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 party 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.

Petitions in the Appeals Process

Court orders may include dismissing a case, reducing bail or providing a continuance. One of the more notable uses 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. Tax Court

    Tax court is a specialized court of law that hears tax-related ...
  2. Default Judgment

    A default judgment is a binding judgment issued by a court for ...
  3. Bankruptcy Court

    Bankruptcy court is a specific kind of federal court that deals ...
  4. First To File Rule

    The first to file rule states whoever is the first party to file ...
  5. Admiralty Court

    An admiralty court is the court with jurisdiction over maritime ...
  6. Arraignment

    Arraignment is a court proceeding in which the defendant is read ...
Related Articles
  1. Insights

    The U.S. Just Hiked Immigration Application Fees By 21% (IBM, MSFT)

    American firms, some of which hire thousands of foreign workers every year, will now have to pay $135 more per application starting December 23.
  2. Investing

    Patent Trolls Dealt Blow in High Court Ruling

    By narrowing the interpretation of a relevant statute, the Supreme Court limits 'venue shopping.'
  3. 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.
  4. Financial Advisor

    Lawsuits Aim to Overturn DOL's Fiduciary Rule

    Five lawsuits have aimed to overturn the DOL fiduciary rule introduced in 2016.
  5. 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.
  6. Managing Wealth

    What it Takes to Get a Green Card

    Grounds for getting a green card include having family members in the U.S., being a certain type of refugee or specialized worker, or winning a lottery.
  7. Insights

    So, You Want to Take Your Broker to Court

    Find out how to file a claim with your broker, and what you can expect throughout the process.
  8. 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 ...
  9. Personal Finance

    Fighting Back Against Collection Lawsuits

    There are still options available to those being pursued by a creditor.
  10. Investing

    Why Quants are Tracking You Through Your Phone

    We asked three quantitative analysts to name the most interesting data sets they've heard of, from cell phones tracking their owners for third parties, to investing on the outcome of court cases. ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. Which constitutional amendment made income tax legal?

    The story of income tax is ripe with stops, starts and court battles. Read Answer >>
  2. How legally binding is a letter of intent?

    Find out when a letter of intent (LOI) is binding and non-binding. Understand the role of drafting language, and when an ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Current Assets

    Current assets is a balance sheet account that represents the value of all assets that can reasonably expected to be converted ...
  2. Volatility

    Volatility measures how much the price of a security, derivative, or index fluctuates.
  3. Money Market

    The money market is a segment of the financial market in which financial instruments with high liquidity and very short maturities ...
  4. Cost of Debt

    Cost of debt is the effective rate that a company pays on its current debt as part of its capital structure.
  5. Depreciation

    Depreciation is an accounting method of allocating the cost of a tangible asset over its useful life and is used to account ...
  6. Ratio Analysis

    A ratio analysis is a quantitative analysis of information contained in a company’s financial statements.
Trading Center