Relevant Court Cases:

  1. Marbury v Madison (1803)
  2. Engel v. Vitale (1962)
  3. Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)
  4. Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)
  5. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969)
  6. New York Times Company v. U.S.(1971)
  7. Schenck v. U.S. (1919)
  8. Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
  9. Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
  10. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
  11. Roe v. Wade (1973)
  12. Gitlow v. New York (1925)
  13. McDonald v. Chicago (2010)
  14. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
  15. Brown v. Board of Education, I (1954)
  16. Brown v. Board of Education, II (1955)
  17. Reed v Reed
  18. Milliken v Bradley
  19. Parents v Seattle School #1
  20. Regents of the University of California v Bakke
  21. Gratz v Bollinger
  22. Swann v CM
  23. West Virginia Board of Education v Barnett
  24. Morse v Frederick
  25. DC v Heller
  26. Pierce v Society of Sisters

Key Terms:

  1. Original jurisdiction
  2. Appellate jurisdiction
  3. Judiciary Act of 1789
  4. Judicial implementation
  5. judicial activism
  6. judicial restraint
  7. Writ of certiorari
  8. Oral argument
  9. judicial conference
  10. statutory law
  11. case law
  12. District Court
  13. Circuit Court
  14. Trial court
  15. Appellate court
  16. Petitioner
  17. Respondent
  18. Rule of 4
  19. Senatorial courtesy
  20. Political questions
  21. Solicitor general
  22. justiciable dispute
  23. Plaintiff
  24. Criminal law
  25. Civil law
  26. Litigants
  27. Standing
  28. Class action suit
  29. Precedents
  30. Per curiam decision
  31. Majority opinion
  32. Concurring opinion
  33. Dissenting opinion
  34. Stare decisis
  35. Original intent theory
  36. Writ of mandamus
  37. Strict Constructionism
  38. Loose Constructionism
  39. Litmus test
  40. Selective Incorporation
  41. Incorporation doctrine
  42. Civil liberty
  43. Due process
  44. Establishment clause
  45. Free exercise clause
  46. Prior restraint
  47. Libel
  48. Sedition
  49. Symbolic speech
  50. Obscenity
  51. Probable cause
  52. Search warrant
  53. Exclusionary rule
  54. Self-incrimination
  55. Plea bargaining
  56. Bill of Attainder
  57. Ex post facto law
  58. Miranda rights
  59. Lemon test
  60. Double jeopardy
  61. Penumbra
  62. Slander
  63. Substantive due process
  64. Procedural due process
  65. Hate speech
  66. Direct incitement
  67. Writ of habeas corpus
  68. Miller Test
  69. Civil rights
  70. Poll tax
  71. Grandfather clause
  72. White primary
  73. Literacy test
  74. Equal Rights Amendment
  75. Comparable worth
  76. Jim Crow laws
  77. Separate-but-equal doctrine
  78. NAACP
  79. disenfranchisement
  80. De jure segregation/ De facto
  81.   Segregation
  82. Americans with Disabilities Act
  83. Title IX
  84. Strict scrutiny
  85. Suspect classification
  86. LULAC
  87. MALDEF
  88. Equal Pay Act of 1963

Key Questions:

  1. How can an interest group participate in the legal process without being a party in the suit?
  2. What are the informal qualifications to become federal judges?
  3. What factors are involved in the decision to grant cert?
  4. For what reasons has the solicitor general been dubbed the “9 ½ Justice?”
  5. How did the Marshall court grow the power of the Supreme Court?
  6. Fed 78 explains that the court is to be insulated from politics and yet the opposite is true. Explain how the politics of the media, the legislature and the executive branch can influence the court.
  7. How can the behaviors of the other institutions of government and public opinion affect judicial implementation?
  8. How can judicial philosophy amongst the justices contribute to conflict and controversy?
  9. Describe the role of the clerks in judicial decision making.
  10. What is the significance of oral argument?
  11. Explain how the powers of the other branches can be used to limit the power of the court.
  12. How do the cases of Barron v Baltimore and Gitlow v NY illustrate a shift in judicial interpretation?
  13. How does the 14th amendment correlate to the incorporation doctrine?
  14. In your opinion, why did the framers choose the 5 provisions of the first amendment to begin the Bill of Rights?
  15. Why did the framers find it necessary to create 2 different religious protections within the first amendment?
  16. In what situations might the court allow for prior restraint?
  17. Under the federal system, how can/has the 10th amendment created a roadblock for gay and lesbian rights?
  18. How have successful movements for equality fueled others to seek justice from oppression?
  19. What is meant by “time, place and manner” restrictions?
  20. The constitution does not explicitly protect the right to privacy. What portions of the Bill of Rights have been used to establish this right?
  21. What are the key provisions of the Voting Rights Act?
  22. What are the standards of review fashioned by the Court under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment?
  23. What does the struggle over passage of the Equal Rights Amendment illustrate about the amendment process?
  24. While never addressed in the original constitution, equality was included in the Declaration of Independence. How has the amendment process been used to remedy this omission and work towards fulfillment of the philosophy proscribed by the DOI?
  25. Decades of violence, discrimination and acts of civil disobedience culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Citing specific provisions of the CRA, explain how this landmark piece of legislation works to fulfill the equal protection clause and the court’s modern interpretation of the 14th
  26. While attempting to remedy past acts of discrimination, how have affirmative action programs created a negative public perception?

Key Concepts:


  1. Although considered apolitical, the federal judiciary plays a central and prominent policy making role with the Congress and president.  Many of the important issues facing Americans eventually find their way into the courts.
  2. The United States has a dual judicial system, with federal and sate courts operating with their own personnel and jurisdiction.  Each interprets and enforces its own constitution and laws.  Overlap exists between the two levels, with the federal level able to declare state actions unconstitutional.
  3. The federal courts have the power of judicial review, declaring acts of Congress, the president, and the states unconstitutional.
  4. Federal judges are appointed by the president, must be confirmed by the Senate, and have lifetime appointments.  Presidents overwhelmingly appoint judges who share their views on policy matters, causing judicial selection to be highly political.
  5. There are a variety of internal and external influences that go into the making of a judicial decision.  Among the more important ones are personal ideology and socialization, views regarding the role of judges as policy makers (restraint or activism), public opinion, (elite and mass), interest groups’ amicus curiae briefs and sponsorship of “test” cases, the collegial environment of appellate courts, and the structure and environment of our federal system.
  6. Judicial policies are not self-executing.  A variety of public and private personnel are needed to implement judicial decisions in order to maximize their impact.  Among the most important are Congress and the president, the state and federal bureaucracies (i.e. school boards and police), lower courts, business and private citizens, and interest groups.


  1. The bill of rights was added to the Constitution to protect individual rights form encroachments by the federal government.
  2. Since the 1920’s, the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause has been interpreted to include most of the protections guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and to prevent states from infringing on those rights.  This is known as the Incorporation Doctrine, and the process of applying the Bill of Rights to the states is called “selective incorporation.”
  3. The rights conferred by the Constitution are not absolute, and the extent of protection afforded by the Constitution has varied over time depending on a variety of political considerations, including the composition of the Supreme Court.  It is the Supreme Court that plays the major role, but not the only one, guaranteeing individual rights and liberties.  Ultimately, the nature of the rights and liberties enjoyed by Americans is determined through the political process.
  4. Civil liberties are legal and constitutional protections against the government.  Civil rights are policies that extend basic rights to groups that have, historically, been subject to discrimination.
  5. Americans have never fully come to terms with the concept of equality and the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  With the abandonment of the “separate but equal” doctrine in 1954 and the rise of the Civil Rights and women’s movements, the federal government has leaned toward policies aimed at tearing down the barriers represented by racial and other forms of discrimination.  These policies, however, continue to stir major controversies within society as illustrated by the continuing debate over affirmative action programs.