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Court glossary terms: M-P

Learn important glossary terms when it comes to your court matters.

Table of Contents

M

MAGISTRATE - See CLERK-MAGISTRATE.

MAJORITY - More than half; e.g., at least four of the Supreme Judicial Court's seven justices.

MAJORITY OPINION - A written opinion announcing the court's decision in any case decided by more than one judge. The majority opinion explains the reasoning followed by a majority of the justices who heard the case, and its holding is binding on the lower courts in future cases.

MAKE WHOLE - See RESTITUTION.

MAL-ADMINISTRATION/MISCONDUCT IN OFFICE Grounds for removing a state officer, including a judge, from office through the impeachment process.

MALFEASANCE - The intentionally improper performance of some act or duty. SeeMISFEASANCE.

MALICE -

  1. In law: Deliberately and knowingly breaking the law without legal justification or excuse.
  2. In slander and libel cases: Deliberately making a false statement about another with evil intent or in reckless disregard of its falsity. A private person bringing a slander or libel suit does not have to prove malice, but a public figure with special prominence or notoriety in society, such as an athlete, actor, politician or criminal, must prove malice.

MANDAMUS - Latin for "we command." A written order requiring the person to whom it is addressed, often a public official, to do some specified act, generally connected with an official duty.

MANDATED REPORTER - A person required by law to report suspected child abuse or child neglect to the Department of Children and Families. Mandated reporters are usually people who come in contact with children as part of their work, like medical personnel and teachers, or law enforcement personnel, or court employees like probation officers and clerk-magistrates, but not judges.

MANDATORY MINIMUM - When a person is convicted of certain crimes specified by statute, a judge is required by statute to impose a specific minimum sentence, narrowing or removing the judge's discretion to determine the sentence.

MANDATORY RETIREMENT AMENDMENT - A 1972 amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution requiring all Massachusetts judges to retire at age seventy. Previously, Massachusetts judges were appointed to serve "for life during good behavior."

MARGINALLY INDIGENT - A criminal defendant who is unable to afford the complete cost of legal representation, but is able to contribute something toward his or her representation. A judge decides how much a marginally indigent defendant should contribute to his or her defense.

MARITAL PROPERTY - Property belonging to spouses which is divided between them if the spouses divorce.

MASSACHUSETTS CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION (MCI) - See STATE PRISON.

MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL LAWS (MGL) - Statutes of general and continuing application, as opposed to session laws.

MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL LAWS ANNOTATED (MGLA) - A series of volumes containing the text of Massachusetts statutes, plus brief references to cases and legal commentaries discussing them.

MASSCOURTS - The Trial Court’s electronic docketing and case management system.

MASTER - A person appointed by the court to hear and summarize the merits of a case, or pass judgment subject to approval of the court, usually an attorney or a retired judge. The master reports facts to the court and may examine parties under oath.

MATERIAL - Important, substantial.

MATERIAL WITNESS - A witness who can provide important testimony that is perhaps not available from any other source.

MCI - See STATE PRISON.

MEDICAL EXAMINER - A public official appointed by the governor to inquire into the cause and circumstances of certain deaths, including violent, unexpected, public or other unusual or suspicious deaths. Also known as a "coroner."

MEMORANDUM OF LAW - See BRIEF.

MENTAL ILLNESS - A substantial disorder of thought or mood which significantly impairs a person’s judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life.

MENTAL RETARDATION - Intellectual abilities significantly below average.

METRICS – A type of measurement used to gauge some quantifiable component of an organization’s performance. In the Trial Court, that might mean data on how often cases get continued or how many cases get resolved within time standards, as a measure of how cases flow through the system.

MGL - See MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL LAWS.

MGLA - See MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL LAWS ANNOTATED.

MILITARY AFFIDAVIT - A form used to indicate whether a party to a case is in the military of the United States or its allies. The federal Service Members’ Civil Relief Act requires the court to appoint a military attorney to give notice to any service member involved in civil litigation.

MINOR - In most cases, a person under the age of eighteen. In some cases, a person under the age of twenty- one. Whether someone is a "minor" is determined by the circumstances of the case and the law that applies to that case.

MIRANDA WARNING - A warning and statement of rights given by police prior to questioning a person in their custody who was arrested for committing a crime. The Miranda warning advises the arrestee of the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney and the right to have an attorney appointed if he or she cannot afford one. It also warns that any statement given may be used against him or her in court. The name refers to Miranda v. Arizona, 348 U.S. 436 (1966), a U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court outlined the information the police must give to those in their custody. Arrestees who have been given the required warnings are sometimes said to have been "Mirandized."

MIRANDIZE - See MIRANDA WARNING.

MISDEMEANOR - Any crime not punishable by a sentence to a state prison. Both the District Court and the Superior Court have jurisdiction over all misdemeanor cases, though the vast majority are heard in District Court.

MISFEASANCE - The negligently improper performance of some act or duty. SeeMALFEASANCE.

MISTRIAL - A trial terminated prior to a verdict, usually due to a significant damaging error in the proceedings or the inability of the jury to agree upon a verdict.

MITT - See MITTIMUS.

MITTIMUS - Latin for "we send":

  1. A writ presented to the keeper of a jail or prison, directing the keeper to receive and hold an offender awaiting trial or sentence. Often referred to as a A"mitt."
  2. A writ directing the transfer of records from one court to another.

MODIFICATION – See COMPLAINT FOR MODIFICATION.

MOOT -

  1. Moot case: A case in which the issue raised has been resolved, leaving no dispute which would be affected by the court's decision. A moot case will usually not be heard any further or decided by the court.
  2. Moot court: A "practice court' for students learning to argue using hypothetical cases or for attorneys preparing for oral argument in actual cases.

MORTGAGE - A lien on real estate to secure the performance of some obligation. The lien is discharged upon payment or performance as agreed. In modern times, most real estate owners borrow money from a bank to purchase the property. The bank receives a mortgage in exchange for the loan and can take ownership of the property in a process called foreclosure if the property owner fails to repay the loan as agreed.

MORTGAGEE - Someone who holds a mortgage; the creditor, often a bank.

MORTGAGOR - The maker of a mortgage; the debtor, often a homeowner.

MOTION - A request made to a court in the course of a legal case seeking an order or decision on some aspect of the case. The person making the motion is known as the "moving party." Motions may be made in writing or orally. For example:

  1. Motion in limine: Latin for "at the threshold." A motion made before trial to determine ahead of time whether a particular piece of evidence will be admissible at trial.
  2. Motion to compel: A motion seeking to force the other party to comply with a discovery request.
  3. Motion to suppress: A motion made before a criminal trial asking the court to exclude evidence that will be offered by the prosecutor at trial because it was obtained in violation of the defendant's constitutional rights.
  4. Motion to quash: See QUASH.


MOTION JUDGE - The judge who decides a motion before a trial (such as a motion to suppress or a motion to dismiss) but who may or may not hear the actual trial. An appellate court may need to distinguish between the motion judge and the trial judge, depending on whose decision is before the appellate court.

MOTION SESSION - A court session exclusively devoted to hearing and deciding motions.

MOVING PARTY - The party who makes a motion.

MUNICIPAL CHARTER - A legislative document authorizing the establishment and organization of a municipal government.

MUNICIPALITY - Local government, a city or a town.

N

NEUTRAL PERSON - As used in the area of dispute resolution, an individual engaged as an impartial third party to provide dispute resolution services. A neutral person could be a mediator, an arbitrator, a case evaluator or a conciliator. A neutral person could also be a court employee such as a master, clerk, clerk-magistrate, register, recorder, family service officer, housing specialist, probation officer or other person when that person is engaged as an impartial third party to provide dispute resolution services.

NCP - See NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT.

NE EXEAT - Latin for "you may not exit." An order forbidding the person to whom it is addressed to leave the country, the state or the jurisdiction of the court.

NEUROLEPTICS - See ANTIPSYCHOTIC MEDICATIONS.

NEXT FRIEND - Similar to a guardian ad litem, a next friend may be appointed by the court to represent, defend or prosecute the interests of a minor or incompetent person. A child's parents may also file suit as the child's next friend without a court appointment. Sometimes referred to as acting "on behalf of" or "OBO" the minor or incompetent person.

NEXT OF KIN - A person’s closest blood relative, as defined by local law.

NIGHTTIME - In criminal cases, one hour after sunset on one day until one hour before sunrise on the next day.

NISI - See JUDGMENT NISI

NO CONTACT ORDER - An order prohibiting someone from having contact with another person, often the victim of or a witness to a crime.

NO FAULT - A case which is decided without making a determination as to which party is at fault. For example, a no fault divorce can be granted simply because the parties wish to be divorced, without requiring one party to prove that the other committed adultery, was cruel and abusive, or otherwise caused the end of the marriage.

NO FAULT INSURANCE - A type of automobile insurance which pays for damage regardless of who was at fault.

NOL PROS - See NOLLE PROSEQUI.

NOLLE PROSEQUI - Latin for "no further prosecution." A formal declaration made on the court record that the prosecutor will not further prosecute the case. Sometimes referred to as a "nol pros" and sometimes noted on the docket as "NP."

NOLO CONTENDERE - Latin for "I will not contest it." A statement made in court by the defendant in a criminal case that is not an admission of guilt, as in a "guilty plea," but does indicate that the defendant is ready to accept conviction and sentence rather than go to trial. A guilty plea requires the defendant to tell the court exactly what he or she did. When a defendant pleads nolo contendere, there is no such requirement. This allows the defendant to avoid an admission that might create civil liability if a civil action is pending or may be filed later.

NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT (NCP) - The parent who does not have physical custody of a child. Usually refers to the parent with whom the child does not live, although the non-custodial parent may have shared legal custody of the child.

NONFEASANCE - The failure to perform some act or duty which ought to be performed.

NOT GUILTY -

  1. A plea entered by a defendant in a criminal case, indicating that the defendant is not admitting to the charges and that the Commonwealth will have to prove them in order to convict the defendant.
  2. A verdict of a jury or judge in a criminal case. A "not guilty" verdict is not a finding that the defendant is innocent of the charges but rather indicates that the Commonwealth has failed to meet its legal burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

NOTARY, NOTARY PUBLIC - A person who is authorized by the Commonwealth to administer oaths and certify the authenticity of signatures, and who must have and use a seal or stamp. Notaries do not have to be attorneys. A notary is different from a “notario”, which is a Spanish-language term for a certain type of lawyer practicing in a Spanish-speaking legal system. Notarios are not authorized to practice law or give legal advice in the United States (unless they are also attorneys).

NOTICE -

  1. Notice of appeal: The written notice filed by a party to request that an appellate court review a decision or judgment made by a Trial Court. The original is filed with the Trial Court Department or Division where the case originated, which prepares the record on appeal to send to the appellate court. The Massachusetts Rules of Criminal and/or Civil Procedure dictate how a party properly files a notice of appeal.
  2. Notice of hearing: A written notice to a party of the time, date, place, and subject matter of an upcoming court proceeding.
  3. Notice to quit: A written notice by a landlord to a tenant demanding that the tenant vacate the property. The notice to quit terminates the tenancy. Depending on the grounds for the eviction, the notice to quit will give the tenant a specific number of days to move out of the premises. A properly served notice to quit is required in most cases before a tenant can be evicted.

NP - See NOLLE PROSEQUI.

NUNC PRO TUNC - Latin for "now for then."

  1. Nunc pro tunc order: An order allowing an act to be done now, although it is past the time it should have been done, to be effective retroactively to when it should have been done (then)
  2. Nunc pro tunc amendment: An amendment given retroactive effect by court order.
  3. Nunc pro tunc filing: The filing of a pleading to take effect retroactively to an earlier time.

O

OATH - A declaration of the truth of a statement, made under penalties of perjury and generally invoking the Deity's name.

OBITER DICTUM - See DICTUM.

OBLIGOR – A person required by court order to make a payment to another.

OBLIGEE – A person who receives a payment from another pursuant to a court order.

OBO (ON BEHALF OF) - See NEXT FRIEND.

OCP - See OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF PROBATION.

OFFENSE - A crime or a violation of an ordinance.

OFFICE - A person's right and accompanying duty to exercise a public function.

OFFICE OF COURT MANAGEMENT - The office headed by the Court Administrator responsible for managing many aspects of Trial Court operations, providing services to all Trial Court departments in the following areas: Court Capital Projects, Facilities Management, Fiscal, Human Resources, Information Services, Support Services, and Security. See EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE TRIAL COURT.

OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF PROBATION - The office responsible for administering the probation system in the Commonwealth.

OFFICE OF THE JURY COMMISSIONER - The office responsible for administering the jury system in the Commonwealth, including scheduling jurors and prosecuting people who fail to serve on jury duty as required by law.

OFFICER - A person holding an office of trust, command or authority in a corporation, government or other institution or organization.

ON AND AFTER SENTENCE - See CONSECUTIVE SENTENCE.

ON BEHALF OF - See NEXT FRIEND.

ONE DAY, ONE TRIAL - The Massachusetts system for summoning and using jurors. Each person called for jury duty spends no more than one day waiting to be selected for a jury and, if selected, serves only for the length of one trial, however long that trial might last.

ONE TRIAL SYSTEM - See DE NOVO.

OPEN ADOPTION - An adoption allowing the biological parents to maintain contact with a child surrendered for adoption by agreement with the adoptive parents.

OPEN ADOPTION AGREEMENT - See POST-ADOPTION CONTACT OR COMMUNICATION AGREEMENT.

OPINION - See CONCURRING OPINION, DISSENTING OPINION, MAJORITY OPINION.

ORAL ARGUMENT - Time allotted by a court for the parties to argue their side of the case orally, directly to the judge(s.) Oral argument could be regarding a motion or regarding an appeal. At trial, the attorneys often make closing arguments, summarizing the evidence and arguing to the judge and/or the jury for a particular outcome. In an appellate court, oral argument is usually fifteen minutes per side. In first degree murder cases, each side is given thirty minutes. Many motions and appeals are decided without oral argument, based on the written arguments (briefs or memoranda) submitted by the parties.

ORDER - A command or directive of the court.

ORDER AFTER NOTICE - In an abuse prevention case under c. 209A, the order issued by the court after a hearing at which both the defendant and the victim have an opportunity to present evidence. The hearing must be held within ten days of the issuance of an ex parte order and is often referred to as a “ten-day hearing.” The initial order after notice can last for up to one year and can be extended for additional one-year terms or can be made permanent after the first year.

ORDER OF PRETRIAL DETENTION - See DANGEROUSNESS HEARING.

ORDINANCE - A local law or regulation enacted by a city, having no effect outside that city.

OUT OF WEDLOCK CHILD - A child born to parents who are not married to each other. Formerly referred to as an "illegitimate child."

P

PANEL -

  1. See JURY PANEL, VENIRE.
  2. Rather than have all of the justices on an appellate court hear and decide each case that comes before the court, justices may sit in panels of three (in the Appeals Court) or five (in the Supreme Judicial Court) to hear and decide cases. Both the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court typically hear cases in panels. In some instances, all of the justices on an appellate court hear a case. This is called sitting en banc.

PARDON - To excuse someone from the consequences of a criminal act. Usually, the chief executive (the Governor or President) has the authority to pardon, sometimes with the consent of another body, such as the Governor’s Council in Massachusetts.

PARENS PATRIAE DOCTRINE - Latin for "parent of the country." The inherent power and authority of the state to protect people who are legally unable to manage their own affairs, such as minors and people found to be incompetent.

PARENTING PLAN – A plan designed and agreed to by two parents who do not live together regarding their parenting of the children they have in common, including how much time each parent will spend with the child, how decisions will be made regarding the child and other details.

PAROLE - Conditional release from prison before the end of a sentence. If the parolee observes the conditions, he or she need not serve the rest of his or her term. Parole is granted by a state agency called the Parole Board and is supervised by a parole officer.

PAROLE BOARD - The state agency responsible for hearing and deciding requests by prisoners to be released on parole.

PARTITION - The division of real estate among two or more interested parties.

PARTNERSHIP - An association of two or more persons as co-owners of a business for profit. Partners share profits or losses, control and management of a business enterprise.

PARTY -

  1. A person concerned with or taking part in a matter or transaction, such as a party to a contract.
  2. A person by or against whom a lawsuit is brought; i.e., the plaintiff or defendant.

PATENT - Protection given to an inventor to protect against unauthorized use or copying of an invention.

PATERNITY - Fatherhood.

PATERNITY SUIT - A suit to establish whether a particular person is a child's biological father.

PENDENTE LITE - Latin for "during litigation."

PER CAPITA - Latin for "by the head." A method of dividing an estate equally among a given number of people; the opposite of per stirpes.

PER STIRPES - Latin for "by roots or stocks." A method of dividing an estate by right of representation where a group of distributees take the share to which their deceased ancestor would have been entitled, such as where children take the share to which their parent would have been entitled if the parent were still alive; the opposite of per capita.

PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE - See CHALLENGE.

PERJURY - A deliberate lie told in a judicial proceeding or a legal document by a person sworn or otherwise under a legal obligation to tell the truth. A statement made “under penalty of perjury” is a sworn statement for which the person making it can be prosecuted for the crime of perjury if the statement is discovered to be deliberately false.

PERMANENCY HEARING - A hearing to determine and monitor implementation of a permanency plan for a child in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. The first hearing must take place within one year of a child's placement in state foster care and every twelve months thereafter.

PERMANENCY PLAN - A plan determined by the Juvenile Court for a child who is the subject of a child welfare proceeding and who is in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. The plan must address whether, and if applicable, when: (1) the child will be returned to the parent; (2) the child will be placed for adoption and the steps the Department will take to free the child for adoption; (3) the child will have a legal guardian appointed; or (4) the child will be placed in another planned permanent living arrangement.

PERMANENT INJUNCTION - See INJUNCTION.

PERSONAL PROPERTY - Any property except real estate.

PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE - See RELEASE ON RECOGNIZANCE.

PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE - Under the Uniform Probate Code, an executor, administrator, successor personal representative, special administrator, special personal representative or other person who performs essentially the same function under the law governing their status. SeeADMINISTRATOR, EXECUTOR.

PETIT JURY - See JURY.

PETITION - A written request to the court, often initiating a court action; also the document in which the request is made.

PETITIONER - The person who files a petition requesting or initiating a court action. The other party is usually called the "respondent," though in some cases, such as a joint petition for divorce, both parties are referred to as the petitioner.

PETITION FOR DEPOSIT - A pleading in which a fiduciary requests authorization to deposit funds in a bank account in the name of the First Justice of the Probate and Family Court for the benefit of a minor or of an heir whose whereabouts are unknown.

PETITION FOR REMOVAL OF FIDUCIARY - A pleading filed by an heir or next of kin for the removal of a fiduciary who is alleged to be unsuitable.

PHYSICAL CUSTODY - See CUSTODY, CHILD CUSTODY.

PLAINTIFF - The person who initiates a civil case by filing the complaint.

PLEA - The defendant's response to a criminal charge (e.g., guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere).

PLEA-BARGAINING - In criminal cases, a process of negotiation between the prosecutor and the defendant that resolves the case without a trial. The two sides agree on a sentence to be recommended to the judge in exchange for the defendant's plea of guilty.

PLEADINGS - In a civil action, the papers that set forth the parties' claims and defenses. The plaintiff's pleadings state his or her claims against the defendant. The defendant's pleadings state his or her defenses to the plaintiff's claims and any counterclaims he or she may have. There are other, less common, types of pleadings, such as a third-party complaint.

POLICE PROSECUTOR - A police officer assigned to prosecute criminal cases. Once common in the Boston Municipal and District Court Departments, police prosecutors have generally been replaced by assistant district attorneys.

POST-ADOPTION CONTACT OR COMMUNICATION AGREEMENT - An enforceable agreement between the birth parents and the adoptive parents of a child to allow for the exchange of information regarding the child and/or visitation after the adoption decree is entered. The agreement must meet the statutory provisions of G.L. c. 210, '6C in order to be enforceable. A Post-Adoption Contact and Communication Agreement is often referred to as an "Open Adoption Agreement."

POWER OF ATTORNEY - A written instrument appointing and authorizing a person to act in the place of another. Someone holding a power of attorney is called an "attorney-in-fact," and may or may not be a lawyer. A "durable power of attorney" is one which becomes or remains effective if the person granting it later becomes disabled or dies.

PRECEDENT - Earlier appellate decisions, or holdings, which control, in whole or in part, the issue currently before a court. Precedent is sometimes referred to by its Latin name, stare decisis, which refers to the binding nature of precedent. See HOLDING.

  1. Binding precedent: In Massachusetts, decisions by the Supreme Judicial Court, which must be followed by all Massachusetts courts in cases in which similar issues arise, unless distinguished or overruled.
  2. Persuasive precedent: Case law from courts other than the Supreme Judicial Court, including decisions by the Appeals Court, the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals, and the appellate courts of other states. Persuasive precedent is binding in the particular case in which the decision was made and gives guidance on how a court should handle the same or a similar issue arising in other cases.

PRECLUSION - See RES JUDICATA, COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL.

PREJUDICIAL ERROR - An error in the course of a trial serious enough to require an appellate court to reverse the judgment. Also known as "reversible error."

PRENUPTIAL - Made or done before marriage. Usually refers to an agreement regarding how marital assets are to be distributed upon the death of one of the marriage partners or if the parties divorce. Also known as "antenuptial."

PREPONDERANCE, PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE - See BURDEN OF PROOF.

PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION - See INJUNCTION.

PRESENTENCE REPORT - A written report prepared by a Probation Officer on the family and personal history of a defendant in a criminal case, evaluating the crime and its ramifications, and making recommendations as to the sentence. A presentence report is required in all felony cases and is used by the judge as a guide in determining the sentence.

PRESIDING JUDGE - The judge conducting a hearing or trial or in charge of a case.

PRETRIAL CONFERENCE - A hearing conducted by the judge or a clerk-magistrate with the attorneys and any self-represented litigants to resolve, narrow or reduce the number of issues that must be tried.

PRETRIAL DETAINEE - A criminal defendant who has been denied bail or is unable to post the bail set and so is being held in a jail until trial.

PRETRIAL HEARING - See PRETRIAL CONFERENCE.

PRIMA FACIE - Latin for "at first sight"; “on the face of it.”

  1. Prima facie case: The facts that establish a party's right to relief if no evidence to the contrary is offered by the other party.
  2. Prima facie evidence: Evidence that is sufficient to prove a fact unless overcome by other evidence.

PRINCIPAL -

  1. A person who has permitted or directed another (an agent) to act for his or her benefit.
  2. A person responsible for paying a debt.
  3. Property, as opposed to the income from the property. The term often refers to property put into a trust or to the amount of a loan, not including the interest.

PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION - A communication protected from forced disclosure during a case unless the privilege is waived. Usually a communication is privileged if it is between people in a special relationship protected by statute or common law, such as between an attorney and a client or a patient and a therapist.

PRO BONO - Short for pro bono publico, Latin for "for the public good." Usually used to describe legal services provided to a client free of charge.

PRO SE - Latin for "for oneself." Usually used to describe a litigant who represents himself or herself in court without a lawyer.

PROBABLE CAUSE - In criminal cases, reasonable grounds for believing that the facts justify issuing an arrest or search warrant or a criminal complaint, or taking other legal action.

PROBABLE CAUSE HEARING - A hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to hold a criminal defendant charged by complaint in District Court for trial, and more particularly, whether there is probable cause to bind over the defendant for indictment and trial in the Superior Court. The hearing must take place as soon as possible (usually within ten days of arraignment). The defendant is entitled to representation by an attorney, evidence is presented and witnesses may be examined. If the crime charged in the complaint is within the District Court's jurisdiction, the judge must announce at the outset whether the hearing is a trial on the merits of the case, or a probable cause hearing. In order to bind a defendant over for indictment and trial in the Superior Court, the judge must find that there is probable cause to believe the defendant is guilty of the crime charged.

PROBATE - The court proceeding by which the assets of a deceased person's estate are transferred to the heirs.

PROBATE AND FAMILY COURT - The Department of the Trial Court with jurisdiction over family-related matters such as divorce, separate support, paternity, child support, custody, visitation, adoption, termination of parental rights and abuse prevention and probate matters such as wills, trusts, administrations, guardianships, medical treatment cases, conservatorships and change of names.

PROBATE ASSETS - Any property, real and/or personal, tangible and/or intangible, owned by a deceased person at the time of his or her death in his or her own name alone or as a tenant in common, except those assets which are subject to transfer on death by other mechanisms. For example, a house owned by the deceased person would be a probate asset, but survivor benefits under a retirement plan are non-probate assets because the beneficiary is named by the decedent prior to his or her death; the benefits go to the beneficiary without involvement by the court.

PROBATION - A defendant convicted of a criminal offense may be ordered to serve some or all of the sentence "on probation" as opposed to being incarcerated. The defendant is released but is subject to conditions set by the judge and usually supervised by a Probation Officer. If a person violates the conditions of probation, the probation can be revoked and the probationer incarcerated.

PROBATION OFFICER - An employee within the Office of the Commissioner of Probation who, on the criminal side, supervises the activities of people on probation, and who, on the civil side, may perform investigations and provide dispute intervention services, depending on the case and the court Department.

PROBATION REVOCATION - The process by which a probationer is brought before the court for violating the terms of probation. A probation revocation hearing can result in the imposition of a sentence to incarceration. Often referred to as a "probation surrender" or "surrender" hearing.

PROBATION SURRENDER - See PROBATION REVOCATION.

PROBATIONER - A person who is on probation.

PROBLEM-SOLVING COURT - See SPECIALTY COURT.

PROCEEDING - Any hearing or court appearance related to the adjudication of a case.

PROCESS - An order to appear in court or to enforce a judgment. Subpoenas and summonses are examples of process.

PROCESS SERVER - A person, usually a constable or a deputy sheriff, authorized to deliver a summons or complaint to a person being sued or to deliver a subpoena to a witness.

PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS - A form of discovery in which one party is required to produce documents and other items related to the case for review by the other party.

PROPERTY - Anything that may be the subject of ownership.

PROSECUTOR - An attorney who represents the Commonwealth in a criminal case.

PROTECTED PERSON – A person for whom a conservator has been appointed.

PROTECTIVE PROCEEDINGS – A proceeding for appointment of a conservator to manage the estate of a protected person.

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR - The person who is named to temporarily administer the estate of an intestate decedent who has no known next of kin living in the state. Public Administrators are appointed for each county, by the Governor, for a term of five years. They are temporarily in charge of the decedent's property until a personal administrator is appointed.

PUBLIC DEFENDER - An attorney paid by the Commonwealth to represent an indigent defendant in a criminal case. In Massachusetts, the Committee for Public Counsel Services has staff attorneys paid by the Commonwealth to represent indigent defendants, and also trains and supervises attorneys in private practice who are paid by the case.

PUBLIC DOMAIN - Belonging to or open and available to the public, not subject to a copyright.

PURCHASE-MONEY MORTGAGE - A mortgage on land given by the buyer to the seller concurrently with the conveyance of that land as collateral for the unpaid balance of the purchase price.

PUTATIVE - Alleged; supposed; e.g., the putative father in a paternity case.

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