19 terms

SCOTUS Vocabulary: Federal Courts

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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
Class action lawsuit
lawsuit brought on behalf of a class of people against a defendant, e.g., lawsuits brought by those who have suffered from smoking against tobacco companies.
Amicus Curae briefs
Legal briefs submitted by a "friend of the court" for the purpose of influencing a court's decision by raising additional points of view and presenting information not contained in the briefs of the formal parties
Original jurisdiction
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
Authority of court to review a decision of a lower court or administrative agency.
Senatorial courtesy
An unwritten tradition whereby the Senate will not confirm nominations for lower court positions that are opposed by a senator of the president's own party from the state in which the nominee is to serve.
Opinion
A statement of legal reasoning behind a judicial decision. The content of an opinion may be as important as the decision itself.
Stare Decisis
A common law doctrine under which judges are obligated to follow the precedents established in prior decisions
Precedents
Standards or guides based on prior decisions that serve as a rule for settling similar disputes
Original intent
A view that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent of the framers.
Judicial implementation
How and whether court decisions are translated into actual policy, thereby affecting the behavior of others. The courts rely on other units of government to enforce their decisions.
Marbury v. Madison
This case establishes the Supreme Court's power of Judicial Review
Judicial review
Allows the court to determine the constitutionality of laws
Judicial restraint
A judicial philosophy in which judges play minimal policymaking roles, leaving that duty strictly to the legislatures
Judicial activism
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.
Litigants
The plaintiff and defendant in a case.
Rule of Four
The Supreme Court will hear a case if four justices agree to do so.
Trial courts
Courts that hear civil and criminal cases and consider the facts only.
Appellate courts
Courts hearing cases appealed from a lower court.
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