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Judiciary committe

Standing committee of the us senate that has oversight responsibilities over the federal judiciary and is responsible for conducting hearings to consider judicial nominees including nominee to the supreme court

Majority opinion

A written opinion by one member of the supreme court that reflects the views of atleast five justices

Unanimous opinion

a written opinion in which all 9 justices agree

concurring opinion

a written opinion filed by supreme court justices who agree with the outcome of a case but not with the legal rationale for the decision


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

in forma pauperis

latin term literally meaning ‘in the form of a pauper’ it is a means that allows parties who cannot afford the fees to request review for their case by the supreme court

judiciary act of 1789

established the basic three-tiered structure of the federal court system


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

rule of four

at least four justices of the supreme court mustvote to consider a case before it can be heard

rule of certiorari

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

strict constructionist

an approach to constitutional interpretation that emphasizes the framer’s original intentions


an approach to constitutional interpretation that says the constitution means the same thing today as it did when it was drafted in the summer of 1787, making no allowances for societal changes. it also says the constitution’s meaning can only be changed by a formal amendment


this is an approach to constitutional interpretation that says the constitution’s words should be takes at face value without trying to figure out the drafters intentions

civil law

deals with contract issue and tort cases (negligence and slander) and defines the legal rights of individuals

criminal law

cases that derive from criminal laws passed by federal and state governments

common law

law that based on the legal concept of stare decisis, or judicial precedent. based on prior decisions of appellate courts, not statutes of legislatures

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

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 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.

district courts

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.

senatorial courtesy

a system in which the president submits the name of a candidate for judicial appointment to the senators from the candidate’s state before formally submitting it for full senate approval

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.


(civil law) a law established by following earlier judicial decisions

solicitor general

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.

stare decisis

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

judicial implementation

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


the legal document stating the reasons for a judicial decision

original intent

A view that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent of the framers. Many conservatives support this view.

marbury vs. madison

Case in which the supreme court first asserted th power of Judicial review in finding that the congressional statue expanding the Court’s original jurisdiction was unconstitutional

judicial review

the power of the Supreme Court to declare laws and actions of local, state, or national governments unconstitutional

judicial restraint

A judicial philosophy in which judges play minimal policymaking roles, leaving that duty strictly to the legislatures

judicial activism

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.

political questions

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.

judiciary committee

Senate committee that is responsible for recommending presidential judicial appointments to the full Senate for approval.

majority opinion

a statement that presents the views of the majority of supreme court justices regarding a case

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