abide by a decision
- to follow the orders that a court or judge has givenThe company was forced to abide by the decision of the judge.
as sober as a judge
- alert and completely sober, not drunk, very formalMy father is always as sober as a judge when he gets into his car to drive.
at the mercy of (the court/someone)
- having no defense against the court or someoneMy friend was at the mercy of the court when he went before the judge.
beat the rap
- to escape conviction and punishment for a crimeThe man hired a good lawyer and was able to beat the rap easily.
cast doubt on (someone or something)
- to cause someone or something to be doubtedThe evidence presented at the trial cast doubt on the woman's testimony.
clear (someone's) name
- to prove that someone is not guilty of a crime, to show that someone did not do something wrongThe woman went to court to clear her name of the false charges.
come down hard on (someone)
- to scold or punish someone severely, to attack someone vigorouslyThe judge came down hard on the boy who had been arrested for breaking into a house.
cop a plea
- to plead guilty to a crime or decide not to fight against a charge in order to try and receive a light punishment, to plea bargain (usually done in a negotiation between the defendant and his or her lawyer and the prosecutor)The man copped a plea and went to hear what the judge would decide regarding his case.
- to question a suspect or a witness in a trialThe lawyer was very careful when he began to cross-examine the witness.
a cut-and-dried (case/decision)
- fixed, determined beforehandThe case was cut-and-dried and it ended in less than one hour.
decide in favor of (someone)
- to determine that someone is not guilty or is the winner of somethingThe court decided in favor of the government in its dispute with the striking workers.
face the music
- to receive punishment or judgement for something wrong or illegal that you have doneThe young man was forced to face the music for the crimes that he had committed.
fair and impartial
- a fair and unbiased look at somethingThe judge made a fair and impartial decision in the case against the small store.
find (someone) guilty
- to decide that someone is guilty in a court of lawThe judge found the young man guilty of breaking and entering a small store.
find (someone) innocent
- to decide that someone is innocent in a court of lawThe woman went to court but the judge found her innocent of all charges.
for the record
- saying something so that there will be a record of a particular factI was told, for the record, that my case had very little chance of succeeding in a court of law.
get a slap on the wrist
- to get light punishment for a crime or wrongdoingThe boy got a slap on the wrist for causing the damage to the public washroom.
get a tongue-lashing
- to get a severe verbal scolding for doing something wrongThe girl got a tongue-lashing from the judge over her role in the crime.
get down to the facts
- to begin to discuss things that matter, to get to the truthWhen the trial began the lawyers tried to get down to the facts of the case.
get off (easy/lightly)
- to receive very little or no punishment for somethingThe young man got off easy and did not have to go to jail for his crime.
get off scot-free
- to go unpunished, to be acquitted of a crimeThe man was able to get off scot-free in the case involving his illegal transactions.
get one's day in court
- to get an opportunity to say or explain something in court, to get a chance to give one's opinion in courtThe man was happy because he finally got his day in court.
get one's knuckles rapped
- to receive punishment for somethingThe boy got his knuckles rapped after a stern lecture from the judge.
get (something) out in the open
- to stop hiding a fact or a secretThe lawyers tried to get things out in the open during the trial.
get the benefit of the doubt
- to receive a judgement in your favor when the evidence is neither for you nor against youThe girl got the benefit of the doubt and was not found guilty of the crime.
give (someone) a fair shake
- to give someone fair treatmentThe man did not believe that the judge would give him a fair shake at his trial.
give (someone) a slap on the wrist
- to give someone light punishmentThe judge gave the young offender a slap on the wrist and he was required to do some community work as compensation for his crime.
give (someone) the benefit of the doubt
- to make a judgement in someone's favor when the evidence is neither for nor against the personThe police gave the man the benefit of the doubt and did not arrest him as a suspect for the crime.
give (someone) his or her freedom
- to set someone freeThe court decided to give the man his freedom because of his good behavior in prison.
go by the book
- to follow the rules exactlyThe court clerks always go by the book when they are dealing with court matters.
go easy on (someone or something)
- to be kind or gentle with someone or somethingThe judge wanted to go easy on the young man but his bad attitude made it difficult to try and help him.
- to go unpunished or be acquitted of a crimeThe man was able to go scot-free although many people thought that he stole some money.
grain of truth
- the smallest amount of truthThere was only a grain of truth in what the witness said during the trial.
hand a verdict/decision down (to someone)
- to announce or deliver a legal decision or verdict in a courtThe court clerk announced that the judge would hand the verdict down in the morning.
hang in the balance
- to be in an undecided stateThe future of the criminal was hanging in the balance as he waited for the judge's decision.
have one's day in court
- to have an opportunity to say or explain something in court, to have a chance to give one's opinion in courtThe business executive had his day in court and was cleared of any wrongdoing.
a hung jury
- a jury that is divided and unable to agree on a verdictThe trial ended in a hung jury which made another trial necessary.
- when someone is absent from a court or meeting or something similarThe judge looked at the evidence and sentenced the man in absentia.
in contempt of court
- in disobedience of the orders and authority of the court, in disrespect of the court processThe man refused to answer the questions of the judge and was found to be in contempt of court.
in defiance of (someone or something)
- in resistence to someone or someone's ordersThe union was in defiance of the court order and was given a large fine.
- operating or functioning (used for a court)The court was in session when we arrived at the courthouse.
in (someone's) favor
- to someone's advantageThe judge ruled in our favor in our dispute with the hospital.
judge (someone) on his or her own merit
- to judge or evaluate someone on his or her own achievements and virtuesWe judged the man on his own merit and not by what people were saying about him.
judge (something) on its own merit
- to judge or evaluate something on its own valueWe judged the business proposal on its own merit.
jump to conclusions
- to judge or decide something without having all the factsThe manager jumped to conclusions and accused the employee of stealing from the company.
the jury is still out on (someone or something)
- a decision has not been reached on someone or something (used often and in a casual manner when one has not made a decision about something)The jury is still out on whether or not we will move or not.
a kangaroo court
- a court formed by a group of people to settle a dispute among themselves (the court is usually illegal)There was a kangaroo court in the movie where the ranchers made their own court.
keep one's own counsel
- to not tell other people about one's thoughts and plansOur lawyer was keeping his own counsel about how to proceed with our defense.
laugh (someone or something) out of court
- to dismiss someone or something as ridiculousThe lawyer wanted to sue the man for kicking the dog but the judge laughed the case out of court.
a leading question
- a question to a witness that is designed to suggest or produce the reply that is wanted by the questionerThe judge criticized the lawyer for asking leading questions during the trial.
let (someone) off (easy)
- to release someone without punishmentThe judge let the man off easy in spite of the strong case against him.
a miscarriage of justice
- a wrong or mistaken decision made in a court of lawThe trial was a miscarriage of justice and nobody was happy with the result.
moment of truth
- the point at which someone has to face the reality of a situationThe moment of truth in the trial came when the lawyer presented the last piece of evidence.
not hold water
- to make no sense, to be illogicalThe argument by the lawyer did not hold water.
on the bench
- a judge is sitting and directing a session of courtThere was no indication by the court of who would be sitting on the bench during the important trial.
- being tried in courtThe man is on trial for stealing money from his company.
an open-and-shut case
- a legal matter that is simple and uncomplicatedIt was an open-and-shut case after the lawyer presented the evidence to the judge.
pick holes in an argument
- to find all the weak points or flaws in an argumentThe experienced lawyer found that it very easy to pick holes in the argument of the main witness.
- to plead guilty to a crime or decide not to fight against a charge in order to try and receive a light punishment (usually done in a negotiation between the defendant and his or her lawyer and the prosecutor)The man decided to plea bargain in order not to have a long trial with an uncertain result.
- the appropriate but chance reward or punishment by someone who deserves itIt was poetic justice when the supervisor who was harassing the workers lost his job because the president did not want him to work for the company anymore.
raise an objection (to/about someone or something)
- to make an objection about someone or something in a trialThe defense lawyer stood up during the trial to raise an objection about the testimony of the witness.
the responsible party
- someone who is legally or morally obliged to do something or accept the blame for somethingThe judge determined that the man was the responsible party for the damage and must pay a large penalty.
send (someone) up the river
- to send someone to prisonThe judge sent the man up the river for three years.
settle (something) out of court
- to reach an agreement without having to go through a court of lawIt was very difficult but we were able to settle the dispute out of court.
sit in judgement of (someone)
- to make a judgement of someoneThe tribunal members were sitting in judgement of the group involved in the trade dispute.
- to be tried in courtThe man had to stand trial for stealing the credit cards.
swear on a stack of bibles
- to pledge to tell the truth about something (in a court of law someone may swear to tell the truth by placing his or her hand on a bible or other religious text)The man swore on a stack of bibles that he had never seen the accused criminal before.
take an oath
- to make an oath, to swear to somethingBefore the trial began I had to take an oath and promise to tell the truth.
take the Fifth
- to refuse to incriminate oneself because of the protection of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States (in the U.S. a witness at a trial has this right)The business executive decided to take the Fifth rather than give testimony at the trial.
take the stand
- to sit in the witness chair in a courtroomThe main witness at the trial took the stand after the other witnesses were finished.
throw oneself at the mercy of the court
- to ask a judge for mercy when being sentenced for a crimeThe man threw himself at the mercy of the court and asked for a light sentence.
throw the book at (someone)
- to punish someone as severely as possible, to make as many charges as possible against someoneThe criminal was not sorry for his crime so the judge decided to throw the book at him.
a travesty of justice
- a legal action that is an insult to the system of justiceThe trial was a travesty of justice and nobody was happy with the result.
- taking and being bound by an oathThe man explained what had happened at the scene of the crime while he was under oath at the trial.