Glossary

Affirm:

when the United States Supreme Court agrees with the decision of the lower court(s)

Appeal:

when a losing party disagrees with a decision of a lower court and seeks a more favorable ruling from a higher court

Appellant:

party that appeals a decision

Appellee:

party that argues against the appealing party

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954):

Black children were not allowed to attend the same schools as white children by law. The state maintained that the law was constitutional because the schools maintained equal facilities, however, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” and thus, under the 14th amendment was and is unconstitutional.

Concurring opinion:

When justices in the minority author a summary of their individual views on why the court ruling is correct. Basically, they go into how their ideologies are different from those expressed in the majority opinion but still lead them to the same conclusion as the majority opinion.

Dissent:

losing party (in USSC deliberations) authors opinion on why they believe majority decision to be incorrect (has no real effect on ruling because majority opinion still stands)

Et. Al.:

And others; abbreviation used in lieu of writing every individual name in a list

Majority decision:

when five or more justices vote in favor of one legal opinion or ideology over another

Marbury v. Madison (1803):

When William Marbury was appointed as a justice of the peace in Washington D.C., others were appointed to positions, which were never legally finalized. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that when a law is in conflict with the Constitution, it is invalid. Therefore, the Court established that the U.S. Supreme Court had the right to decide the constitutionality of laws also known as the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review.

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964):

An ad was placed in the New York Times paper about the social injustice in terms of how black Americans were treated and included instances of mistreatment toward major figureheads like Martin Luther King Jr. The ad also contained a few inaccuracies (most of which were minor). The Alabama commissioner alleged the story referred to him, and because of the inaccuracies, was libelous. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the constitution and more specifically the 1st amendment allowed for commentary on public officials regardless of falsity, except when statements are made with actual malice.

Petitioner:

one who appeals a decision to a higher court; name used in U.S. Supreme Court for the appellant

Plurality opinion:

when none of the draft of opinions attract 5 votes necessary for majority. In this case, draft of the opinion with the most support becomes the plurality opinion of court. Less powerful opinion (less binding)

Precedent:

previous court rulings on a particular legal issue

Remand:

when the higher court—U.S. Supreme Court—sends a case back down to the lower courts to be reconsidered in a way that is in line with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ideologies, and thus the constitution

Respondent:

same at the appellant; a person fighting against the repeal of a decision of the lower court

Stare Decisis:

Let it stand; refers to the principle that in general courts should adhere to previous decision passed down by the courts

Statue (denotated by the “§” sign):

A written law passed by Congress or state legislature and usually signed into law by the President or state governor.

Texas v. Johnson (1989):

Gregory Lee Johnson burned a flag in front of Dallas City Hall to protest the policies of the Reagan Administration and was tried, convicted and eventually fined for doing so. The Supreme Court upheld the right to symbolic expression and said that "[i]f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."

Uphold a decision:

to affirm the decision of the lower courts