The branch of law dealing with the definition and enforcement of all private or public rights, as opposed to criminal matters.
standing to sue
The requirement that plaintiffs have a serious interest in a case, which depends on whether they have sustained or are likely to sustain a direct and substantial injury from a party or an action of government
class action suits
Lawsuits permitting a small number of people to sue on behalf of all other people similarly situated.
A requirement that to be heard a case mush be capable of being settled as a matter to law rather than on other grounds as is commonly the case in legislative bodies.
amicus curiae briefs
Legal briefs submitted by a "friend of the court" for the purpose of raising additional points of view and presenting information not contained in the briefs of the formal parties. These briefs attempt to influence a court's decision.
The jurisdiction of courts that hear a case first, usually in a trial. These are the courts that determine the facts about a case.
The jurisdiction of courts that hear cases brought to them on appeal from lower courts. These courts do not review the factual record, only the legal issues involved.
The 91 federal courts of original jurisdiction. They are the only federal courts in which trials are held and in which juries may be impaneled.
courts of appeal
Appellate courts empowered to review all final decisions of district courts, except in rare cases. In addition, they also hear appeals to orders of many federal regulatory agencies.
The pinnacle of the American judicial system. The Court ensures uniformity in interpreting national laws, resolves conflicts among states, and maintains national supremacy in law. It has both original jurisdiction and appellate jurisdiction, but unlike other federal courts, it controls its own agenda.
An unwritten tradition whereby nominations for state-level federal judicial posts are not confirmed if they are opposed by a senator of the president's party from the state in which the nominee will serve. The tradition also applies to courts of appeal when there is opposition from the nominee's state senator.
A presidential appointee and the third-ranking office in the Department of Justice. The solicitor general is in charge of the appellate court litigation of the federal government.
A statement of legal reasoning behind a judicial decision. The content of an opinion may be as important as the decision itself.
A Latin phrase meaning "let the decision stand." Most cases reaching appellate courts are settled on this principle.
How and whether court decisions are translated into actual policy, thereby affecting the behavior of others. The courts rely on other units of government to enforce their decisions.
A view that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent of the Framers. Many conservatives support this view.
Marbury v. Madison
The 1803 case in which Chief Justice John Marshall and his associates first asserted the right of the Supreme Court to determine the meaning of the U.S.. Constitution. The decision established the Court's power of judicial review over acts of Congress, in this case the Judiciary Act of 1789.
The power of the courts to determine whether acts of Congress and, by implication, the executive are in accord with the U.S. Constitution. Judicial review was established by John Marshall and his associates in Marburg v. Madison.
United States v. Nixon
The 1914 case in which the Supreme Court unanimously held that the doctrine of executive privilege was implicit in the Constitution but could not be extended to protect documents relevant to criminal prosecutions.
A judicial philosophy in which judges play minimal policymaking roles, leaving that duty strictly to the legislatures.
A judicial philosophy in which judges make bold policy decisions, even charting new constitutional ground. Advocates of this approach emphasize that the courts can correct pressing needs, especially those unmet by the majoritarian political process.
A doctrine developed by the federal courts and used as a means to avoid deciding some cases, principally those involving conflicts between the president and Congress.