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GOPO Judicial Terms

Adversary system A judicial system in which the court of law is a neutral arena where two parties argue their differences.
Amicus curiae brief Literally, a “friend of the court” brief, filed by an individual or organization to present arguments in addition to those presented by the immediate parties to a case.
Appellate means appeal. Appellate courts hear appeals from lower courts.
Civil law A law that governs relationships between individuals and defines their legal rights.
Concurring opinion An opinion that agrees with the majority in a Supreme Court ruling but differs on the reasoning.
Court of appeals A court with appellate jurisdiction that hears appeals from the decisions of lower courts.
Defendant In a criminal action, the person or party accused of an offense.
Dissenting opinion An opinion disagreeing with a majority in a Supreme Court ruling.
Judicial activism Philosophy proposing that judges should interpret the Constitution to reflect current conditions and values.
Judicial restraint Philosophy proposing that judges should interpret the Constitution to reflect what the framers intended and what its words literally say.
Judicial review The power of a court to refuse to enforce a law or government regulation that in the opinion of the judges conflicts with the U.S. Constitution or, in a state court, the state constitution.
Opinion of the Court An explanation of the decision of the Supreme Court or any other appellate court.
Original jurisdiction The authority of a court to hear a case “in the first instance.” Appellate jurisdiction
Plea bargain Agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant that the defendant will plead guilty to a lesser offense to avoid having to stand trial for a more serious offense.
Precedent A decision made by a higher court such as a circuit court of appeals or the Supreme Court that is binding on all other federal courts.
Senatorial courtesy Presidential custom of submitting the names of prospective appointees for approval to senators from the states in which the appointees are to work.
Stare decisis The rule of precedent, whereby a rule or law contained in a judicial decision is commonly viewed as binding on judges whenever the same question is presented.
Writ of certiorari A formal writ used to bring a case before the Supreme Court. Docket
Writ of habeas corpus A court order requiring explanation to a judge why a prisoner is being held in custody.
Rule of Four A rule stating that the Supreme Court will hear a case if four of the justices say they want to hear it. Note that this is less than a majority.
Plaintiff the side in a trial that is bringing charges or suing (plaintiff is the comPLAINer)
Defendant the side in a trial that defends themselves against charges or a lawsuit
Prosecution in a case where the government is against a person, the government is the prosecution (we don't call them a plaintiff if they are representing the government)
Passive branch Another name for the judicial branch that talks about how the branch has to wait for cases to be brought before them in order for them to act. Therefore, they are reactive, where as the other two branches are proactive
Jurisdiction The area that a court is over. Example: the Kentucky Supreme Court can only hear cases from Kentucky
District Courts Level one of the federal court system. Federal lawsuits start here unless they are part of the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction.
Court of Appeals or Federal Appellate Court Level two of the federal court system. If someone loses at district court, they can appeal to here. This level reviews the case and rules on whether or not the original ruling stands.
Supreme Court Level three of the federal court system. "The court of last resort". Cases appealed from the Federal Appellate Court can be heard here. The rulings here are final and are considered "the law of the land".
Marbury v. Madison Early Supreme Court Case that established judicial review.
How to pick a good Supreme Court Justice Must be competent, share ideology with the president and have the right race, gender or ethnicity
American Bar Association (ABA) The regulation agency for lawyers and judges. The make the "Bar Exam" that all lawyers and judges must pass. Any judge nominated to the Supreme Court must have this agency do a background check on their records at trial.
Senate Judiciary Committee Committee in the Senate that first holds confirmation hearings on an appointed SC justice. If they like the justice, they will recommend to the full Senate to confirm the justice.
SCOTUS Short for Supreme Court of the United States. Compare to POTUS (president)
Original Jurisdiction of the SCOTUS The types of cases that start at the SCOTUS. Not heard by lower courts. They include cases between two states, between a state and the federal government and between the US and foreign ambassadors.
Solicitor General Member of the Department of Justice that hears appeals from level two courts. Has a big influence on which cases the SCOTUS chooses to hear.
Brief an essay giving what your argument for the case is going to be. It shows precedent and the main reasons why you should win the trial. Both sides must file one at the original level one court.
30 minutes The amount of time you have to present your side of the case to the SCOTUS
Majority opinion aka the "opinion of the court". Most SOCTUS members agree with this opinion and therefore it is "the law of the land".
Ways SCOTUS is insulated from political pressures life terms (no elections), certiorari (gets to choose own cases), public only hears the 30 minute audio clips
Created by: rockcastle