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the authority of the courts to hear certain cases

federal court jurisdiction

cases involving federal law, treaties, and the interpretation of the Constitution

original jurisdiction

lower courts have authority to hear cases for the first time

appellate jurisdiction

courts that hear reviews or appeals of decisions from the lower courts (Court of Appeals and Supreme Court)

concurrent jurisdiction

allows certain types of cases to be tried in either federal or state courts

Constitutional courts

federal courts created by Congress under Article III

legislative courts

hear cases arising from the powers given to Congress under Article I

When does the Supreme Court have original jurisdiction?

If case comes from state supreme court and involves federal law or Constitution, or if the case involves representatives of a foreign government or a state as a party.

appointment of justices

nominated by president, confirmed by the senate

term length for justices


qualifications for justices


senatorial courtesy

the practice of allowing individual senators who represent the state where the district is located to approve or disapprove potential nominees- District Court nominations

party affiliation

choosing judges from own political party

judicial philosophy

appointing judges who share political ideology

race, gender, religion, region

bring balance, satisfy certain people in society

judicial experience

previous experience in district courts, court of appeals, state courts

litmus test

test of ideological purity toward a liberal or conservative stand on certain issues like abortion


if noncontroversial, more acceptable to Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate

American Bar Association

rates nominees' qualifications

interest groups

use lobbyists to pressure senators about a nominee


endorsements by current members of Supreme Court may help nominee

first black justice

Thurgood Marshall

first woman justice

Sandra Day O'Connor

rule of four

four of the nine justices must agree to hear a case

brief orders

an accepted case is returned to the lower court for reconsideration because of another related case that was recently decided

writ of certiorari

an order by the Court (when petitioned) directing a lower court to send up the records of a case for review


lower court asks Supreme Court about a rule of law or procedures in specific cases


a detailed statement of the facts of the case supporting a particular position by presenting arguments based on relevant facts and citations from previous cases

amicus curiae briefs

interest groups write briefs supporting or rejecting the arguments of the case


the decision is explained in a written statement


majority opinions become standards or guides to be followed in deciding similar cases in the future

New Deal Era

conservative court shot down new deal legislation, Justices Hughe and Roberts began voting in favor of new deal, court packing plan

Warren Court

liberal court, civil rights and civil liberties

Burger Court

court became more conservative, dealt with Rove v Wade, Nixon, and affirmative action

Rehnquist and Roberts Courts

continued to limit but not revese decisions of the earlier more liberal courts

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