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Glossary [Definition] of Terms

Below is a brief Glossary of terms and definitions. [We have placed them here in alphabetical order, although in the original 1986 publication they are not so arranged.]

1. Appeals:

Resort to a higher court to review the decision of a lower court. There are usually two states of appeal in state court systems -- appeal from trial court to intermediate appellate court, then to the state Supreme Court.

2. Confirmation election:

In a confirmation election you vote yes or no on individual justices -- whether or not they should keep their jobs.

3. Habeas corpus

The name given a variety of writs that have the primary function of gaining a person's release from unlawful imprisonment. Initially, the writ only permitted challenges to convictions on constitutional grounds that related to the jurisdiction of state courts. Now the writ extends to all constitutional challenges.

4. Life in prison:

Under current California law, persons convicted of first-degree murder receive a sentence of 25 years to life, and persons convicted of second-degree murder receive a sentence of 15 years to life. If they are paroled at any time, they remain on parole for the remainder of their lives.

5. Per curiam:

A decision signed by the court which does not designate who (of the concurring justices) wrote the opinion.

6. Reversal:

The setting aside, annulling, or alteration of a lower court's ruling by a higher court.

7. Supreme Court:

An appeals court which, in almost all states, including California, is the state's highest court/court of last resort. The highest court in the land is the United States Supreme Court.


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