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Judicial Review

power of the courts to review acts of other branches of governement and the states

Judiciary Act of 1789

Established the basic three-tired structure of the federal court system

Marbury v. Madison (1803)

case in which the Supreme Court first asserted the power of judicial review in finding that the congressional statute extending the Court's original jurisdiction was unconstitutional

trial courts

courts of original jurisdiction where cases begin

appellate courts

courts that generally review only findings of law made by lower courts


authority vested in a particular court to hear and decide the issues in any particular case

original jurisdiction

The jurisdiction of courts that hear a case first, usually in a trial. These are the courts that determine the facts about a case.

appellate jurisdiction

The power vested in particular courts to review and/or revise the decision of a lower court

criminal law

codes of behavior related to the protection of property and individual safety

civil law

codes of behavior related to business and contractual relationships between groups and individuals

constitutional courts

Federal courts created by Congress under Article III of the Constitution, including the district courts, courts of appeals, &specialized courts such as the U.S. Court of International Trade

legislative courts

courts established by Congress for specialized purposes, such as the Court of Military Appeals


a document containing the legal written arguments in a case filed with a court by a party prior to a hearing or trial


a prior judicial decision that serves as a rule for settling subsequent cases of a similar nature

stare decisis

in court rulings, a reliance on past decisions or precedents to formulate decisions in new cases

senatorial courtesy

process by which presidents generally defer selection of district court judges to the choice of senators of their own party who represent the state where the vacancy occurs

writ of certiorari

a request for the Court to order up the records from a lower court to review the case

Rule of Four

at least four justices of the Supreme Court must vote to consider a case before it can be heard

solicitor general

The fourth-ranking member of the Department of Justice; responsible for handling all appeals on behalf of the U.S. government to the Supreme Court.

amicus curiae

"Friend of the court"; amici may file briefs or even appear to argue their interests orally before the court

judicial restraint

A philosophy of judicial decision making that argues courts should allow the decisions of other branches of government to stand, even when they offend a judge's own sense of principles.

judicial activism

an interpretation of the U.S. constitution holding that the spirit of the times and the needs of the nation can legitimately influence judicial decisions (particularly decisions of the Supreme Court)

strict constructionist

an approach to constitutional interpretation that emphasizes the Framers' original intentions

judicial implementation

refers to how and whether judicial decisions are translated into actual public policies affecting more than the immediate parties to a lawsuit

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