AP Government Ch 16

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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 suite

Lawsuits permitting a small number of people to sue on behalf of all other people similarly situated.

Justiciable disputes

A requirement that to be heard in a case must be capable of being settled as a matter of law rather than on other grounds as is commonly the case in legislative.

Amicus curiae briefs

Legal briefs submitted by a "friend of the court" for the purpose of raising additional points of view presenting information not contained in the briefs of the formal parties. These briefs attempt to influence a court’s decision.

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 trial 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.

Supreme Court

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.

Senatorial Courtesy

An unwritten traditions whereby nominations for state-level federal judicial posts are not confirmed if they are opposed by a senator 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.

Solicitor General

A presidential appointee and the third-ranking office in the Department of Justice.


A statement of legal reasoning behind a judicial decision.

Stare decisis

A Latin phrase meaning "let the decision stand." Most cases reaching appellate courts are settled on this principle.


How similar cases have been decided in the past.

Original intent

A view that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent of the framers.

Judicial implementation

How and whether court decisions are translated into actual policy, thereby affecting the behavior of others.

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.

Judicial review

The power of the courts to determine whether acts of Congress, and by implication the executive, are in accord with the U.S. Constitution.

United States v. Nixon

The 1974 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.

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.

Statutory construction

The judicial interpretation of an act of Congress.

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