Legal jargon is complicated, and TV shows don’t help the situation. Most people have heard the terms “plaintiff” and “defendant,” but those are not the only names for the two sides in a court case. Read more to find out the difference between a plaintiff, defendant, petitioner, respondent, appellant, and an appellee.
What is a Plaintiff?
A plaintiff is the person who originates a lawsuit. The plaintiff brings a case against someone, demanding damages, an injunction, or some other relief from the court. Plaintiffs are generally only seen in civil cases.
What is a Defendant?
A defendant is the person who has been accused of violating the law. In criminal cases, the defendant is arguing against the state. In civil cases, the defendant is the person or entity that is being sued by the plaintiff.
What is a Petitioner?
A petitioner is the person who brings a petition to a court, usually in the appeals process, though sometimes, a plaintiff can be called a petitioner originally. However, if a case is being appealed, the petitioner is the person who lost in the lower court and is bringing the case to a higher court.
What is a Respondent?
A respondent is the person against whom the petitioner is arguing. Whoever won in the lower court is typically the respondent because the petitioner is the one appealing the case to a higher court. Sometimes, the defendant can be called the respondent even if not in the appeals process.
What is an Appellant?
An appellant is the person who brings an appeal from a lower court to a higher court. They essentially are a petitioner, but this term is used exclusively in the appeals process.
What is an Appellee?
An appellee is the person against whom an appeal from a lower court to a higher court is filed. They are essentially a respondent, but this term (like appellant) is only used in the appeals process.
The Difference Between a Plaintiff, Defendant, Petitioner, Respondent, Appellant, and an Appellee
While these terms can be hard to keep track of, it is helpful to think of them in pairs. Plaintiff with defendant, petitioner with respondent, appellant with appellee. Each pair has one person who initiates the action and one person against whom the action is initiated.
Plaintiff –> Defendant
Petitioner –> Respondent
Appellant –> Appellee
See also: What Font Does the Supreme Court Use?