Journalist's Guide

Master : An attorney who is appointed by the judges of a Circuit Court with the approval of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, to conduct hearings and to make finding of facts, conclusions of law, and recommendations as to an appropriate order. Mens rea : Criminal intent. Merger : Incorporation of a lesser crime into a greater crime. Merits : Strict legal rights of the parties; a decision “on the merits” is one that reaches the right(s) of a party, as distinguished from disposition of a case on a ground not reaching the right(s) raised in an action; for example, entry of nolle prosequi before a criminal trial begins is a disposition other than on the merits, allowing trial on those charges at a later time without double jeopardy attaching; similarly, dismissal of a civil action on a preliminary motion raising a technicality, such as improper service of process, does not result in res judicata of an issue. Misdemeanor : The less serious of two categories to which criminal offenses assigned (compare “felony”). Mistrial : A trial that has been terminated and declared void due to prejudicial error in the proceedings or other extraordinary circumstances. Mitigation : Circumstances suggesting a lesser sentence is appropriate. Moot : Adjective: No longer presenting controversy capable of adjudication because the issue has ceased to exist and is unlikely to recur; debatable. Motion for Judgment : A judge’s decision to enter judgment on a claim or claims in favor of defendant, before defendant puts on a case. Granted if the judge decides there is insufficient evidence to allow a plaintiff to win, such as if plaintiff puts on no evidence legally sufficient to prove defendant caused their injuries. Negligence : The omission to do something, which a reasonable person, guided by ordinary consideration, would do; or the doing of something which a reasonable and prudent person would not do. Nolle Prosequi or “Nol pros” : Translated: “will not further prosecute”; termination of prosecution and dismissal of a charge by a State’s Attorney on the record in open court. A defendant need not be present in court when a nol pros is entered, but, in that event, the clerk of court must send notice to the defendant, if the defendant’s whereabouts are known, and to the defendant’s attorney of record. Nolo Contendere : Translated: “I will not contest;” a plea that has the effect of a guilty plea, although guilt is neither admitted nor denied, which plea may be used as an admission of guilt in a civil suit for the same offense. A defendant may plead nolo contendere only with the consent of the court. Non Est (inventus) : Translated: “not to be found,” a sheriff’s return of process when service is not made because the person to be served was not found. Non-Capital Case : A criminal case in which the allowable penalty does not include death.


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