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Flashcards in Exam 2 Deck (54):

judicial review

The power of the supreme court to declare actions of the other branches and levels of government unconstitutional.


original jurisdiction

The authority of a court to be the first to hear a particular kind of case.


constitutional courts

Federal courts created by congress under the authority of Article III of the constitution.


legislative courts

Highly specialized federal courts created by congress under the authority of Article I of the constitution.


grand juries

Groups of citizens who decide whether there is sufficient evidence to bring an indictment against accused persons.


petit (trial) juries

Juries that hear evidence and sit in judgment on charges brough in civil or criminal cases.


circuit courts

The 12 geographical jurisdictions and one special court that hear appeals from the federal district courts.


appellate courts

Courts that hear cases on appeal from other courts.



Documents setting out the arguments in legal cases, prepared by attorneys and presented to courts.



The explanation of the majority's and the minority's reasoning that accompanies a court decision.



Past rulings by courts that guide judicial reasoning in subsequent cases.


stare decisis

The legal doctrine that says precedent should guide judicial decision making.


senatorial courtesy

The practice of allowing the senior senator from the president's party to approve nominees from the state where the district court is located.


separate but equal doctrine

The principle articulated in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) that laws prescribing separate public facilities and services for nonwhite Americans are permissible if the facilities and services are equal to those provided for whites.



One who brings suit in a court.


in forma pauperis

Describing a process by which indigents may file a suit with the supreme court free of charge.


writ of certiorari

An announcement that the supreme court will hear a case on appeal from a lower court; its issuance requires the vote of four of the nine justices.


rule of four

An unwritten practive that requires at least four justices the supreme court to agree that a case warrants review by the court before it will hear the case.


amicus curiae

Latin for "friend of the court"; a legal brief in which individuals not party to a suit may have their views heard in the court.


opinion of the court

The majority opinion that accompanies a supreme court decision; also called the majority opinion.


concurring opinion

The opinion of one or more judges who vote with the majority on a case but wish to set out different reasons for their decision.


dissenting opinion

The opinion of the judge or judges who are in the minority on a particular case before the supreme court.


test case

A case brought by advocacy or interest groups to try to force a ruling on the constitutionality of some law or executive action.


class-action suits

A suit brought on behalf of a group of people who are in a situation similar to that of the plaintiffs.


judicial activism

Actions by the courts that purportedly go beyond the role of the judiciary as interpreter of the law and adjudicator of disputes.



An action that a court determines must be taken to rectify a wrong done by the government.


strict construction

The doctrine that the provisions of the constitution have a clear meaning and that judges must stick closely to this meaning when rendering decisions.


original intention

The doctrine that the courts must interpret the constitution in ways consistent with the intentions of the framers rather than in light of contemporary conditions and needs.



The doctrine that judges must interpret the constitution based on the exact meaning of the words and phrases in the document as understood by the framers.


civil liberties

Freedoms found primarily in the Bill of Rights, the enjoyment of which are protected from government interference.


habeas corpus

The legal doctrine that a person who is arrested must have a timely hearing before a judge.


bills of attainder

A law that declares a person or group of people guilty of a crime or punishes them without a trial.


ex post facto law

A law that retroactively declares some action illegal.


privileges or immunities clause (14th amendment)

Says states may not make laws that abridge the rights granted to people as citizens of the united states.


due process clause (14th amendment)

Prohibits states from depriving anyone of life, liberty or property "without due process of law", a guarantee against arbitrary or unfair government action.


equal protection clause (14th amendment)

Requires states to provide equal treatment for all persons within their boundaries.


selective incorporation

The gradual and piecemeal spread of the protections of the Bill of Rights to the states by the U.S. Supreme Court.


prior restraint

A government action prohibiting publication or broadcast of materials (rather than punishing publication afterward).


free exercise clause

The portion of the First Amendment to the Constitution that prohibits Congress from impeding religious observance or impinging on religious beliefs.


establishment clause

The part of the First Amendment to the constitution that prohibits Congress from establishing an official religion, the basis for the doctrine of the separation of church and state.


"lemon test"

Supreme Court standard that in order for a law with a religious element to be constitutional it must have a secular purpose, its primary effect cannot be to advance or impede religion, and it must not foster excessive entanglements between a government and religion.


probable clause

Legal doctrine that refers to a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed.


exclusionary rule

A standard established by the supreme court that prevents police and prosecutors from using evidence against a defendant that was obtained in an illegal search.


capital crime

Any crime for which death is a possible penalty.


civil rights

Guarantees of equal treatments by government officials regarding political rights, the judicial system, and public programs.


poll tax

A tax to be paid as a condition of voting; used in the south to prevent African Americans from voting before the passage of the voting rights act of 1965, which banned its use; usually interpretation of a section of a state's constitution.


grandfather clause

A device that allowed whites who had failed the literacy test to vote anyway by extending the franchise to anyone whose ancestors had voted prior to 1867.


white primaries

Primary elections open only to whites in the one-party south where the only elections that mattered were the democratic party's primaries; this effectively disenfranchised blacks.


strict scrutiny

The assumption that actions by elected bodies or officials violate the constitution


suspect classification

The individuals, arbitrary, or irrational designation of a group for a special treatment by government, whether positive or negative; historically, used in laws to discriminate against visible minorities without the power to protect themselves.


de jure discrimination

Unequal treatment based on government laws and regulations.


de facto discrimination

Unequal treatment by private individuals, groups, and organizations.


affirmative action

Programs of private and public institutions favoring minorities and women in hiring and contracting, and in admissions to colleges and universities, in an attempt to compensate for past discrimination or to create more diversity.


intermediate scrutiny

A legal test falling between ordinary and strict scrutiny relevant to issues of gender; under this test, the Supreme Court will allow gender classifications in laws if they are substantially related to an important government objective.