for crimes of sexual assault or stalking. This is the DC statute for Domestic Violence; the occurrence of an Intrafamily Offense would make a victim eligible to seek a Protection Order, there does not need to be contact with the police.
Jurisdiction: The power or authority of a court to hear and decide a specific case; the exercise of judicial power within certain geographic, subject matter, or monetary boundaries.
Motion: A verbal or written request asking the court for a ruling or order to resolve a procedural or other issue that arises during the case.
On Behalf Of (OBO): As the agent of; on the part of.
Petition: A formal written request to the court initiating a legal proceeding requesting some action or relief.
Petitioner: A person who files a petition in court; in CPO/TPO cases, the person who claims to be the victim of an intrafamily offense (the victim or survivor).
Pro Se (Pro Per): A person who represents himself/herself in court without legal counsel. CPO court in DC is Pro Se, therefore not everyone is represented by an attourney
Respondent: the person against whom a petition for a Civil Protection Order and/or Temporary Protection Order is filed. The person who is alleged to have committed an intrafamily offense ( the abuser or perpetrator).
Serve: To deliver a legal document to the person named in the document, such as a complaint, summons, or subpoena; service constitutes formal legal notice.
Summons/Service/Notice to Appear: Legal notice informing an individual that a complaint or petition has been filed and that he/she is required to appear and answer the complaint or petition on or before the time and date specified.
Vacate: To set aside an order or to render it void.
Warrant: A court order that authorizes law enforcement officers to make an arrest, a search, or a seizure; must be based on probable cause.
Thank you to the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project (DCVLP) for this Glossary of Legal Terminology.