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comparative negligence - The degree to which a person contributed to his/her own injury, damage or death. Usually measured in terms of percentage. Contributory negligence is the failure to exercise care by a plaintiff, which contributed to the plaintiff's injury.  

competency - A witness's ability to observe, recall and recount under oath what happened. Criminal defendants must also be competent to stand trial; they must understand the nature of the proceedings and have the ability to assist their lawyers.  

complainant - Synonymous with "plaintiff," or, in criminal cases, the complaining witness.  

complaint - The first pleading on the part of the plaintiff in a civil action.  

concurrent jurisdiction - The jurisdiction of two or more courts, each authorized to deal with the same subject matter.  

concurrent sentence - Sentence under which two or more prison or jail terms are served simultaneously, and the prisoner is entitled to discharge when the longest term specified expires (i.e., sentences of 1 to 15 years and 0 to 5 years means a maximum sentence of 15 years). Differs from a consecutive sentence, which is when the sentences are served back-to-back. (A 1 to 15 and 0 to 5 consecutive sentence could mean up to 20 years).  

condemnation - The legal process by which real estate of a private owner is taken for public use without the owner's consent, but the owner receives "just compensation."  

conditional release - A release from custody which imposes regulations on the activities and associations of the defendant. If a defendant fails to meet the conditions, the release is revoked.  

contempt of court - Any act involving disrespect to the court or failure to obey its rules or orders. Comtempt of court carries a maximum of 30 days in jail.  

continuance - A court order postponing proceedings.  

contract - An oral or written agreement between two or more parties which is enforceable by law.  

conviction - In a criminal case, a finding that the defendant is guilty.  

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