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Judiciary Test Study Guide

• The supreme court does not issue advisory opinions (opinion issued
by a court that does not have the effect of resolving a specific legal case, but
merely advises on the constitutionality or interpretation of a law)
• Per curiam opinion: unsigned decisions of the Court that states the facts
of the case and the ruling
• Majority opinion: written opinion of the majority stating reasoning
for the decision

• Concurring opinion: Can be authored by a justice who agrees with

the outcome of a case but for different reasons; may go on record with
own opinion; can influence future opinions; can lessen impact of
majority opinion
• Dissent: minority opinions; written by justices who disagree with the
majority opinion; may influence future decisions; can undermine
majority opinion
• Period of court history:
○ 1787-1865: nation building, legitimacy of the federal
government, and slavery
○ 1865-1937: relationship between government and
○ 1938-present: personal liberty and social equality
• Assumption of the power of judicial review in Marbury v. Madison
(1803), making the Supreme Court an equal partner in the governing
process with Congress and the president.
• McCulloch vs. Maryland: upheld the supremacy of the federal
government in a conflict with a state over a matter not clearly assigned to
federal authority by the Constitution. Established that it was constitutional to
establish a Natl. Bank; used the elastic clause
• Federalist 78: Alexander Hamilton described the judiciary as the
branch “least dangerous” to political rights since it has “neither force
nor will but merely judgement.”
• Fourteenth Ammendment: no state shall “deprive any person of
life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Once it became
clear that a “person” could be a firm or a corporation as well as an
individual, business and industry began to flood the courts with cases
challenging several government regulations.
• Roosevelt’s new deal: From 1938 to the present, the Court has
switched its focus to the protection of personal liberties. This change was
partially prompted by the political pressure generated by Franklin Roosevelt's
unsuccessful effort to “court pack” the Supreme Court with justices
favorable to his New Deal economic package. One justice, Own Roberts, has
switched his position. This was called the “switch in time that saved
nine,” but in fact, Roberts had changed his mind before the FDR plan was
• District courts: the lowest federal courts where federal cases begin;
they are the only federal courts where trails are held; there are 94 in
the entire U.S. and its territories
• Court of appeals: the federal courts with authority to review
decisions by federal district courts, regulatory commissions, and
certain other federal courts, such courts have no original jurisdiction,
they can only hear appeals; there are only 12, one in each of 11
regions and one in D.C.
• Supreme Court: the highest federal court in the United States; has final
appellate jurisdiction and has jurisdiction over all other courts in the nation ;
there is only one.
• The tradition by which the Senate will not confirm a district court judge
if the senator who is from that state and of the president’s party
objects is known as Senatorial courtesy.
• The latest presidents have tried to get more judges who support their
ideas (Carter chose more blacks and women; Reagan chose more
conservative, strict-constructionist ones).
• To sue, a person must have standing, a concept which prevents
frivolous, stupid cases:
 Must be controversy between adversaries
 Personal harm must be demonstrated
 Being taxpayer not entitlement for suit
 Sovereign immunity (To sue the government, one must
have its permission)
• “Litmus test:” where a potential judge is asked a series of questions
to determine his political inclinations and then chosen or rejected
based on that.
• Amicus curiae: a term meaning “friend of the court;” refers to
interested groups not directly involved in a suit who may file legal
briefs in support of one side
• Writ of certiorari: written order directing a lower court to send its
records on a case to the Supreme Court for review; most cases get to
the Supreme court through this
• American civil liberties union: a liberal group that represents
some people who believe that their freedom of speech has been
abridged or that their constitutional rights in criminal proceedings have
been violated
• Solicitor general: an official of the Department of Justice; he or she
represents the United States when cases are brought to the Supreme
• Stare decisis: informal rule of judicial decision-making in which
judges try to follow precedent in deciding cases
• Judiciary enforcement power: a judge has no police force or army,
and a person can disobey if the act is not highly visible and if he is willing to
risk being charged with contempt of court. The courts depend on other
branches for enforcement.
• Congress can change the number of judges either on the Supreme Court or
in the lower federal judiciary. Congress and the states can amend the
Constitution. Congress can alter the jurisdiction of the federal courts and
prevent them from hearing certain kinds of cases. All of these checks have
their limits. Amending the Constitution is difficult. Attempts to change the
size of the Court, like the Roosevelt court-packing plan, are likely to run into
opposition from a public that still accords considerable prestige to the Court.
The Supreme Court might rule attempts to limit the jurisdiction of the courts