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13.7: Glossary

  • Page ID
    23597
  • Guardians of the Constitution and Individual Rights

    appellate jurisdiction the power of a court to hear a case on appeal from a lower court and possibly change the lower court’s decision

    common law the pattern of law developed by judges through case decisions largely based on precedent

    judicial review the power of the courts to review actions taken by the other branches of government and the states and to rule on whether those actions are constitutional

    Marbury v. Madison the 1803 Supreme Court case that established the courts’ power of judicial review and the first time the Supreme Court ruled an act of Congress to be unconstitutional

    original jurisdiction the power of a court to hear a case for the first time

    The Dual Court System

    appellate court a court that reviews cases already decided by a lower or trial court and that may change the lower court’s decision

    civil law a non-criminal law defining private rights and remedies

    criminal law a law that prohibits actions that could harm or endanger others, and establishes punishment for those actions

    dual court system the division of the courts into two separate systems, one federal and one state, with each of the fifty states having its own courts

    trial court the level of court in which a case starts or is first tried

    The Federal Court System

    circuit courts the appeals (appellate) courts of the federal court system that review decisions of the lower (district) courts; also called courts of appeals

    courts of appeals the appellate courts of the federal court system that review decisions of the lower (district) courts; also called circuit courts

    district courts the trial courts of the federal court system where cases are tried, evidence is presented, and witness testimony is heard

    precedent the principles or guidelines established by courts in earlier cases that frame the ongoing operation of the courts, steering the direction of the entire system

    senatorial courtesy an unwritten custom by which the president consults the senators in the state before nominating a candidate for a federal vacancy there, particularly for court positions

    stare decisis the principle by which courts rely on past decisions and their precedents when making decisions in new cases

    The Supreme Court

    amicus curiae literally a “friend of the court” and used for a brief filed by someone who is interested in but not party to a case

    associate justice a member of the Supreme Court who is not the chief justice

    brief a written legal argument presented to a court by one of the parties in a case

    chief justice the highest-ranking justice on the Supreme Court

    conference closed meeting of the justices to discuss cases on the docket and take an initial vote

    docket the list of cases pending on a court’s calendar

    oral argument words spoken before the Supreme Court (usually by lawyers) explaining the legal reasons behind their position in a case and why it should prevail

    Rule of Four a Supreme Court custom in which a case will be heard when four justices decide to do so

    solicitor general the lawyer who represents the federal government and argues some cases before the Supreme Court

    writ of certiorari an order of the Supreme Court calling up the records of the lower court so a case may be reviewed; sometimes abbreviated cert.

    Judicial Decision-Making and Implementation by the Supreme Court

    concurring opinion an opinion written by a justice who agrees with the Court’s majority opinion but has different reasons for doing so

    dissenting opinion an opinion written by a justice who disagrees with the majority opinion of the Court

    judicial activism a judicial philosophy in which a justice is more likely to overturn decisions or rule actions by the other branches unconstitutional, especially in an attempt to broaden individual rights and liberties

    judicial restraint a judicial philosophy in which a justice is more likely to let stand the decisions or actions of the other branches of government

    majority opinion an opinion of the Court with which more than half the nine justices agree

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