DEFINITION of 'Petition'

A petition is a legal document formally requesting a court order. Petitions, along with complaints, are considered pleadings at the onset of a lawsuit.

BREAKING DOWN 'Petition'

When a lawsuit is filed, it moves through a series of stages before it is finally resolved. In civil cases, the first stage has the plaintiff file a petition or complaint with the court. The document outlines the legal basis for the lawsuit. The defendant receives a copy of the document and a notice to appear in court. At this point, the plaintiff and defendant are given the opportunity to settle the case privately or use an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism rather than go to trial. The courts may also provide a summary judgment. If the case goes to trial the judge will ultimately levy a verdict, and either parties to the suit may choose to appeal the court’s decision.

While sometimes used interchangeably, petitions and complaints are not the same. A petition is provided to a court by a petitioner, while a complaint is filed by a plaintiff. The party that the lawsuit is filed against is called the respondent when a petition is filed, and the defendant in the case of a complaint. Plaintiffs file a complaint when they are seeking damages from the defendant, or when they want the courts to compel the defendant to start (or stop) a particular action. On the other hand, rather than ask the courts to compel the defendant to perform a particular action, a petition asks the court provide a court order.

Court orders may include dismissing a case, reducing bail, or providing a continuance. One of the more notable use of petitions is the appeal. An appeal is a form of court order in which one party in a lawsuit asks the courts to review a verdict once the verdict is made. The rules for appeal may vary between state and federal courts, but typically begins with the filing of a petition to appeal. Similar to how a petition outlines the legal reasons for a court order, a petition to appeal outlines the reasons why a verdict should be reviewed by an appellate court. A petition to appeal can be filed by either the respondent or the petitioner, and, in some instances, both parties may file for an appeal.

An appeal requests that a court review the legal issues surrounding the case, rather than the facts of the case that were presented to a jury. In the United States, appeals of lower court rulings can ultimately lead to a case being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, though the Supreme Court hears a small number of petitions each year. In 2009, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which focused on campaign spending by organizations. The court held that campaign spending was considered a form of speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that organizations, such as nonprofits or unions, and businesses were allowed to spend money on political issues without government interference. The case reached the Supreme Court after Citizens United issued a petition of appeal. The Supreme Court’s decision can be reversed by a future court judgment, or if a Constitutional amendment addressing the issue of campaign finance is passed.

 

 

RELATED TERMS
  1. Appeal Bond

    An appeal bond is an amount of money supplied by the appellant ...
  2. Appellate Courts

    The appellate courts hear and review appeals from legal cases ...
  3. Default Judgment

    A binding judgment issued by a court in favor of the plaintiff ...
  4. Stare Decisis

    Stare decisis is a legal principle which dictates that courts ...
  5. Plaintiff

    A plaintiff is the party that brings a lawsuit to court. Plaintiffs ...
  6. Probate Court

    The segment of the judicial system primarily charged with handling ...
Related Articles
  1. Financial Advisor

    How Trump Could Let the Fiduciary Rule Die on the Vine

    If Donald Trump keeps his promise to repeal the fiduciary rule his administration could do so by not defending it against pending lawsuits.
  2. Taxes

    How to Reduce Your High Property Taxes

    Think your property taxes are too high? Here's some advice on how to get your home reassessed, using New Jersey property taxes as an example.
  3. Insights

    Apple and Samsung Head to the Supreme Court Tomorrow (AAPL, SSNLF)

    Innovation or Protection? That's what will be decided on Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court when tech heavyweights Apple Inc (AAPL) and Samsung file their final arguments in a long-running patent ...
  4. Insights

    Brexit Derailed: High Court Says Brexit Requires Parliamentary Approval

    British Prime Minister Theresa May does not have the power to decide to go ahead with Brexit.
  5. Taxes

    How To Appeal Your IRS Audit

    The auditor's review isn't always the last word. Many taxpayers who are audited can successfully appeal their audits and save thousands of dollars.
  6. Insights

    UK Supreme Court Rules Brexit Needs Parliament's Approval

    The British Supreme Court by a majority of 8 to 3 ruled that Prime Minister Theresa May and her government cannot trigger Article 50 and begin the Brexit "divorce process" officially without ...
  7. Investing

    Big Pharma Faces 'Pay For Delay' Lawsuits

    Unless you follow the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, it’s likely that you’ve never heard of pay to delay. Instead of planning to lose nearly all revenue once the drug goes off patent, the ...
  8. Investing

    Exxon/InterOil $2.5B Merger Put on Hold (XOM, IOC)

    A Canadian appellate court has put the $2.5 billion Exxon-InterOil merger on hold amid claims the deal is unfair to shareholders.
  9. Investing

    First Solar Earns 3 Upgrades Ahead of Earnings

    A petition to raise tariffs on Chinese solar panels and modules could lift the U.S. solar leader.
RELATED FAQS
  1. In what context is a corporation considered to be an individual entity?

    Read about when a corporation is considered an individual entity, when it is not and why corporations are not considered ... Read Answer >>
  2. What is the candle maker's petition?

    The "Candle Maker's Petition" is a satire of protectionist tariffs written the by great French economist, Frederic Bastiat. ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Treasury Yield

    Treasury yield is the return on investment, expressed as a percentage, on the U.S. government's debt obligations.
  2. Return on Assets - ROA

    Return on assets (ROA) is an indicator of how profitable a company is relative to its total assets.
  3. Fibonacci Retracement

    A term used in technical analysis that refers to areas of support (price stops going lower) or resistance (price stops going ...
  4. Ethereum

    Ethereum is a decentralized software platform that enables SmartContracts and Distributed Applications (ĐApps) to be built ...
  5. Cryptocurrency

    A digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. A cryptocurrency is difficult to counterfeit because of ...
  6. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority - FINRA

    A regulatory body created after the merger of the National Association of Securities Dealers and the New York Stock Exchange's ...
Trading Center