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Activist Approach

The view that judges should discern the general principles underlying laws or the Constitution and apply them to modern circumstances

Affirmative Action

Programs designed to increase minority participation in some institions.

Amicus Curiae

A brief submitted by a "friend of the court"


A written statement by an attorney that summarizes a case and the laws and rulings that support it.

Civil Rights

The rights of people to be treated without unreasonable or unconstitional differences.

Class Action Suit

A case brought by someone to help both himself/herself and all others who are similarly situated.

Clear and Present Danger

Law should not punish speech unless there was a clear and present danger of producing harmful damage

Concurring Opinion

A signed opinion in which one or more members agree with the majority view but for different reasons.

Constitional Court

A federal court that keeps judges in office during good behavior and prevents their salaries from being reduced.

De Facto Segregation

Racial segregation that occurs in schools, not as a result of the law, but as a result of residential settlement.

De Jure Segregation

Racial segregation that is required by law.

Diversity Cases

Cases involving citizens of different states who can bring suit in federal courts

Exclusionary Rule

Improperly gathered evidence may not be introduced in a criminal trial.

Fee Shifting

A rule that allows a plaintiff to recover costs from the defendant if the plaintiff wins.

Good Faith Exception

An error in gathering evidence sufficiently minor that it may be used in a trial.

In forma pauperis

A method whereby a poor person can have his/her case heard in federal court without charge.

Judicial Review

The power of courts to declare laws unconstitional. SAYING NO!


Writing that falsely injures another person.

Litmus Test

An examination of the political ideology of a nominated judge.

Police Powers

State power to enact laws promoting health, safety, and morals.

Political Question

An issue the Supreme Court will allow the executive and legislative branches to decide.

Probable Cause

Reasonable cause for issuing a search warrant or making an arrest; more than mere suspicion.

Reverse Discrimination

Using race or sex to give preferential treatment to some people.

Search Warrant

A judge's order authorized by search.

Selective Incorporation

The process whereby the Court has applied many parts of the Bill of Rights to the states.


A legal rule stating who is authorized to start a lawsuit.

Stare Decisis

"Let the desicion stand," or allowing prior ruling to control the current case.

Symbolic Speech

An act that conveys a political message.

Wall of Separation

Court ruling that government cannot be involved with religion.

Writ of Certiorari

An order by a higher court directing a lower court to send up a case for review.

Appellate Jurisdiction

The power of a court to review decisions and change outcomes of decisions of lower courts.

Civil Law

The system of law concerned with private relations between members of a community rather than criminal, military, or religious affairs

Civil Liberty

The state of being subject only to laws established for the good of the community with regard to freedom of action and speech.

Criminal Law

A system of law concerned with the punishment of those who commiymt crimes.

Inevitable Discovery

Allows evidence of a defendents guilt that would otherwise be considered inadmissable under the exclusionary rule to be admitted into evidence in a trial

Intermediate Scrutiny

the second level of deciding issues using judicial review.

Public Safety Exception

Allows into evidence an otherwise suppressible statement made by a defendent relating to information to protect the public

Rational Basis

the lowest of three levels of scrutiny applied by courts when considering constitional questions.

Solicitor General

the law officer directly below the attorney general in the US Department of Justice.

Strict Constructionist

A particular legal philosophy of judicial interpretation that limits judicial interpretation.

Strict Scrutiny

The most stringent standard of judicial review.

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