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Amicus Curiae Briefs

"Friend of the court" briefs by nonlitigants who wish to influence a court's decision by raising additional points of view and information not in the briefs prepared by litigants.

Class Action Suit

Cases which permit a small number of people to sue on behalf of all other people similarly affected.

Courts of Appeal

Courts with the power to review all final decisions of district courts, except in instances requiring direct review by the Supreme Court.

Judicial Activism

Theory that judges should make bolder policy decisions to alleviate pressing needs, especially for those who are weak politically.

Judicial Implementation

How and whether court decisions are translated into actual policy.

Judicial Restraint

Theory that judges should play minimal role in policymaking and leave policy decisions to the legislature.

Judicial Review

The power of courts to hold acts of Congress, and by implication the executive, in violation of the Constitution.

Marbury v Madison

1803 Supreme Court case that established the notion of judicial review.


A statement of legal reasoning behind a decision.

Original Intent

Theory that judges should decide cases in line with the intent of the framers.

Original Jurisdiction

Given to a court where a case first is heard.


The way similar cases have been handled in the past is used as a guide in current decisions.

Senatorial Courtesy

A tradition by which nominations for federal judicial positions are not confirmed when opposed by a senator of the president's party from the state in which the nominee is to serve.

Solicitor General

A presidential appointee who is in charge of the appellate court litigation of the federal government.

Standing to Sue

Litigants must have serious interest (potential for sustained direct and substantial injury) from a party in a case.

Stare Decisis

An earlier decision should hold for the case being considered.

Statutory Construction

Legislation passed by a legislature to clarify existing law, the clarification, in effect, overturning a court decision.

Supreme Court

Ensures uniformity in interpretation of national laws, resolves disputes between states, and maintains the national supremacy of the law.

United States v Nixon

1974 Supreme Court decision that required President Nixon to turn White House tapes over to the courts.

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