Party: this is a person who is part of the lawsuit either because he is suing or being sued.

Peremptory strike: What you do (make a peremptory strike) when you don’t like a potential juror for reasons other than obvious prejudice (that’s called “striking for cause”). You just don’t like the juror, but you don’t have to say so or even have a reason. Peremptory strikes are decisions you get to make without telling anyone your reason. And you should not.

Petition: The document that starts a lawsuit. It’s supposed to say what the defendant did wrong and what the “petitioner” or “plaintiff” wants the court to do about it.

Phished: This occurs when a phone service or other utility changes your service provider without telling you.

Plaintiff: The person who starts a lawsuit by suing the other person.

Pleading: The formal documents you submit to the court, as in the Petition (also known as “complaint”), Answer, Counterclaim, or Answer to Counterclaim.

Pretrial conference: Any of a number of conferences with the parties and the judge before trial.

Pretrial order: This could mean any of a number of things. It could be a scheduling order or any order prior to trial, or it could be an order which tells you what rules to follow regarding trial, including when you should give the other side certain documents or notice of evidence you intend to present at trial.

Pretrial Submissions: The things you give the court just before trial, including proposed jury instructions, a trial brief, and possibly final motions or other assorted pleadings.

Principal sum due: In a debt case, this should be the amount of money you theoretically borrowed. In reality, the debt companies often call the debt as it existed when they purchased it the principal sum due, so that it wrongly would include interest and other finance charges.

Privacy: See definition of “sealing.” Much of the information the debt collector will seek from you in discovery is sensitive and private. If you do not get the record “sealed” this information will be available to the public. To do this you will need a “Protective Order.”

Pro se: Literally, for yourself. This means you represent yourself rather than hiring a lawyer to do it, and the rules permit you to do for yourself anything a lawyer could do. A warning, though: when they say for “yourself,” they literally mean – you. A non-lawyer cannot address the court (speak to the judge, sign a pleading, etc.) for anyone other than himself or herself – a parent cannot speak for a child, a wife cannot speak for a husband (even if both are being sued), and a business owner cannot (in any situation of which I am aware except personal corporations) speak for a corporation or partnership. There are rare exceptions to these rules.

Process: A legal “process” is the use of the formal powers of the judicial system. In plain English, that means that one side is using the court against the other. A complaint or petition is a classic kind of process, but a subpoena is also a form of “process.” For purposes of this handbook, process is the petition or summons that goes with the petition.

Process server: An adult person who is not part of the lawsuit who is supposed to take the summons and deliver it in a certain way to the person being sued. Often the process will initially be the sheriff of the county in which the summons is being served, but sometimes it is an independent, non-governmental person. Sometimes the independent process servers will lie about whether they legitimately served you adequately.

Proffer: An offer of proof, or what the evidence would show, if an objection had not been granted. You do this to preserve your right to appeal, as courts of appeal won’t reverse a judgment based on the denial of evidence that wouldn’t have mattered – of if they don’t know that it would have mattered.

Proof: The evidence you use to show that what you say happened really did happen. The term itself isn’t legalese, but remember that evidence must be presented according to the Rules of Evidence in order for it to prove anything.

Protective Order: See definition for “privacy.” A protective order is an order by the court preventing the other side from revealing private information or seeking information that is too burdensome or difficult to provide. Likewise the debt collector may seek a protective order if your discovery requests are, in its opinion, too probing. In my experience, requests for protective orders by debt collectors were rarely justified. You oppose this by filing a motion to compel production or opposing the motion for protective order