The jurisdiction of courts that hear a case first, usually in a trial. These are the courts that determine the facts about a case.
Appellate Jurisdiction (Courts of Appeals)
The jurisdiction of courts that hear cases brought to them on appeal from lower courts. These courts do not review the factual record, only the legal issues involved.
The power of the courts to determine whether acts of Congress and, by implication, the executive are in accord with the U.S. Constitution. Judicial review was established by John Marshall and his associates in Marbury v. Madison.
Lower federal courts of original jurisdiction created by Congress by the Judiciary Act of 1789.
Courts established by Congress for specialized purposes, such as the Court of Military Appeals. Judges who serve on these courts have fixed terms and lack the protections of constitutional court judges.
Federal District Court
Court of original jurisdiction for most federal cases. The only one that holds trials in which juries and witnesses are used.
US Court of Appeals
An appellate court. Reviews cases from lower fedreal courts. There are currently 13 judicial circuits, Each of which has a US Court of Appeals.
US Supreme Court
The pinnacle of the American judicial system. The court ensures uniformity in interpreting national laws, resolves conflicts among states, and maintains national supremacy in law. It has both original jurisdiction and appellate jurisdiction, but unlike other federal courts, it controls its own agenda.
Supreme Court judges
An unwritten tradition whereby nominations for state-level federal judicial posts are not confirmed if they are opposed by a senator of the president's party from the state in which the nominee will serve. The tradition also applies to courts of appeal when there is opposition from the nominee's state senator, if the senator belongs to the president's party.
Amicus Curiae briefs
Legal briefs submitted by a "friend of the court" for the purpose of raising additional points of view and presenting information not contained in the briefs of the formal parties. These briefs attempt to influence a court's decision.
Writ of Certiorari
A formal document issued in the Supreme Court to a lower federal or state court that calls up a case.
Opinion of the Court
A statement of legal reasoning behind a judicial decision. The content of an opinion may be as important as the decision itself.
A statement that presents the views of the majority of supreme court justices regarding a case.
An opinion that agrees with the majority in a Supreme Court ruling but differs on the reasoning.
An opinion disagreeing with the majority decision in a Supreme Court ruling.
A view that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent of the framers. Many conservatives support this view.
A judicial philosophy in which judges play minimal policymaking roles, leaving that duty strictly to the legislatures.
A judicial philosophy in which judges make bold policy decisions, even charting new constitutional ground. Advocates of this approach emphasize that the courts can correct pressing needs, especially those unmet by the majoritarian political process.
A Latin phrase meaning "let the decision stand." Most cases reaching appellate courts are settled on this principle.
How similar cases have been solved in the past.
How and whether court decisions are translated into actual policy, affecting the behavior of others. The courts rely on other units of government to enforce their decisions.
A doctrine developed by the federal courts and used as a means to avoid deciding some cases, mainly those involving conflicts between the president and Congress.
The judicial interpretation of an act of Congress. In some cases where statutory construction is an issue, COngress passes new legislation to clarify existing laws.
A constraint on the courts requiring case be capable of being settled by legal methods.
Class Action Suits
Lawsuits permitting a small number of people to sue on behalf of all other people similarly situated.
Standing to Sue
The requirement that plaintiffs have a serious interest in a case, which depends on whether they have sustained or are likely to sustain a direct and substantial injury from a party or an action of government.
A presidential appointee and the third-ranking office in the Department of Justice. The solicitor general is in charge of the appellate court litigation of the federal government.
Rule of Four
Requirement that a case can only be heard by the Supreme Court if four justices vote to hear the case.