Legal Terms

Alias Summons – This refers to any Summons issued after an original Summons is returned for being defective or unsuccessfully served.


Appearance – A filed document that signals a party’s submission to jurisdiction of the court, and therefore participation in a case.  It can be filed by an attorney, plaintiff, defendant or a third party who has a legal interest in the proceedings.


Citation to Discover Assets – A Citation is an order by a court to appear on a certain day and do something, or show a reason why they should not.  A Citation to Discover Assets orders a party to come into court and reveal his/her assets, including real and personal property, financial accounts and employment information.


Complaint – The first pleading, filed by a plaintiff, which initiates a civil case.


Defendant – A party against whom relief is sought in a court case.


Execution – In the last stage of a suit, the moment when possession is obtained of anything recovered.  In Chancery (CH) cases, it can refer to the writ issued to a sheriff, authorizing and requiring him to execute the judgment of the court, usually by selling a defendant’s property.


Jury Demand – A document filed by a party to a suit that indicates a desire for a jury to hear the facts of a case and render a decision.


Mediation – The involvement of a third party in a case between two contending parties with a view to reconcile or persuade them to settle their differences before a final decision by the trier of fact.  Illinois Supreme Court Rule 905 mandates that mediation occur in all cases involving child custody or visitation unless a valid impediment exists.


Mittimus – In criminal law, a mittimus is a writ issued by a judge ordering the Sheriff to take a person into custody and deliver the person to jail until further order of the court.


Notice of Motion – A written document that accompanies a motion, notifying other parties to a case that the movant will appear before a judge on a certain date, time and place to request some particular relief.


Petition – See Complaint.


Plaintiff – A party who initiates a court case.


Pro Se – See Self-Represented Litigant.


Rule to Show Cause -- An order by a judge directing a party to appear before the Court and show why they have not carried out certain acts, or why they should not be carried out.


Self-Represented Litigant -- A person who participates in a court case without representation by an attorney.


Service – Sometimes called “Service of Process,” this is the term for delivery of a summons or subpoena to an opposing party or third party in a court case.


Subpoena – A writ or order directed to a person, requiring his/her attendance at a particular date, time and place to testify as a witness in a trial or deposition.  It may also require the person to bring any books, documents or other things under his/her control to produce as evidence.


Summons – A document that notifies a defendant that he/she is required to answer to a lawsuit filed against him/her at a certain date, time and place.


Turnover Order – Often used in bankruptcy proceedings, this order is used when a court forces a person to turn over his/her property to a trustee or third party.


Writ of Attachment – A writ employed to enforce obedience to a previous order or judgment of a court.  This is an order written by a judge to the Sheriff commanding him take the disobedient party into custody and to have him/her before the court to answer his/her contempt at a certain date, time and place.


Writ of Possession – A writ of execution employed to enforce a judgment to recover the possession of land.  It commands the Sheriff to enter the land, remove property and give possession of it to the person entitled under the judgment.