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Legal Terms - Glossary

Alternate jurors
Jurors are sworn to a trial in excess of the number needed to reach a verdict. They are selected in case of emergency, illness by a regular juror or other need to replace a regular juror. Alternate jurors do not participate in making the decision on the verdict.


The bailiff is the person assigned by the court to supervise and escort jurors. Bailiffs may be either sworn deputy sheriffs who also are responsible for court security, or county employees whose only duty is to attend to jurors.

Challenge for cause

During the selection of a jury, a request from one party to the judge that a certain prospective juror not be allowed to be a member of the jury because of specified causes or reasons.

Charge or count

Each specific accusation against the defendant in a criminal case.

Clear and Convincing

A level of proof in a civil case which requires more than a preponderance of the evidence, but less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Deliberation room

The private room apart from all other activities where jurors deliberate at the end of the presentation of evidence. Jurors also will use this room during recesses and other breaks in the trial.


The person or organization named in a lawsuit by the plaintiff or the person who has been charged with a violation of the criminal laws.


The proof presented to the jury by each side in a trial in the form of sworn testimony by witnesses and by exhibits.


A paper, document, or other object presented during the trial to support the claims of each party. Exhibits may be medical records, a weapon, photographs or any other relevant object.

Foreperson, or presiding juror

The juror selected by the jury panel to organize and lead their discussion and speak on behalf of the jury.

Jury box

The seats in the courtroom where the jury sits during a trial. These are normally enclosed within a rail or half-wall and the rows are raised to improve the ability of jurors to see and hear courtroom activities.


The people with a dispute in court. Another name for the parties to the case.


A request made to the judge to order something.

Opening statements

The presentation by each party of the facts they expect to present.


The parties on each side in a case, the plaintiff and defendant. There can be more than one plaintiff and/or defendant in a case. Parties may be represented by an attorney or they may represent themselves.

Preponderance of the evidence

The level of proof required in a civil case; one side’s case must simply be considered more probable than the other’s. It is the lowest level of proof. See “clear and convincing” and “reasonable doubt.”

Peremptory challenge

The right of the parties to excuse a limited number of prospective jurors during voir dire without giving a reason. (See also Challenge for cause)


The person or organization who starts a lawsuit in a civil case or brings charges of criminal violations. In a criminal case the plaintiff is the district attorney or assistant district attorney.


The attorney who represents the State of Wisconsin in criminal cases. In Wisconsin the prosecutor in circuit court is the district attorney, although county corporation counsel and the attorneys who represent municipalities also may prosecute some types of cases.

Reasonable doubt

The level of proof that must be established in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The proof must overcome any doubts a reasonable person would have as to its validity.


When a party has finished presenting all their evidence and calling all their witnesses they are done and are said to rest their case.

Source lists

The lists from which the names of prospective jurors can be selected are set by law. Each court must use a list supplied by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation of licensed drivers and those with identification cards. A court also may choose to use other types of lists set by law such as lists of registered voters, property taxpayers or municipal directories.

Strike testimony

The elimination of testimony that is not to be considered by the court or jury in making a decision. The judge will decide when testimony shall be stricken.


An official letter or notice. A jury summons requires a citizen to make himself or herself available for jury service for a specific period of time.

Voir dire

Literally, “to speak the truth.” The questioning of prospective jurors to determine whether they are qualified to serve on the jury for a particular case.


Persons who testify to what they have seen, heard, or know firsthand.