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Sanctions
When one side or the other violates the rules or acts with bad faith toward the court or another party, the court may (on its own or upon motion by either side) enter an order awarding sanctions to the aggrieved party against the party causing the problem. Sanctions may be in the form of an award of attorneys fees or, if the violation is sufficiently severe, may result in dismissal of the bad actor’s case with prejudice, i.e., without the right to re-file his lawsuit again later.
Scienter
Scienter is knowledge of the cause of another’s injury or damages, or knowledge of a set of facts that favored or promoted the probability of injury or damages. Under eggregious circumstances, where a person having such knowledge fails to act reasonably to prevent the injury or damages, a civil court may impute to such persons the duty to act and for their breach of that duty hold them liable for the injured person’s damages. A criminal court may find such persons’ failure to act a punishable crime. Sometimes called "guilty knowledge".
Secured Party
One who holds a security interest.
Security Interest
When one party is owed money or some other obligation, collateral may be given to secure the obligation. That collateral is called a security interest. Often the property itself remains in the hands of the borrower, and the lender holds only a paper interest (lien, mortgage, etc.) in the collateral that is enforceable if the borrower defaults.
Sever
To cut into parts. A lawsuit may be severed in several ways. If a single plaintiff brings his action against two defendants for multiple causes of action arising from multiple independent acts unrelated in any way, either defendant may successfully move the court for an order severing the action into two lawsuits to avoid confusion, delay, or unnecessary expense that might jeopardize the defendants’ right to present their separate defenses. If a single lawsuit involves multiple issues (even if between a single plaintiff and single defendant) such that justice would be threatened by confusion, delay, or unnecessary expense, the case may be severed. In general, a case is severable if it would confuse or delay justice or cause undue expense to proceed in a single action.
Severable
Capable of being severed.
Slander
A form of defamation communicated by speech, as opposed to print. In order for an action to lie for slander, the plaintiff must prove (1) the thing said was false, (2) it was communicated to others, and (3) the plaintiff suffered some genuine injury as a result.
See also libel.
Solicitor
The name given in England to an attorney who for the most part works out-of-court to discover facts, research applicable law, and prepare his clients’ cases for a barrister to argue before the bench.
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the power to rule, the right (just or unjust) of rulers like kings. The “People� (that’s People with a capital-P) are sovereign in free states. The People rule themselves through due process and the political mechanisms we call Republics. Individually, however, people are not above the law ... as many claim their individual sovereignty makes them. Indeed, if everyone were above the law, there would be no law ... and no security for life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness for any of us. We are sovereign "together", and only so long as we stand "together" acting in accordance with law, abiding by The Rule of Law according to the rules of due process. We the People are the sovereign in "free nations". Lawlessness is the enemy of Liberty.
Standard of Proof
The measure by which a court determines if a party has met his burden to prove what he asserts. In most civil cases the standard of proof is the greater weight of the evidence, also called a preponderance of the evidence. In criminal cases the standard of proof is much more difficult to meet.
Standing
If White sues Orange for damages Orange caused Blue, Orange will succeed with a motion to dismiss for lack of standing. White cannot stand in the shoes of Blue to sue for damages caused by Orange.
White lacks standing
Similarly, White cannot sue the United States Government to stop the government from taxing "everyone", because White cannot stand in the shoes of "everyone". White can sue for matters that directly affect him and may prevail. But, White cannot sue for you or me or his next door neighbor, because he can only stand in his own shoes.
Stare Decisis
From the Latin "stand decided".
Once a point of law has been explained and clarified in a published appellate court decision, the issue is said to be "stare decisis". It stands decided, the court's opinion is firmly settled, and those of us involved in litigation may rely upon it fully to control lower court judges.
Statement
Though this term is frequently used in reference to a confession in criminal cases or supporting affidavit in civil matters, in its most restrictive sense it applies to any expression of a complete thought, i.e., any sentence of words that begins with a capital letter, ends with a period, and contains at least one subject (noun or pronoun) and at least one predicate (verb). Though a statement may be a large number of sentences, each sentence must stand on its own as a statement and is either true or false. Any statement that lacks a verb (or, at least, an implied verb) cannot be true, just as any statement that lacks a subject cannot be true. Truth in court is truth in words. Not every string of words is a statement. A string of words without a verb is not a sentence and therefore cannot be a statement. Every allegation in court is made by statement and is either true or false. Of course, if a string of words fails to qualify as a complete sentence, it also cannot qualify as a statement and should have no more bearing on the outcome of a case than a false statement.
Statute of Limitations
Every jurisdiction in the United States limits the period of time one may delay bringing a lawsuit after an injury. If an injured party knew (or should have known) that an injury occurred on a particular date and does not bring the lawsuit within the limitations period, the case may be barred.
Limitation periods differ by jurisdiction and by the type of injury.
For example, suits for medical malpractice typically have short limitations periods, i.e., a person injured by negligent medical providers may be required to sue sooner after the injury than a person injured by breach of contract or automobile negligence.
Check your local statutes.
Stay
An order directing that proceedings in a lawsuit halt, usually for a limited period of time so some out-of-court action can be accomplished or because some party objected that the court might not have jurisdiction, so the proceedings must be stopped until a final determination of the court’s authority can be determined by a higher court. Appeals, for example, may stay the lower court proceedings.
Another form of stay is an order that’s typically entered in bankruptcy cases that stays, i.e., stops, the rights of creditors to sue a person or company that’s filed for protection in the bankruptcy court. If a creditor can show his claim is based on a fraud or crime, i.e., if he can show that what he’s owed is the result of a wrong instead of a debt in the ordinary course of business, he can file a motion for relief from stay and, if the court grants his motion, he can proceed to sue the bankrupt. See Relief from Stay.
Stet
Just as it is.
Strawman
One who stands in the place of another, usually in place of a person who wishes to do business through the strawman while remaining anonymous.
Strict Constructionist
The term strict constructionist is intended to describe judges, and more particularly justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, who "interpret" the US Constitution "literally".
The problem is that one justice can interpret a provision "literally" from his own viewpoint, while another justice also interpreting "literally" from his separate point of view may reach an entirely different "interpretation" ... much as religionists claiming to rely on their inerrant biblical references arrive at different "interpretations" of what a partcular holy reference might mean ... usually to satisfy their own particular bent or favorite doctrine. So it is also with judges and appellate court justices.
Having said that, Jurisdictionary is quick to add that we are better with those who at least come close to being "strict constructionists" than those liberals who try to mold the original framers’ intent into their particular ken of today’s moral climate or "the changing times".
Some things never change, as the founders of this great Republic knew. It was because they knew the "things that never change" (the truths Jefferson called "self-evident") that they wrote our federal Constitution in the way they did, i.e., to protect the several states and their citizens from the foreseeable encroachment of centralized power that they feared would invade our daily lives - much as it has these past 50 or so years because of Public Legal Ignorance.
Thank you for supporting Jurisdictionary’s work to empower the People with Knowledge.
Sua Sponte
Voluntarily. Usually applied to a court order issued at a judge’s own prompting, as opposed to an order issued after the court’s consideration of a party’s motion.
To say the court entered an order sua sponte (or denied a motion sua sponte, or took any other action sua sponte) is to say the judge, after considering the facts and law pertaining to a matter before him, believed the situation merited the court’s immediate action, so the judge acted without regard to any motion by a party.
On its own. Spontaneously. 
Subpoena
A command issued by an officer of the court (usually the clerk) directed to persons or business entities to require them to produce themselves or documents and things that may be admitted in evidence. In some states attorneys licensed to practice before the local court can issue subpoenas. The subpoena is one of the five principal discovery tools parties use to get evidence into the court record. A subpoena may command a witness to appear for trial or for deposition. A subpoena duces tecum (bring the thing) is a command to appear and bring along those things listed in the subpoena duces tecum.
Sui Juris
Literally, "capable of answering lawfully in his own person", as opposed to one who is a minor or the ward of a guardianship incapable of being legally bound by his actions. If one is not sui juris he cannot sue or maintain a lawsuit in his own name but must have a court-appointed guardian to act for him.
If a person is not sui juris he cannot be bound by contracts he attempts to enter on his own.
Generally speaking, the term means, "of lawful age and not mentally incompetent".
I recently received correspondence from an interesting young man who signed his name followed by a comma and this special term, e.g., "John Doe, sui juris." I thought it a peculiar thing to do and wondered whether he meant me to know he was over the age of 21 or wished me to assure me he was not crazy. I rather suspect the latter though, of course, the appended terminology did little to assuage my doubts.
Summary Administration
A simplified proceeding to administer estates of decedents who die without costly or complex assets. Different jurisdictions have varying rules for what size and types of estates qualify for summary administration and who may act as personal representative (executor/executrix). Typically those seeking to administer the estates of decedents who die owning real property or large amounts of cash or securities are denied this simplified process and are required instead to use the more expensive, time-consuming full administration process that calls for filing complete accountings, actual notice to creditors, and other protections for those whose interests might be otherwise adversely affected.
Summons
This is a form that summons people to appear in court. That’s why it’s called a summons.
The summons is served on defendants with the complaint and is usually issued by the court on its own forms (instead of being drafted by litigants). In most jurisdictions, a clerk will draft the summons, sign it, and hand it to you or your process server to be "served" on the defendant with a copy of your complaint and any initial discovery requests you may include.
The summons is in the form of a command. When "served" on a defendant, the summons gives a court what we lawyers call in personam jurisdiction, i.e., power over the person. If the person fails to respond after being served with a summons, the judge has legal authority to issue an order finding the defendant in default and awarding the plaintiff whatever money damages or other relief the plaintiff is praying for in his complaint (or petition).
You are entitled to file a complaint and require the court to summon defendants to appear and answer (or show why they shouldn’t be required to answer) your complaint. The summons is your power to require people (even the President of the United States) to answer your complaint. Remember from grade school how we were told we have the right to petition government for a redress of our grievances? Well, this little paper is the first step by which each of us has the right to require government to command others (under penalty of being cast into jail for non-compliance) to answer our complaints.
Supra
Above or before.
Typically used in legal writing to refer to a citation that appears prior to a later reference to it. An appellate court might give a complete citation to a particular case (or statute, constitutional provision, etc.) early in a written opinion, e.g., Jones v. Smith, 287 So.2d 583 (Fla. 4th DCA, 1983).
Then later in the opinion, the court may choose to make reference to that case again with an abbreviated citation, adding this term in italics, e.g., Jones, supra. The supra tells us the complete citation appears "above" or "before", and the reader is directed to that location for the complete citation.
Surety
A promise to stand for another (or the person making the promise). Companies that issue bonds are sureties, i.e., they promise (upon your paying the bond premium) to stand for you in the event of your default and to pay whatever amount they pledged to the person for whom they promised to stand. If your friend promises your creditor to pay for you if you are unable (or unwilling) to pay, that friend becomes a surety for you ... though, in all probability, unless his promise is committed to a writing, signed and dated, his promise is probably not enforceable.
Though related, surety is not the same as guarantee or warranty that are more directed toward performance of some bargain or the quality of a thing. Sureties stand in the shoes of promissors, i.e., they make a promise to keep your promises (for which, of course, you usually have to pay money).
Surety Bond
A contractual promise to provide surety for another. Typically, surety bonds are pledged to release some collateral or to lift a lien. By the surety’s pledge, the person holding collateral or a lien has a new form of protection and so can release.
Obviously, the value of a surety is no greater than the assets the surety owns. Large bonding companies, for example, may have assets in the billions of dollars, so their pledge to stand in your shoes if you default is solid. This is the bedrock of the bond business.
Sustain
When an objection in court is approved, the judge will typically rule on the objection saying, "Sustained", which means the objection stands as stated, and the party against whom the objection was made must cease the objectionable action, e.g., cross-examining his own witness.
See overrule.
Swear
To subject oneself to the court’s penalties for perjury by taking an oath attesting to the reliability (truthfulness) of one’s testimony or written statements.
Sworn
A statement is sworn if given under oath or affirmation.