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judicial review

the power of the courts to declare laws unconstitutional

judicial restraint approach

the view that judges should decide cases strictly on the basis of the language of the laws and the Constitution

activist approach

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

district courts

Lowest level of federal courts, where federal cases begin and trials are held.

courts of appeals

federal courts that hear appeals from district courts; no trials

legislative courts

Courts created by Congress for specialized purposes whose judges do not enjoy the protections of Article III of the constitution

litmus test

an examination of the political ideology of a nominated judge

federal question cases

cases concerning the constitution, federal laws, or treaties

diversity cases

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

writ of certiorari

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

fee shifting

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


the party that initiates a lawsuit


a legal rule stating who is authorized to start a lawsuit

soverign immunity

the right of a state to be free from lawsuit unless it gives permission to the suit. Under the 11th Amendment, all states are considered sovereign

class action suit

a case brought by someone to help him or her and all others who are similarly situated


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

amicus curiae

a brief submitted by a "friend of the court"

per curiam opinion

a brief, unsigned court opinion

opinion of the court

a signed opinion of a majority of the supreme court

dissenting opinion

A signed opinion in which one or more of the justices disagree with the majority view.

stare decisis

Let the decision stand; decisions are based on precedents from previous cases

political question

an issue the Supreme Court will allow the executive and legislative branches decide


act of correcting an error or a fault or an evil

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