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Amicus curiae

A latin term meaning "friend of the court." Refers to interested groups or individuals, not directly involved in a suit, who may file legal briefs or make oral arguments in support of one side.

De facto segregation

Racial segregation in schools that occurs not because of laws or administrative decisions, but as a result of patterns of residential settlement.

De jure segregation

Racial segregation that occurs because of laws or administrative decisions by public agencies.

Ex post facto law

Latin meaning "after the fact". A law that makes a criminal act legal when it was committed, that increases the penalty for a crime after it has been committed, or that changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier; a retroactive criminal law. Legislatures are forbidden to pass such laws by the Constitution

In forma pauperis

A procedure whereby a poor person can file and be heard in court as a pauper, free of charge.

Stare decisis

Latin meaning "let the decision stand." The practice of basing judicial decisions on precedents established in similar cases decided in the past.

Writ of certiorari

Latin meaning "made more certain". An order issued by a higher court to a lower court to send up the record of a case for review. Most cases reach the Supreme Court this way, issued when at least 4 of the 9 judges feel that the case should be reviewed.

Writ of habeas corpus

Latin meaning "you shall have the body." A court order directing a police officer, sheriff, or warden who has a person in custody to bring the prisoner before a judge and show sufficient cause for his or her detention. Designed to prevent illegal arrests and imprisionment.

Per curiam opinion

A brief, unsigned opinion issued by the Supreme Court to explain its ruling.

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