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41 Cards in this Set

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  • Back
adversarial system of justice
A system of law in which an impartial judge or jury decides between the competing parties in a legal case.
appellate court
A court responsible for reviewing the decisions of lower courts.
brief
A written argument prepared by a party to a legal case that provides this party's interpretation of the facts and the relevent laws.
case law
The recorded decisions of the judiciary that reflects its interpretation of the law.
common law
A system of law derived from judicial decisions that are based upon prevailing traditions.
concurring opinion
A written explanation of the legal reasoning of one or more Supreme Court justices who agree with the majority decision, but have different legal reasons for doing so.
dissenting opinion
A system of law in which opposing parties in a legal case present their arguments before a judge who both prosecutes and decides the case.
inquisitorial systme of justice
A system of law in which opposing parties in a legal case present their arguments before a judge who both prosecutes and decides the case.
judicial activism
Judicial decision making characterized by a broad interpretation of the law and a willingness to use judicial authority to limit the actions taken by other branches of government.
judicial review
The power of the courts to evaluate the constitutionality of actions taken by other branches of government.
judicial restraint
Judicial decision making characterized by a narrow interpretation of the law and deference to the other branches of government
jurisdiction
The authority of a court to judge in a particular case.
last-in-time rule
Rule which states that if a treaty and federal statute impose competing obligations on the federal government, whichever measure was adopted later has the force of law.
legislative intent
The specific meaning of a particular statute as intended by legislators who voted for it.
majority opinion
A written explanation of a Supreme Court decision and the legal reasoning behind it as agreed upon by a majority of Supreme Court justices.
oral argument
An argument presented orally before a court in which a party to a legal case presents its interpretation of the facts and relevent laws.
original intent
the specific meaning of the Constitution as intended by its authors.
precedents
Previous judicial decisions that judges draw upon when making later rulings on similar cases.
remand
An action by which a higher court sends a legal case back to a lower court for further consideration or a new trial.
senatorial courtesy
The customary practice that allows a senator to veto district court nominees in his or her home state. This courtesy is extended only to those senators who are from the same political party as the president.
stare decisis
The legal doctrine that says that courts are obligated to follow precedents when reaching decisions on similar cases.
statute
A law enacted by a legislature.
strict constructionists
Proponents of judicial restraint who believe that judges should employ a literal interpretation of the law.
Supreme Court
The highest court in the United States.
trial court
A court that initially hears and decides cases.
unanimous opinion
A written explanation of a Supreme Court decision and the legal reasoningg behind it as agreed upon by all of the Supreme Court justices.
writ of certiorari
An order that a lower court send the record of a case to a higher court for review.
When does the federal judiciary have jurisdiction in a legal case?
The federal judiciary has jurisdiction in cases that involve the Constitution, federal statutes, and national treaties. It also has jurisdiction in cases that involve citizens of different states and cases that involve foreign governments or citizens of foreign countries.
Why did Alexander Hamilton argue that the judiciary would be the "least dangerous branch of government"?
because it would not have the power to enforce its decisions.
Describe the basic structure of the federal judiciary.
The federal judiciary consists of 3 levels of courts:
1. district courts and courts created by Congress for specific purposes.
2. Appellate courts. There are 13 courts of appeals at the federal level: 12 courts that serve geographical areas known as circuits as well as the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears cases that originate in specific lower courts, such as the Court of International Trade.
3. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeals in the federal judicial system.
Does the Suprem Court serve only as a court of appeal?
No. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in some matters, including cases that involve ambassadors, public ministers, and consuls of foreign governments, as well as cases in which a state is a party.
How are justices appointed to the Supreme Court?
Under the Constitution, the president has the authority to appoint justices to the Supreme Court. The Senate, however, has the authority to give its advice and consent to the president, and it may either affirm or reject the president's judicial nominees by way of a majority vote.
What is the practice of senatorial courtesy?
Senatorial courtesy is the traditional practice that gives a senator the right to veto a federal district court nominee in his or her home state. This courtesy is extended only to those senators who are from the same political party as the president.
Do a majority of Supreme Court justices have to agree before the Court will accept a case to review?
No. Only 4 of 9 justices must support a writ of certiorari, or an order that signals agreement to review a case, before the Supreme Court will grant trial.
What happens when the Supreme Court remands a case?
When a case is remanded, the Supreme Court sends it back to a lower court for further consideration or a new trial.
List and briefly explain the types of opinions that the Supreme Court may issue when it makes a decision.
1. Unanimous opinion is one in which all of the justices agree with a decision and the legal reasoning supporting it.
2. Majority opinion explains the legal reasoning of the majority of the justices who support a decision.
3. Concurring opinion is written by one or more justices who agree with the majority but have different legal reasons for doing so.
4. Dissenting opinion explains the legal reasoning of one or more justices who voted against a Suprem Court decision.
What is the difference between the adversarial system of justice and the inquisitorial system of justice? Which system is used in the US?
The adversarial system of justice relies upon an impartial judge or jury to decide between the competing parties in a legal case. The judge is viewed as a neutral referee between these parties. In the inquisitorial system, the judge both prosecutes and decides a case. The American legal tradition is based upon the adversarial system.
What is the Supremacy Clause?
The Supremacy Clause, found in Article 6 of the Constitution, provides that federal law takes precedence over state law if the two are in conflict. Federal law includes the Constitution, federal statutes, and national treaties.
How has the common law tradition shaped the American legal system?
The American legal system draws upon the common law tradition, which provides that judges consider prevailing customs and laws when reaching decisions. In such a tradition, past judicial decisions, or precedents, are sources of law. This tradition gives judges a very important role in the legal system since their decisions can have the effect of making new law.
What are the two doctrines that judges may follow when exercising their power of judicial review?
Judicial activism, the first of these doctrines, suggests that judges should interpret the law broadly if necessary. Moreover, it states that judges should be willing to use their authority to limit the actions taken by the other branches of government. In contrast, the doctrine of judicial restraint suggests that judges should show deference to the other branches of government and rely upon narrow interpretations of the law when making decisions.
What legal evidence do strict constructionists think should guide federal judges when they are making decisions? Why do critics challenge this approach?
Strict constructionists think that federal judges should try to identify the original intent of the framers of the Constitution and/or the legislative intent of Congress when making decisions about the constitutionality of a particular law. Critics argue that it is difficult to identify a single intent behind the actions of the framers or the members of Congress.