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natural rights

the belief that all people possess certain basic rights that may not be abridged by government. Under this theory, human beings, living in a state of nature, possessed certain fundamental rights that they brought with them into organized society.

common law

the cumulative body of judicial decisions, custom, and precedent, rather than law created by statute

stare decisis

the Latin phrase meaning "stand by past decisions."

statutory law

law enacted by Congress, or by state legislatures or local legislative bodies; many statutes embody principles of English common law.


a legal principle of fair dealing, which may provide preventive measures and legal remedies that are unavailable under existing common law and statutory law.

civil cases

...concern relations between individuals or organizations, such as a divorce action, or a suit for damages arising from an automobile accident or for violation of a business contract.

criminal cases

cases that concern crimes committed against the public order; most are defined by local, state, and federal statutes, which set forth a range of penalties as well.

administrative law

the rules and regulations made and applied by federal regulatory agencies and commissions; corporations and individuals can go into federal court to challenge the rulings of these agencies.

judicial review

the power to declare acts of Congress or actions by executive branch-or laws and actions at any level of local, tate, and federal government-unconstitutional

Marbury v. Madison

established the power of judicial review in 1803

judicial activism

the philosophy that Supreme Court justices and other judges should boldly apply the Constitution to social and political questions

judicial restraint

the philosophy that the Supreme Court should avoid constitutional questions when possible and uphold acts of Congress unless they clearly violate a specific section of the Constitution


economic philosophy that states that government should interfere as little as possible in economic affairs


(law) the right and power to interpret and apply the law

original jurisdiction

the right under the Constitution to hear certain kinds of cases directly, such as cases involving foreign diplomats, or cases in which one of the 50 states is a party.

writ of certiorari

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


Lesser crimes, such as driving without a license or speeding. The penalty can be a fine, or imprisonment of less than a year in a county jail, called a House of Correction.


serious crimes, such as murder, arson, or rape.


an accusation of wrongdoing

criminal information

In lieu of an indictment, the state prosecutor may file a _______________ charging the person with a crime.


a legal document calling someone to court to answer an indictment

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