This page is designed to explain the legal terminology, or jargon, used in criminal and civil law. For further information about any of these terms, please contact our solicitors.


This is the judgement pronounced by the Court when the Defender is released from a claim made against them


To grant decree of absolvitor or decide finally in favour of the Defender


These are allegations or statements of fact in written pleadings


This is a clause, paragraph or section of a legal document.


A decision in favour of a party to a dispute, sometimes applied to a Court ruling but more commonly to a tribunal or arbiter.


A person empowered to judge in a dispute.

Before Answer

Before the law of a case is decided, when a proof is allowed before answer, the facts are brought out but the legal argument (that they do not entitle the person to relief) is still competent.

Bona Fide

A person is said to be acting bona fide when he/she acts honestly, even if negligently or mistakenly.

Brevitatis Causa

This basically means, for the sake of brevity


This is a formal legal demand to obey a decree for payment of money or eviction.

Curator ad litem

A person appointed to look after another's interest in the conduct of litigation.


The right of one or other separated parents to have a child of their union living with him or her in a family.

Contempt of Court

To disregard an order of Court or breach of an undertaking.


A person appointed by the Court to represent another's interest.


This is part of the initial writ in which the Pursuer sets out the claims he/she makes against the Defender. It can also mean to ask for something formally of the Court.


The part of a Pursuer's written pleadings that contains a statement of the facts.


(1) To summon a party, witness or juror to Court. (2) To refer in argument to some authority - for example, to cite a previously decided case.


This is a legal document, lodged in Court by a party so that no order or ruling affecting that party passes without receipt of prior notice - or in the absence - of that party.

Certified Copy

The name given to a copy of an official document certified as a true copy by the clerk of court.


This is another word for a legal action.

Closed Record

This is a document setting out the amended and adjusted pleadings after the adjustment period has closed.


The Defender's written response to a claim made against him by a Pursuer.


A hearing at which the Court considers issues of legal relevancy in respect of a claim or a defence, or other preliminary issues which would prevent a claim or defence proceeding to proof.


A wrongful act, for which the injured party has the right to a civil remedy, such as punitive damages or compensation.

Declarator (action of)

An action brought by an interested party to have some legal right declared but without claim on any person called as a defender to do anything.


Harm, loss or injury.


Money claimed as compensation for loss or injury resulting from breach of duty, legal or contractual.


The common Scottish technical term for an interim or final judgement.


The publication or communication of a false statement or idea that is injurious to the party to whom it refers or relates.


A formal document authenticated by the maker's signature, the signature of two witnesses and a proper testing clause

Entitled Spouse

The spouse entitled by virtue of ownership, tenancy or other authority to occupy a matrimonial home.


The costs involved in litigation, or the order made by a Court for one party to pay another's costs.

Ex proprio motu

An order made by a court at the court's own instance or motion.


Something which is done outside of Court

Family Action

The name given to the particular actions dealing with marriage, separation, divorce, children, aliment and related matters


Giving notice of an action to an interested party who may then, if so advised, be a party to the action.


An order or decision of the Court recorded in writing.

Interim order

Here, the court is not deciding finally that a particular order should be made. It is granting an order, in the meantime, to give protection or relief to the applicant till the matter can be investigated.


This is a Court order prohibiting a Defender from carrying out a specified act or series of acts.

In loco parentis

Applied to someone acting in place of a parent or, in some way, adopting the position of a parent.

Initial writ

The formal document in the Sheriff Court by which an action is initiated against a Defender.

In causa

This means, in the particular Court action.

In hoc statu

In the meantime


A group of lay persons chosen to decide upon issues of fact in legal proceedings.

Juristic person

An artificial entity with legal capacity, rights and liabilities - for example, an incorporated company.


The territorial boundaries of a Court

Law agent

A common term, often shortened to agent, for a solicitor


An authority given to one person to act for another.

Matrimonial home

Any structure provided by one or both spouses and forming a family residence.


(1) A document used to bring a matter to the Court's attention, such as abandoning an action, consenting to decree, disclaiming an action or tendering a sum of money in settlement of an action.
2) A means of recording something for the Court, such as a joint minute settling an action.
3) A means of applying to the Court for amendment of pleadings or some other request.
An application made in Court for some subsidiary purpose during the course of an action


Literally means, yet to be born. Rights may be conferred by law or by deed on those to be born in the future.


Failure in a duty to show care towards one to whom such a duty is owed

Options hearing

An important hearing in an ordinary cause in the Sheriff Court, where the Sheriff decides further procedure.

Ordinary Court

The Sheriff's regular Civil Court to dispose of matters of a procedural nature and contested motions

Period of notice

The number of days given to a Defender, or an opponent in litigation, to lodge a notice of intention to defend or oppose a motion.


This is the person who raises an action and makes a claim against a Defender.


Name given to a trial in a civil cause.


Official Court papers and pleadings lodged in connection with an action.

Preliminary plea

A plea which must either be repelled or disposed of before a case can proceed to proof, usually in relation to relevancy, competency or jurisdiction.


A statement of record of the evidence a person may be expected to give if called as a witness.


This is the crime of deliberately giving false evidence in Court.

Party litigant

A person who conducts their own case.


This is part of the Initial Writ in which the Pursuer sets out the legal propositions upon which his case is based


An amount fixed or specified in money, as in a claim for damages


The possibility of loss or damage as covered by an insurance policy.


An action for unjust enrichment based on the contributions a person has made to another's property or estate without the intention of donation.


The withholding by one party to a contract of due performance in order to compel the other party to give due performance.


A demand by a creditor for repayment of a debt, sometimes through the agency of a notary.


The Court will remit matters of fact for investigation to the Reporter who will then report findings to the Sheriff. Most comonly used in connection with disputes involving children.


This refers to the statements of respective claims and answers by parties to an action, lodged in Court. When finally adjusted, it is closed by order of the Court and becomes the closed record. Until then it is the open record.

Ratio Decidendi

The rule or principle of law on which the decision of the Court in a particular case is based.


An action to obtain compensation in respect of a wrong which has been done, or harm caused by another's negligence.


This is a Scots word meaning repayment. It is the term used for repayment of money paid in error, or received in circumstances whereby the person was not entitled to receive it


The term for damages for injury to feelings, as opposed to physical suffering.

Summary Decree

A decree granted where, notwithstanding the lodging of Defences, the Court considers there is no proper defence in the action.


To raise a civil action.


A term used for those engaged in legal practice, other than members of the Bar (Advocates).


To stay, suspend or stop the process.

Simplified divorce application

Used for non-contentious divorces where issues in respect of the welfare of children do not need to be considered.

Sheriff Clerk

The official in charge of administration at a particular Sheriff Court.


The formal delivery of an official document.


To render a person bankrupt.

Strict liability

Liability for loss or damage caused, irrespective of fault.

Specific implement

A remedy for securing compliance with an obligation for carrying out a specific act


Any oral evidence given in Court.

Title to sue

This is the formal legal right to bring an action

Uberrimae fidei

This Latin phrase means, the utmost good faith. In other words, the standard required of parties to certain types of contract.

Undefended action

Where the Defender has failed to appear to contest an action

Veritas Convicci

A Latin phrase, usually shortened to simply veritas, which translates as a defence in a defamation action. It simply means that what was said about a person is truthful.

Volenti non fit injuria

Another Latin phrase, sometimes abbreviated to volenti, meaning that where a person accepts the risk of injury sustained, he/she cannot claim damages for that injury


Any writing which possesses legal significance

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