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Flashcards in Chapter 14 Deck (35)
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activist approach

An approach to judicial review holding that judges should discover the general principles underlying the Constitution and apply them to cases.


amicus curiae

A Latin term meaning “friend of the court,” referring to interested groups or individuals, not directly involved in a suit, who may file legal briefs or oral arguments in support of one side.



A legal document submitted by lawyers to courts, setting forth the facts of a case, lower court decisions, the lawyer's argument, and the influence of other cases.


civil law

Rules defining relationships among private citizens.


class action suit

A case brought into court by a person on behalf of not only himself or herself but all other persons in similar circumstances.


concurring opinion

An opinion by one or more justices who agree with the majority’s conclusion but for different reasons, that they wish to express.


constitutional court

Lower federal courts created by Congress which exercise the judicial powers laid out in Article III of the Constitution.


courts of appeals

The federal courts that have the authority to review decisions by federal district courts, regulatory commissions, and certain other federal courts. Can only hear appeals.


criminal law

A body of rules defining offenses that are considered to be offenses against society as a whole.


dissenting opinion

The opinion of the justices on the losing side.


district courts

The lowest federal courts where federal cases begin. Only court where trials are held.


diversity cases

Jurisdiction conferred by the Constitution on federal courts to hear cases involving citizens of different states.


dual sovereignty

A doctrine holding that state and federal authorities can prosecute the same person for the same conduct, each under its own law.


federal question cases

Constitutional jurisdiction conferred to federal courts to hear all cases “arising under the Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties.”


fee shifting

A practice that enables plaintiffs to collect their costs from a defendant if the defendant loses.


in forma pauperis

A petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by an indigent person.


judicial review

The right of federal courts to declare laws of Congress and acts of the executive branch void and unenforceable if they are judged to be unconstitutional.


legislative court

A lower federal court created by Congress for specialized purposes, with fixed terms of office, and changeable salaries.


litmus test

A test of ideological purity used by recent presidents and senators in selecting and confirming judges to nominate to federal courts.


Marbury v. Madison

A decision of the Supreme Court in 1803 which established the principle of judicial review.


McCulloch v. Maryland

A Supreme Court decision which established the authority of Congress to exercise powers implied by the Constitution, granted by the "necessary and proper" clause. Also decided the federal government was immune to state taxation.


opinion of the Court

An opinion by the Supreme Court that reflects the majority’s view.


per curiam opinion

A brief and unsigned opinion by the Supreme Court.



The party that initiates a civil lawsuit.


political question

An issue that the Court refuses to consider because it believes that it is not their decision.



A judicial order setting forth what must be done to correct a situation a judge believes to be wrong.


Section 1983 case

A provision in the U.S. Code which allows a citizen to sue state and local government officials who have deprived the citizen of some constitutional right or withheld some benefit.


senatorial courtesy

The tradition by which the Senate will not confirm a district court judge if the senator who is from that state and of the president’s party objects.


solicitor general

The third-ranking officer in the Justice Department, who approves every Supreme Court case and decides what cases the federal government will appeal from lower courts.


sovereign immunity

A legal concept that forbids a person from suing the government without its consent.