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judicial review

The process by which a court decides the constitutionality of legislative enactments and actions by the executive branch


The authority of a court to hear and decide a specific action.

Marbury v. Madison (1803)

arguably the most significant case in American constitutional law, the U.S. Supreme Court opined: "It is emphatically the province and duty of the [courts] to say what the law is.... So if the law be in opposition to the Constitution ... [t]he Court must determine which of these conflicting rules governs the case. This is the very essence of judicial duty"

Personal Jurisdiction

The authority of a court to hear and decide a dispute involving the particular parties before it.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction

The authority of a court to hear and decide the particular dispute before it.

Original Jurisdiction

The authority of a court to hear and decide a dispute in the first instance. Generally speaking, trial courts are courts of original jurisdiction, although the Supreme Court of the United States and the highest courts of many of the states have original jurisdiction over a few types of disputes

Appellate Jurisdiction

The authority of a court to review a prior decision in the same case made by another court.

Jurisdiction in Cyberspace

Whether a court can compel the appearance of a party outside the physical limits of the court's jurisdiction depends on the amount of business the party transacts over the Internet with parties within the court's jurisdiction.

Exclusive Jurisdiction

can be tried ONLY in federal courts or ONLY in state courts

Concurrent Jurisdiction

When both federal and state courts can hear a case.

Long arm statutes

permit courts to exercise jurisdiction over nonresidents who have minimum contacts with the state (for example, do business there). A court has in rem jurisdiction over property within its borders.


most appropriate location for a trial.

Standing to Sue

the interest (injury or threat) that a plaintiff has in a case. A plaintiff must have standing to bring a suit, and the controversy must be justiciable (real, not hypothetical or purely academic).

State Trial Courts

Courts in which trials are held and testimony is taken.

State Appellate, or Reviewing, Courts

Courts that hear appeals from trial courts look at questions of law (what law governs a dispute) but not questions of fact (what occurred in the dispute), unless a trial court's finding of fact is clearly contrary to the evidence. Decision of a state's highest court on state law is final.

U.S. District Courts

The federal equivalent of a state trial court of general jurisdiction. There is at least one federal district court in every state. Other federal trial courts include the U.S. Tax Court and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

U.S. Courts of Appeals

The U.S. (circuit) courts of appeals for twelve of the circuits hear appeals from the federal district courts located within their respective circuits. The court of appeals for the thirteenth circuit (the federal circuit) has national jurisdiction over certain cases.

The United States Supreme Court

The Supreme Court, the highest level of the federal court system, can review any case decided by any of the federal courts of appeals, and it has authority over some cases decided in state courts.

writ of certiorari

A formal writ used to bring a case before the Supreme Court.

The Pleadings of A State Court Case

1. Plaintiff's Complaint; 2. The Summons; 3 The Defendants Response

The Plaintiff's Complaint

Filed by the plaintiff with the clerk of the trial court. Contains (1) a statement alleging the facts for the court to take jurisdiction, (2) a short statement of the facts necessary to show that the plain¬tiff is entitled to a remedy, and (3) a statement of the remedy the plaintiff is seeking.

The Summons

Served on the defendant, with the complaint. Notifies the defendant to answer the complaint (usually within twenty to thirty days).

The Defendant's Response

a. No response results in a default judgment for the plaintiff; b. Answer or c. Motion to Dismiss

Pretrial Motions

1. Motion to Dismiss
2. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
3. Motion for Summary Judgment

Motion to Dismiss

The defendant may file a motion to dismiss. If the court denies the motion, the defendant must file an answer. If the court grants the motion, the plaintiff must file an amended complaint.

Answer Response

Admits the allegations in the complaint or denies them and sets out any defenses. May include a counterclaim against the plaintiff.

Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Any party can file this motion (after the pleadings have been filed), when no facts are disputed and only questions of law are at issue. A court may consider only those facts stated in the pleadings.

Motion for Summary Judgment

Any party can file this motion, if there is no disagreement about the facts and the only question is which laws apply. A court can consider evidence outside the pleadings.


The process of obtaining information from the opposing party or from witnesses may include depositions; interrogatories; and requests for admissions, documents, objects, entry on land, and physical or mental examinations.

voir dire

Jury selection process of questioning prospective jurors, to ascertain their qualifications and determine any basis for challenge.

Electronic Filing and Case-Management Systems

To save time, storage space, etc., courts are switching from paper to electronic document filing, using the Internet, e-mail, and CD-ROMs. Courts are also using electronic case-management systems.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

ADR - negotiation, mediation and arbitration are all forms of this. the resolution of disputs in ways other than those involved in the traditional judicial process

Online Dispute Resolution

ODR - Many Web sites offer online dispute resolution (ODR) services to help resolve small- to medium-sized business liability claims.

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