Legal Terms E – H

Legal Terms E - Hearly neutral evaluation — a form of alternative dispute resolution in which an experienced, impartial attorney with expertise in the subject matter of the case (a neutral evaluator) gives the parties a nonbinding assessment of the case and may also provide case-planning guidance and assistance with settlement.

elbow law clerk — a lawyer employed by the court who works closely with a judge in the judge’s chambers.

electronic monitoring — see home confinement.

en banc — a French term meaning “on the bench.” The term refers to a session in which all of the judges on an appellate court participate in the decision. The judges of the U.S. courts of appeals usually sit in panels of three, but for some important cases they may sit en banc.

evidence — information in the form of testimony, documents, or physical objects that is presented in a case to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other.

exclusivity period — in bankruptcy, the time during which only the debtor in a Chapter 11 reorganization can propose a plan of reorganization. The exclusivity period is generally at least the first 120 days after the bankruptcy filing.

exemption — money or property that is not liquidated as part of the bankruptcy estate.

exhibit — an item of physical evidence (a document or an object).

expert witness — a person with specialized training and experience about particular subject matter who testifies in a case to offer an opinion on an issue in the case based on his or her specialized knowledge.

fact finder — the jury in a jury trial or the judge in a bench trial who weighs the evidence in a case and determines the facts.

fact witness — a person with knowledge about what happened in a particular case who testifies in the case about what happened or what the facts are.

federal courts — courts established under the U.S. Constitution. The term usually refers to courts of the federal judicial branch, which include the Supreme Court of the United States, the U.S. courts of appeals, the U.S. district courts (including U.S. bankruptcy courts), and the U.S. Court of International Trade. Congress has established other federal courts in the executive branch, such as immigration courts.

federal crime — a violation of a criminal law passed by Congress. Federal crimes are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies and prosecuted by the U.S. attorney for the judicial district in which the crime occurred.

Federal Judicial Center (FJC) — the federal judicial system’s agency for research and education. Its responsibilities include developing and administering education programs and services for judges and other court employees, and undertaking empirical and exploratory research on federal judicial processes, court management, and sentencing, often at the request of the committees of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

federal public defender organization — as provided for by the Criminal Justice Act, an organization established within a federal judicial district (or more than one district) to represent criminal defendants who can’t afford to pay a lawyer. Each organization is supervised by a federal public defender appointed by the court of appeals for the circuit.

federal-question jurisdiction — the federal district courts’ authorization to hear and decide cases arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.

federal rules — bodies of rules developed by the federal judiciary that spell out procedural requirements. The federal rules are the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, the Federal Rules of Evidence, and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. Rules can take effect only after they are forwarded to Congress for review and Congress declines to change them.

federalism — a principle of our Constitution which gives some functions to the U.S. government and leaves the other functions to the states. The functions of the U.S. (or federal) government involve the nation as a whole and include regulating commerce that affects people in more than one state, providing for the national defense, and taking care of federal lands. State and local governments perform such functions as running the schools, managing the police departments, and paving the streets.

felony — a crime that carries a penalty of more than a year in prison.

fine — a form of punishment for a crime, in which the defendant must pay a sum of money to the public treasury.

final decision — a court’s decision that resolves the claims of the parties and leaves nothing further for the court to do but ensure that the decision is carried out. The U.S. courts of appeals have jurisdiction over appeals from final decisions of U.S. district courts.

foreperson — the juror who presides over the jury’s deliberations. The foreperson is either elected by the jurors or selected by the judge, depending on the practice in the particular court.

grand jury — a group of citizens who listen to the government present evidence of criminal activity by an individual or individuals in order to determine whether there is enough evidence to justify filing an indictment charging the individual or individuals with a crime. Federal grand juries are made up of sixteen to twenty-three persons and serve for about a year, sitting one or two days a week.

Guidelines Manual — the manual published by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which contains the federal sentencing guidelines, policy statements, and commentary.

guilty plea — a criminal defendant’s admission to the court that he or she committed the offense he or she is charged with and his or her agreement to waive the right to trial. If the court accepts the plea, the case proceeds to sentencing.

guilty verdict — a verdict convicting a criminal defendant of a charge or charges. When a verdict of guilty is returned, the court orders a presentence investigation of the defendant and sets a sentencing date.

habeas corpus — a Latin phrase meaning “that you have the body.” A prisoner may file a habeas corpus petition seeking release on grounds that he or she is being held illegally.

hearsay — evidence that is presented by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. Hearsay is usually not admissible as evidence in a trial.

home confinement — a court-imposed requirement that a defendant or offender being supervised in the community by a pretrial services or probation officer must remain within his or her home, either all the time or during certain hours of the day. Electronic monitoring may be used to verify the person’s whereabouts; the person wears an electronic device which contacts the supervising officer if it leaves the permissible area.

hung jury — a jury that is unable reach a verdict (also called a deadlocked jury). A hung jury results in a mistrial.