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Court glossary terms: Q-R

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

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QUALIFIED DOMESTIC RELATIONS ORDER (QDRO) - An order by a Probate and Family Court judge, usually issued pursuant to a Judgment of Divorce, directing an employer (or former employer) to divide a retirement plan that is subject to the restrictions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). This order is often referred to as a QDRO, pronounced "cwadro".

QUANTUM MERUIT - Latin for "as much as he deserves." A legal action requesting payment for the value of work performed even in the absence of a formal contract.

QUASH - To nullify an order. For example, a motion to quash a subpoena is a request by a party or a witness that the court modify or cancel the subpoena.

QUITCLAIM DEED - A deed that guarantees that real estate is free of encumbrances (like liens or claims) made by the seller

QUID PRO QUO - Latin for "this for that." The giving of one thing of value for another.

QUO WARRANTO - Latin for "by what authority" or "by what warrant". A writ used to determine the right of an individual to exercise authority, usually brought by the Attorney General to test a person's claim of right to hold public office.


REAL ESTATE - Land and whatever is erected or growing upon it or affixed to it. Also called "real property" or "realty."



RECEIVER - A fiduciary appointed by the court to collect, manage, distribute and account for the assets of a person or corporation who is absent from the Commonwealth or who is otherwise unable to properly manage the assets of a business or an estate.

RECESS - A brief time set by the judge when those in court, including the jury, are excused from the courtroom. The judge usually leaves the bench during a recess.

RECIDIVISM - Going back to a previous behavior, especially criminal behavior.



  1. (n.) The word-for-word (verbatim) account by the official court reporter or an official
    audio tape of all proceedings in the courtroom.
  2. (v.) To register a deed for real estate in the Registry of Deeds.

RECORD ON APPEAL - The pleadings, motions, exhibits, orders and/or decrees filed in a case in the Trial Court, a copy of the docket entries, the findings of the trial judge and a transcript of the testimony taken in the case. These materials are forwarded to the appellate court when a case is appealed.

RECORDER - The official in the Land Court who serves a role similar to that of a clerk-magistrate in other Departments of the Trial Court. The Recorder maintains the records of the court, and also hears and decides certain kinds of cases.


REDIRECT, REDIRECT EXAMINATION - Once the opposing party has conducted cross-examination of a witness, the party calling the witness has the right to conduct further direct examination of the witness to clarify and elaborate on testimony given on cross-examination. Redirect can be conducted only on areas covered on cross-examination.

REDUCED FEE PANEL - A list of lawyers who may represent people involved in civil cases at a lower cost than usual, depending on the type of case and the income of the individual seeking representation.

REFERENDUM - A procedure allowing individuals or groups to collect the signatures of voters on a petition to place a question on the ballot in an election. See INITIATIVE.

REGISTER OF DEEDS - The elected official responsible for maintaining a county’s Registry of Deeds, where records of real estate ownership are kept. Some counties are divided into parts, each having a Register of Deeds.

REGISTER OF PROBATE - The elected official in the Probate and Family Court of each county who serves a role similar to that of a clerk in other Departments of the Trial Court. The Register's office is referred to as the Registry of Probate. The case files in domestic relations, probate and other cases over which the Probate and Family Court has jurisdiction are kept there.

REGISTERED LAND - Real estate, the title to which has been certified by the Land Court in a case before that court following procedures set by statute.

REGISTRY ABSTRACT - Most often, a summary of the court's finding on a moving motor vehicle violation. The term commonly refers to the form that the courts send to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to notify it of action on a case, including defaults.



REGULATION - A rule or order with the force of law issued by an administrative agency rather than by the Legislature.

RELEASE-ON-RECOGNIZANCE (ROR) - The pretrial release of an arrested person who has promised in writing to appear for court at a later date, without a requirement that cash or surety be deposited with the court.

RELEVANT - Pertinent or applicable to a matter in question.

RELIEF - The assistance, damages or benefit that a plaintiff seeks from the court.


  1. The remnant of an estate, the distribution of which is not provided for in a will.
  2. Assets held in a trust after all of the named beneficiaries have died.

REMAINDERMAN - A person who is named to receive the remainder of an estate.

REMAND - To send a case back to the court from which it originated for further proceedings. Usually ordered by an appellate court with instructions as to what further proceedings are required in the lower court.

REMITTITUR - An order reducing a damages award by a jury that the judge considers excessive.

REMOVAL - The transfer of a case from one court to another court.

REMOVAL OF DEFAULT - The cancellation of a default judgment, restoring the case to its status before the defendant defaulted.


REPLEVIN - A civil action to recover or repossess property unlawfully taken or held by another and to obtain damages suffered as a result of the unlawful taking or holding of the property, now abolished in Massachusetts.


  1. A person responsible for making a verbatim record of everything said in the courtroom during a hearing or trial, including the questions addressed to, and answers made by, witnesses, usually for the purpose of preparing a verbatim transcript, using manual shorthand, a stenotype machine or a stenomask. Also known as a “court reporter,” “court recorder,” or “court stenographer.”
  2. A court official responsible for compiling, indexing and publishing the written opinions of a court.

REQUEST FOR ADMISSIONS - A method of discovery by which one party lists facts related to a case and asks the other party to either admit or deny that the facts listed are true.


RES GESTAE - Latin for "things done." In general, res gestae is an exception to the rule against admitting hearsay evidence.

  1. A matter incidental to the main or principal fact, which helps explain that fact.
  2. Acts and words which are so related to an occurrence as to appear to be evoked and prompted by it.
  3. Res gestae witness: A person taking part in and/or witnessing a crime who may have personal knowledge concerning the crime or the defendant's possible involvement.

RES JUDICATA - Latin for "a thing adjudicated.” Refers to the principle that a party to a case is bound by a valid, final judgment in that case. A party cannot relitigate claims that were or could have been raised and decided in a completed case against the same opposing party in a new case. Also called "claim preclusion."

RESCRIPT - The appellate court order to the trial court that tells the trial court what to do with the case. Common rescripts are "judgment affirmed," "judgment reversed," "judgment vacated," etc.

RESCRIPT OPINION - A brief, unsigned appellate opinion.

RESIDENCE - The place where a person presently lives, not necessarily the person=s permanent home or domicile.

RESIDUE - The part of an estate remaining after all debts, charges and legacies have been paid.

RESOLVE, RESOLUTION - An expression of legislative opinion or intention; a special law not intended to be included in the General Laws.

RESPONDENT - A party against whom a motion or petition is filed.


  1. In criminal cases: Money that a convicted defendant is required to pay to the victim to compensate for damage suffered as a result of the crime.
  2. In civil cases: The amount of money necessary to restore a party to the party's position prior to suffering the wrong, sometimes referred to as making the party "whole."

RESTRAINING ORDER - A court order that a person stop doing or continuing to do something that threatens or causes irreparable injury to another. In Massachusetts, the term is often used to refer to an order issued pursuant to G.L. c. 209A to protect an individual from violence and abuse by an intimate partner, family member or other person in a special relationship as defined by statute. A restraining order can be temporary or permanent.

RETAINER - A down payment on the total bill for legal services, usually used in cases where the attorney is being paid an hourly rate.

RETURN DAY - The specific day set by the court on which the parties to a case must appear in court for a hearing and/or respond to an event in the case in writing.

RETURN OF SERVICE - A report by a sheriff, deputy sheriff or process server recording the manner in which he or she served a process or order of the court. The return of service is filed with the court to prove that service was made.

REVERSE - To set aside, annul or vacate a judgment on appeal.


REVOCATION - Generally, to annul or cancel something or to take something back.

REVOCATION OF WILL - The annulment or rendering inoperative of a will by some subsequent act of the testator.




RULES OF STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION - Legal principles used by a court to decide what a statute means. For example, the words used must be given their ordinary meaning and the statute must be read consistently with related laws. The goal is to carry out, as much as possible, the intent of the Legislature. There are many rules of statutory construction.


This is part of: Glossary of Court Terms