Reporter's Guide to Arizona's Legal Community

State Bar of Arizona Media Contacts:

Alberto Rodriguez
Public Relations Manager

Main office: 4201 N. 24th Street, Suite 100, Phoenix, Arizona 85016-6266
Southern Regional office: 270 N. Church Ave., Tucson, AZ 85701-2215

The State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Supreme Court and the Superior Court of Arizona are three core components of Arizona's legal system. This guide provides members of Arizona's media with an overview on how the legal system operates within the state and includes contact information and web links.


The State Bar of Arizona is a non-profit association that operates under the supervision of the Arizona Supreme Court. The State Bar regulates all Arizona attorneys, who must be licensed to practice in this state, maintain membership in the State Bar and meet all other Supreme Court requirements.

The State Bar operates a lawyer regulation system that seeks to protect the public from harm caused by the unethical conduct of attorneys. The organization's activities are funded through membership fees and revenue generating programs and services. The State Bar is not a state agency and is not funded by tax dollars.

Quick Links

State Bar Board and Governance
The State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors oversees the policy making and operation of the organization. The Board is comprised of 30 people, four of whom are non-attorney, public members. Peers in their district elect the Board's attorney members to two-year terms. The Board is lead by five officers who are selected by the Board members. Governing Structure.

Admission to the Practice of Law

Anyone wishing to practice law in Arizona must pass the Bar exam and review of the Committee on Character and Fitness. The Arizona Supreme Court manages both processes and applicants are admitted to practice law only by order of the Court.

Public Services

The State Bar's public service programs include: Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program, Client Protection Fund, and the Speakers Bureau.

Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education
The State Bar has a separate charitable non-profit organization, the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, which is committed to serving the public by promoting access to justice for all Arizona Citizens. The Foundation's core purposes are to fund legal services programs for the poor and to sponsor law-related education programs for children. The Foundation also manages, an award-winning web site that was the first in the country dedicated to teaching children about the law.

Discipline of Lawyers

The Bar's discipline system is an adversarial process through which the Bar becomes the prosecutor. It submits evidence to an impartial fact finder which is a three member panel consisting of the Arizona Supreme Court's Presiding Disciplinary Judge, a volunteer lawyer and a member of the public. The Bar has the burden of proving discipline cases by clear and convincing evidence.

What Happens After a Consumer Inquiry is Investigated?
After a thorough investigation, consumer inquiries received by the Bar can be handled in several ways:

  1. Charges are dismissed if the lawyer's conduct does not violate the Arizona Supreme Court's Rules of Professional Conduct or if there is insufficient evidence of a violation.
  2. Low level violations may be referred to the Mediation or Diversion Programs.
  3. Disputes about an attorney's bill can be sent to the Bar's Fee Arbitration Program.
  4. If the evidence shows an attorney has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, Bar counsel recommends that probable cause be found and sends the charges to the probable cause panel. The probable cause panel consists of nine members which include six lawyers and three members of the public.

Probable Cause Review

Once lawyers working for the bar have sufficient information to recommend how a charge should be disposed, he or she prepares a summary of the file. Under new court rules which went into effect January 1, 2011, that summary is presented to a nine-member probable cause panel (six lawyers, three members of the public). The panel may decide there is enough information to move forward with a formal investigation. However, not all cases go to that level. Bar lawyers can also make recommendations to the panel which may include: probation, diversion, restitution, informal admonition, costs or stay. Once the probable cause panel reviews the recommendations, it makes an independent decision and enters an appropriate order.

Formal Proceedings

Once a probable cause order is issued, lawyers for the Bar prepare a complaint and represent the State Bar in formal disciplinary proceedings. Formal proceedings begin when a complaint is filed by Bar counsel with the Disciplinary Clerk of the Arizona Supreme Court.

Mandatory settlement conferences are held before a designated settlement officer prior to the evidentiary hearing. Consent agreements are routinely explored in cases where the essential facts are not in dispute. If a consent agreement is filed the case will not proceed to an formal hearing and the presiding disciplinary judge will make a ruling on the case.

After a formal hearing, the three member panel make a decision and may impose sanctions. In addition to the above actions, sanctions may include disbarment, suspension or reprimand. The sanctions imposed by the panel are considered final unless they are appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court. 

Review by the Arizona Supreme Court

In addition to cases appealed after the decision made by the disciplinary panel, the Arizona Supreme Court may also, at its own discretion, decide to review any case.

Disciplinary Action
If an attorney is found to have violated the Supreme Court's Rules of Professional Conduct, the State Bar can recommend one or more of the following sanctions:

  1. Restitution: Bar orders return of client funds or unearned fees.
  2. Admonition: Not published, but entered on lawyer's public record.
  3. Reprimand: Issued by Arizona Supreme Court. Published and entered on lawyer's public record.
  4. Suspension: License to practice law in Arizona suspended for up to five years.
  5. Disbarment: Arizona Supreme Court revokes license to practice Law in state. Attorney may apply for reinstatement after five years. Must prove fitness to practice and pass the Bar exam again.

Alternatives to Discipline


Diversion is a program that shifts the emphasis in cases involving minor acts of misconduct away from disciplinary sanctions and toward rehabilitation. It is designed to address minor acts of ethical impropriety, which typically can be linked to poor law office management, chemical dependency, or other behavioral health problems. Diversion is not available in cases which would warrant a suspension or disbarment or where the attorney has acted dishonestly or in breach of a fiduciary duty.


The Bar has a mediation program as part of the disciplinary process. Mediation is an option during the prescreening phase of a complaint. If the alleged misconduct is relatively minor, the matter may be referred to one of the lawyer or non-lawyer mediators throughout the state. It can also be informally mediated through the State Bar's Attorney/Consumer Assistance Program.

Unless more serious misconduct surfaces, settlement of a matter in mediation (and subsequent compliance withagreed-upon terms) will result in the complaint being dismissed, even if there was an underlying violation of the ethical rules. Mediation is optional. Lawyers who decline to mediate will have their matters referred to the normal disciplinary process.

Ultimate Authority

The ultimate authority on all serious discipline cases is the Arizona Supreme Court.


Media Contact:
Aaron Nash
Director of Communications
1501 W. Washington
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Phone: 602.452.3656



The Arizona Supreme Court is the highest court in the state. The five justices of the Arizona Supreme Court decide appeals from lower courts. Jurisdiction is discretionary, meaning that the Supreme Court has the authority to decide whether or not to take an appeal, except in death penalty criminal cases, in which case the appeal must be entertained. The Supreme Court also has administrative functions, such as regulating the activities of the State Bar of Arizona and reviewing charges of misconduct by attorneys and taking disciplinary action.

The Supreme Court's primary judicial duties under Article VI, § 5 of the Arizona Constitution, are to review appeals and to provide rules of procedure for all the courts in Arizona. It is the highest court in the state of Arizona and is often called the court of last resort.

The Supreme Court has discretionary jurisdiction, meaning that the court may refuse to review the findings of the lower court. Cases in which a trial judge has sentenced a defendant to death, however, automatically go to the Supreme Court for review.

Five justices serve on the Supreme Court for a regular term of six years. One justice is selected by fellow justices to serve as Chief Justice for a five-year term. In addition to handling casework like the other justices, the Chief Justice oversees the administrative operations of all the courts in Arizona.

Media Guidelines for Cameras in Superior Court




Maricopa County: 201 W. Jefferson, Phoenix, AZ 85003

Pima County: 110 West Congress Street, Tucson, Arizona 85701

Media Contacts:

Superior Court of Arizona - Maricopa County

Bryan Bouchard
Director of Communications
Phone: 602.506.7570

Superior Court of Arizona - Pima County

Krisanna M. LoGalbo
Community Relations Coordinator
Phone: 520.724.4264


The superior court is the state "trial court." Each county has at least one superior court judge. Superior court judges are assigned all types of civil and criminal cases, except small claims, minor offenses or violations of city codes or ordinances. Counties with more than one superior court judge may also have a separate juvenile court. Cases involving federal law are handled by the United States District Court. The superior court is part of an integrated judicial system in the State under the administrative authority of the Arizona Supreme Court.

Quick Links

Superior Court Case Processing

The two major types of court cases are criminal and civil. Trials in both criminal and civil cases are generally conducted the same way. After all the evidence has been presented and the judge has explained the law related to the case to a jury, the jurors decide the facts in the case and render a verdict. If there is no jury, the judge makes a decision on the case.

Criminal Cases

Criminal cases involve the commission of acts that are prohibited by law and are punishable by probation fines, imprisonment - even death. The attorney representing the state, county or municipal government that formally accuses an individual of committing a crime is the prosecutor. The party charged with the crime is the defendant.

Overview of Superior Court Civil and Criminal Cases

Civil Case Procedure

Civil cases typically involve legal disagreements between individuals, businesses, corporations or partnerships. A person can also be involved in a civil lawsuit with a government entity, such as a state, county or city.

Civil cases tried in superior court include contract claims, negligence and tort or personal injury claims, divorce and child custody cases, probate and wills and other disputes involving private parties as distinguished from the government enforcement of criminal laws.

Steps in Bringing a Civil Lawsuit

  • The plaintiff files a document ("complaint") with the clerk of the court stating the reasons why the plaintiff is suing the defendant.
  • A copy of the complaint and a summons are delivered to ("served on") the defendant.
  • The defendant has a limited time (usually 20 days) to file a written answer admitting or denying the statements in the complaint.
  • The plaintiff and the defendant exchange information about the case. This is called "discovery."
  • Each side may file motions asking the court to decide discovery or other disagreements prior to trial.
  • The case is tried before a jury or a judge.
  • The judge makes a decision or the jury gives its verdict.
  • The losing party may appeal the decision to the next higher level of the court.

Criminal Court Proceedings

Criminal cases involve the commission of a crime punishable by law by fines, probation, imprisonment or even death. The victim is represented by a prosecutor for the State or the governmental entity that formally accuses the individual of the crime. The party charged with the crime is the defendant who may be represented by private counsel or an attorney appointed for the accused, such as a Public Defender.

Steps in a Felony Criminal Case

1. Initial Appearance
2. Filing Charges
3. Preliminary Hearing
4. Grand Jury
5. Arraignment
6. Trial
7. Sentencing
8. Appeals Process

Initial Appearance
This is the first time a suspect appears in court. An initial appearance for a person in custody must be held within 24 hours of arrest. A summons with the date and time of the initial appearance is sent to individuals not in custody.

At the initial appearance, four important events take place:

  • The suspect is informed of the felony allegations.
  • The person is advised of the right to an attorney. If the court finds the person cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed.
  • Conditions of release are established. This means the court will determine if the person shall be released on bond or on their own recognizance, or remain jailed for the safety of the community.
  • Another court date is set for the next proceeding, usually in justice court or superior court.

Filing Charges
A felony charge is initiated by a complaint or an indictment. A prosecutor files a direct complaint in court, citing which crimes were allegedly committed. An indictment is issued by a grand jury, which determines from evidence presented by a prosecutor that a crime was committed and the suspect should stand trial on the allegations. Both a direct complaint and indictment define the alleged crimes and cite the date of offense and which laws were violated. The defendant is notified when criminally charged and informed when to appear for the next court date. A judge can issue an arrest warrant if information is presented to indicate the person will not voluntarily appear in court at the scheduled time.

The Preliminary Hearing
A preliminary hearing is required when a felony case is initiated by a direct complaint. The prosecutor presents evidence and witnesses to try to establish probable cause that the crime was committed and the defendant should stand trial. Generally, a preliminary hearing is held in justice court, but it may be held in superior court. The judge can dismiss the case for insufficient evidence or order a trial.

Grand Jury
Another method for initiating charges against a defendant is a grand jury indictment. The grand jury, comprising 16 jurors, determines whether probable cause exists based on evidence presented by the prosecutor. Grand juror proceedings are secret and their actions become public only through the indictment, if one is handed up.

This brief superior court hearing is the defendant's opportunity to enter a plea to the charges. If the defendant enters a "not guilty" plea, a court date will be set. If the defendant enters a "guilty" plea, a sentencing hearing will be scheduled.

In a criminal trial, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. Superior Court juries have either eight or twelve jurors depending on the nature of the charges. A verdict must be unanimous or a mistrial can be declared and the case could be retried.

On rare occasions, instead of having a jury trial, the defendant and prosecutor agree to a bench trial and ask a judge to determine the verdict.

In a case where a not guilty verdict is reached, the charges are dismissed and the defendant cannot be retried on the same charge. This concept is called "double jeopardy."

A defendant who either pleads or is found guilty faces a range of possible sentences for the crime. When a verdict is returned, the judge sets a sentencing date within about 30 days. At a sentencing hearing, both the defense and the prosecution can present evidence to help the judge determine an appropriate sentence. Victims have the right to address the court on what they believe would be a proper sentence. In Arizona, judges, not juries, decide sentences.

Arizona law provides for the death penalty in first-degree murder cases that are especially cruel, heinous or depraved. Life imprisonment is also an option for murder convictions. The severity of crimes determines the length of sentences. Sentences of one year or less are served in the county jail. Sentences of more than one year are served in a state Department of Corrections facility. For less severe cases, a defendant may be sentenced to a term of probation. The court may impose conditions of probation that could include jail time, community service and counseling. Defendants may also be ordered to pay restitution to their victims.

Appeals Process
The Supreme Court may choose to review a decision of the court of appeals when a party (the plaintiff or defendant in the original case) files a petition for review; always hears the appeal when the superior court imposes a death sentence; regulates activities of the State Bar of Arizona and oversees admission of new attorneys to the practice of law; reviews charges of misconduct against attorneys, and has the authority to suspend or disbar them; and, serves as the final decision making body when disciplinary recommendations are filed against Arizona judges by the Commission on Judicial Conduct.



Federal Courts
U.S. Supreme Court
9th Circuit Court of Appeals
U.S District Court

Limited Jurisdiction Courts

Municipal Courts
Many incorporated cities or towns have a municipal court, also known as a city court or magistrate court. Municipal courts have criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanor crimes and petty offenses committed in their city or town. They share jurisdiction with justice courts over violations of state law committed within their city or town limits. More info.

Justice of the Peace Courts
Each county's board of supervisors sets the geographical boundaries, known as precincts, of that county's justice of the peace courts. Generally, these precincts are larger than city or town limits and typically incorporate an entire city or town, and pieces of other communities as well. Although these geographical boundaries can be changed, the precincts cannot be abolished until the four-year term of the current justice of the peace expires.

Justice of the peace courts hear traffic cases and certain criminal and civil cases, including domestic violence and harassment cases. They can issue search warrants. Their civil jurisdiction is limited to cases involving claims less than $10,000. More info.


General Jurisdiction Courts

The Superior Court
The superior court is the state's general jurisdiction court. It is a single entity with locations in each county. Each county has at least one superior court judge. In counties with more than one superior court judge, the judges operate in numbered divisions.

The superior court presiding judge in each county appoints special hearing officers to decide small claims cases, which are less than $2,500. Small claims cases are decided before the judge or hearing officer. No attorneys are allowed to represent clients in these cases, and no appeals are permitted. Defendants who want to use an attorney may move the case from the small claims division to the civil division of the justice court. More info.

Juvenile Court
Counties with more than one superior court judge also have a special juvenile court. One or more superior court judges are assigned to hear all juvenile cases involving delinquency, incorrigibility and dependency. Juvenile traf50ic cases may be heard by a court other than the juvenile court (if the presiding juvenile court judge allows it). More info.


Appellate Courts

Court of Appeals
The court of appeals was established in 1965 as the first level of appeal up from superior court. It has two divisions: Division One in Phoenix (16 judges) and Division Two in Tucson (six judges).

Court of Appeals Division One, has statewide responsibility for appeals from the Industrial Commission, unemployment compensation rulings of the Department of Economic Security, and rulings by the Tax Court.

The appeals process is generally the same for both civil and criminal cases. (There are filing fees in civil cases, but not for criminal cases.) More info.

Arizona Supreme Court



Merit Selection of Judges

Arizona voters amended their constitution in 1974 to provide for a judicial merit selection and retention process. This amendment requires the governor to appoint appellate court judges statewide and superior court judges in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima Counties from a list of nominees submitted by judicial nominating commissions. Although the constitution allows counties other than Maricopa and Pima the option of merit selection, superior court judges in Arizona's other 12 counties continue to seek office in contested elections.

Arizona Merit Selection Process

Commission on Judicial Performance Review

Arizona's judicial performance review program strives to provide clear and accurate reports to the public about how well judges are doing their jobs before each general election. In 1992, voters amended the Arizona Constitution to require periodic review of the performance of appointed judges. The Commission on Judicial Performance Review was established to administer the performance evaluation process.

The constitution requires evaluations of judges appointed through the merit selection process, using specific performance standards and performance reviews. The performance evaluation process includes surveys of jurors, witnesses, litigants, administrative staff and attorneys who have observed the judge at work. The public also provides input through written comment and public hearings. Reports on judicial performance are prepared by the commission and are made available to the voters before general elections.

Commission on Judicial Conduct

As authorized by the Arizona Constitution, the Commission on Judicial Conduct is charged with reviewing and investigating complaints against state and local judges and other judicial officers. The commission DOES NOT have authority to investigate a judge's decision in a court case or to determine whether or not a court ruling may be appealed.

The commission has 11 members with diverse backgrounds and broad experience, both in and out of the court system. Six members are judges appointed by the Supreme Court: two from the Court of Appeals, two from superior court, one from a justice court and one from a municipal court.

Judge Profiles

Arizona Supreme Court

Superior Court of Arizona - Maricopa County

Superior Court of Arizona - Pima County



Glossary of Legal Terms


A.R.S. -- Arizona Revised Statutes.

Acquittal -- Finding a criminal defendant not guilty of the charge against him/her.

Admissibility -- The ability to legally and properly introduce relevant evidence.

Affidavit -- A voluntary statement or declaration of facts, which has been written down or confirmed under oath. Affidavits can be administered by judges and notary publics; by anyone allowed under oath to do so.

Allegation -- An assertion, declaration, or statement made in a pleading by one of the parties to the action, detailing the matters, which the party intends to prove.

Answer -- Written response in a civil case; in it the defendant admits or denies allegations made by the plaintiff.

Arbitration -- A process for deciding a legal dispute out of court. In Maricopa County, all civil cases, which seek a judgment of $50,000 or less, must go to arbitration. Where arbitration produces a settlement, there is no need for litigants to incur the cost of trial.

Arraignment -- Criminal proceeding in which the defendant, in open court, must answer criminal charges by entering a plea of guilty or not guilty. Defendant either must be represented by a lawyer or waive his/her right to legal counsel.

Attorney of Record -- Attorney whose name appears on the permanent records and files of a particular case. Initially, the attorney must file a Notice of Appearance with the Court.

Bail -- Monetary sum assessed by a judge to ensure that a criminal defendant, who is being released prior to trial, will appear in court on the trial date. Securities posted are returned when court appearances are satisfied.

Bailiff -- A courtroom assistant to the judge who handles certain courtroom functions including files, jurors, witnesses, and attorneys.

Bench Conference -- A conference between a judge and attorney regarding a courtroom proceeding, which is not necessarily part of the written court record.

Bifurcated Trial -- Where the issues in a case are divided into two or more hearings or trials. The second hearing/trial does not necessarily use the same jury as the first. In criminal cases, insanity issues may prompt a bifurcated trial. Criminal DUI trials, where the defendant is alleged to have a prior conviction, are often bifurcated trials. In civil cases, you may see medical malpractice trials bifurcated when the liability phase of the trial is separated from the damages phase. And in Domestic Relations, child custody issues may prompt a bifurcated trial.

Brief -- Written statement explaining facts of case and laws that apply.

Chambers -- Private office suite of the judge and his/her staff. Proceedings held in chambers are rarely open to the press, and only by permission of the judge.

Civil Complaint -- The first pleading in a civil case filed by the plaintiff. It alleges the material facts and legal theories to support the plaintiff's claim against the defendant.

Constable -- Officer primarily responsible for processing services and performing minor legal duties in Justice of the Peace Courts.

Conviction -- Finding by a judge or jury that a person charged with a criminal offense is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing the crime charged.

Court Commissioner -- Authorized to perform limited judicial functions. Commissioners are frequently full-time judicial officers appointed by the presiding judge.

Court Clerk -- A member of a judge's staff in charge of keeping the court records and exhibits. The clerk generates a Minute Entry after each proceeding.

Court Reporter -- A person who works with a judge's staff to transcribe by shorthand or record stenographically the testimony during court proceedings. Note: transcripts are not automatic; they are generated when requested.

Criminal Complaint -- A written criminal charge, usually filed before a magistrate, that the defendant has committed a specified criminal offense.

Damages -- Monetary compensation claimed by a person who has suffered loss or injury to his/her person, property, or rights as a result of the negligence or unlawful conduct of another.

Decree -- An order of the Court given in civil cases. A final decree is one which fully disposes of the litigation; an interlocutory decree is a preliminary order that often disposes of only part of a lawsuit.

Default -- In civil cases, the failure of the defendant to file an answer or appear within a certain amount of time. This will usually result in a default judgment against the defendant.

Direct Complaint - The County Attorney files a criminal complaint directly to the Superior Court instead of utilizing a Justice of the Peace Court or Grand Jury. A Superior Court judge then holds a probable cause hearing.

Discovery -- The pretrial process by which one party discovers the evidence that will be relied upon at trial by the opposing party.

Due Process -- The regular course of administration through the courts of justice, under the protection of the law and the U.S. Constitution, enabling every person to have a fair and impartial trial or hearing.

Evidence -- Proof presented in court through the testimony of a witness, exhibits, records, objects or written documents to persuade the judge or jury as to an alleged fact or position.

For Cause -- Based upon some good reason.

Grand Jury (County) -- Group of 16 citizens drawn from Maricopa County to investigate in private criminal matters pertaining to Maricopa County when asked to do so by the County Attorney. There may be more than one County Grand Jury going at any time, each meeting twice a week. Evidence is presented by a prosecutor and witness(es). County Grand Juries typically hear cases involving drugs, murder, rape, burglaries, and assaults. County Grand Jury must decide by simple majority whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime. County Grand Jury has the power to charge a crime by indictment; also may have the power to issue a report or presentment without charging a crime. A Grand Jury proceeding negates the need for a Preliminary Hearing.

Grand Jury (State) -- Group of 16 citizens which can meet in the Superior Court of either Maricopa County (Phoenix) or Pima County (Tucson) to investigate in private criminal matters that pertain to the State when asked to do so by the State Attorney General. State Grand Jury typically hears white-collar crimes, fraudulent schemes and artifices, and forgeries. Typically, one State Grand Jury meets once a month for four days. Nine members of the State Grand Jury must vote a true bill, which is to say they found probable cause that the defendant committed the crime.

Impanel -- The act of making up a list of jurors who have been selected for the trial of a particular case.

In Camera -- A Latin term meaning "in chambers." Traditionally, the term meant a proceeding closed to the public.

Indictment -- A formal written accusation by a grand jury charging that a person or business committed a specific crime.

Information -- A formal written accusation filed by a public officer, such as a prosecuting attorney, charging that a person or business committed a specific crime.

Initial Appearance (IA) -- First appearance in court by defendant in a criminal case. Under federal case law, an arrested person must appear before a judicial officer to be advised of charges and rights, including the right to have an attorney. At this time, a public defender would be appointed if the defendant cannot afford to hire counsel. Bond may be set. Depending on the case, a person might have his/her first appearance in any municipal or justice of the peace court in Maricopa County.

Judge pro tem -- Arizona is one of the few states that allows an attorney to be appointed a judge with full powers for the length of a case or series of proceedings. In Maricopa County, pro tem judges are employed to keep backlogs down and cover for vacation schedules.

Jurisdiction -- The legal authority of the court to hear and decide cases; the exercise of judicial power within certain geographic boundaries.

Magistrate -- Often used to refer to a Municipal Court judge, but A.R.S. § 1-215 provides a broad definition that includes all those judicial officers having power to issue a warrant for arrest, i.e. a Supreme Court justice, Superior Court judges, justice of the peace courts, and municipal courts.

Minute Entry -- Usually a one or two-page summary, always on pink paper. It briefly summarizes what went on during a court proceeding--everyone who appeared in court, names of witnesses who testified, what kind of proceeding took place, when the next court date is, and any orders of the court that were issued. Minute entries are public documents and are kept in the court files in the lower level CCB file room. In Maricopa County, the courtroom clerk generates the minute entry.

Misdemeanor -- A classification for offenses which are less serious than felonies; a misdemeanor is punishable by a sentence other than being placed in the custody of Dept. of Corrections.

Motion -- A written filing, usually from an attorney to the Court, asking for a rule or order.

Motion in limine - A pretrial motion where a party requests a ruling from the court that prohibits the opposing party from raising a particular, highly prejudicial issue at trial.

Negligence -- Failure to exercise that degree of care which a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances.

Parole -- A conditional release from prison, granted by the Board of Executive Clemency.

Petit Jury -- A jury, usually of 12, impaneled to hear a civil or criminal proceeding in court.

Petition - Written application made to court asking for legal intervention.

Plaintiff -- In a civil action, the party who files the lawsuit. In a criminal case, the State is the plaintiff.

Plea -- Response of a defendant to criminal charges. Note: When writing copy, you would be in error to say, "John Doe pled innocent today." The plea is guilty or not guilty.

Pleading -- Written documents stating the allegations and claims of the opposing parties in a legal dispute.

Preliminary Hearing -- Court proceeding that determines if the criminal defendant should be held for trial. In Maricopa County, preliminary hearings usually take place in justice (JP) court in the precinct where the crime occurred.

Probation -- A conditional suspension of imposition of the court's sentence. If terms of probation are completed successfully, sentence is not imposed. If terms of probation are violated, probation may be revoked and the sentence imposed.

Pro se (pro per) -- A person who is not represented by an attorney.

Quash - To vacate an order of the Court; for example, to cancel an arrest warrant.

Remand -- To send back. For example, the Court of Appeals may remand a case to Superior Court for retrial or other action.

Subpoena -- Legal document issued by the courts to order a person to appear as specified and give testimony and/or bring evidence.

Summons -- Legal document issued by the court to notify defendant that a complaint has been filed and that he/she is required to appear and answer the complaint on or before the time and date specified. A summons is a notice to appear for a defendant who does not need to be arrested.

Supervening Indictment -- A direct complaint has been filed, requested by the County Attorney and by the Grand Jury. If granted, the defendant bypasses the Preliminary Hearing and goes to an arraignment.

Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) -- An order to do or not do something until a more complete hearing is held, usually within 10 days, with both parties present. At that time, a preliminary injunction may be granted until there is a hearing for a permanent injunction.

Warrant -- A warrant notifies law enforcement that a defendant should be arrested when found.

With Prejudice -- Most often means a case cannot be reopened or refiled. Without Prejudice most often means a case can be reopened or refiled.



This Media Guide is intended to be utilized for general informational purposes only. Court rules and procedures are continually amended and altered. Therefore, all information contained herein should be verified with either an attorney or the appropriate court administration personnel.


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