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Judicial activism

two approaches to judicial decision making in the American political system, an interpretation of the U.S. constitution holding that the spirit of the times and the needs of the nation can legitimately influence judicial decisions (particularly decisions of the Supreme Court)

Amicus Curiae

means "friend of the court"; an individual, not a party, that aid or influence the court in reaching its decision


Taking a case from a lower court to a higher tribunal by the losing party

Appelate Jurisdiction

Authority of a court to review decisions of an infereior court.


the act of deciding as an arbiter


a common law writ issued by a superior court to one of inferior jurisdiction demanding the record of a particular case

Civil Law

The code regulating conduct between private persons

Common Law

judge-made law that originated in England from decisions shaped according to prevailing custom

Concurrent Jurisdiction

Authority vested in two or more courts to hear cases involving the same subject matter

Concurring Opinion

an opinion that agrees with the court's disposition of the case but is written to express a particular judge's reasoning

Court of Appeals

In the national court system, the appellate court below the Supreme Court

Criminal Law

the body of law dealing with crimes and their punishment

Dissenting Opinon

written by someone who opposes the majority decsions

Ex Parte

a judicial proceeding by or for one party without contest by an adverse party


the formal accusation charging a person with the commission of a crime


(law) a judicial remedy issued in order to prohibit a party from doing or continuing to do a certain activity

Judicial Review

power of hte courts to declare acts of the legislative and executive branches unconstitutional


authority vested in a court to hear and decide a case

Justiciable Question

a dispute that can be settled through the excercise of judicial power

Original Jurisdiction

the authority of a court to hear a case in the first instance

Political Question

a doctrine enunciated by the Supreme Court holding that certain constituional issues cannot be decided by the courts but are to be decided the executive or legislative branches


a court ruling bearing upon subsequent legal decisions in similar cases


suspension of the sentence of a person convicted of a crime

Stare Decisis

a legal term meanig "let the decision stand."

Supreme Court

the court of last resort in the federal and in most state judicial systems

Test Case

a representative legal action whose outcome is likely to become a precedent

Writ of Certiorari

an order in writing issued by a court ordering the performance of an act or prohibiting some act, a common law writ issued by a superior court to one of inferior jurisdiction demanding the record of a particular case

Marbury v. Madison

court case that established judicial review

Judiciary Act of 1789

law passed to establish the federal court system

Judicial restraint

Philosophy proposing that judges should interpret the Constitution to reflect what the framers intended and what its words literally say.

rule of four

Requirement that a case can only be heard by the Supreme Court if four justices vote to hear the case

senatorial courtesy

Presidential custom of submitting the names of prospective appointees for approval to senators from the states in which the appointees are to work.

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