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LandmarkCases.org Glossary of Key Terms (last updated: 10/15/2020)
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TERMSDEFINITIONS
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13th Amendmentthe amendment to the U.S. Constitution that abolished slavery.
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14th AmendmentSection 1 of the 14th Amendment says “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
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15th Amendmentthe amendment to the U.S. Constitution that abolished slavery
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Abortiona premature end to a pregnancy; may result from a miscarriage or a medical procedure
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Abridgingreducing or diminishing
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Absolute righta right that cannot be taken away for any reason
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Accused (to accuse)to formally blame someone with a wrongdoing or crime
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Ascertainto find something out for sure.
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Admitted (admissions, to admit)to permit to attend or participate; process by which the people who will be allowed to attend are selected
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Affirmative Actionprograms that favor groups who have faced historical discrimination
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Affirmationa solemn declaration
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Agencyan arm of the government responsible for a specific function
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Allied Powersthe side of World War II that included the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China
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Amicus curiae briefsamicus curiae means “friend of the court”—someone who helps the court by giving information or advice but who is not part of the case. The brief they file is a report with all of that information or advice.
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Appealed (to appeal)to formally request that a lower court decision be examined and reconsidered by a higher court
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Applicantone who seeks a particular opportunity, in this case admission to a school
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Appointedto assign someone to a job or position
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Arbitraryrandom; inconsistent
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Arrest (arrested)to seize and hold under the authority of law
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Articles of Confederationthe original constitution of the United States. It was passed in 1781 but was replaced by the current U.S. Constitution in 1789.
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Attorney generalthe head of the U.S. Department of Justice
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Axis Powersthe side of World War II that included Germany, Japan, and Italy
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Bedrockfundamental; basic
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Bill of Rightsthe first 10 amendments to the Constitution
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Breach of the peacea violent or noisy act that causes a public disturbance
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Capital casea case where the death penalty is a possible punishment
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Censorto examine and remove information to prevent others from access to it
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Censorshipthe banning of expression from being heard, read, or seen
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Challengeobjection; disagreement
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Charteran authorization to establish an institution or organization
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Citizenslegal members of a particular country who have certain rights
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Civil Rights Movementthe struggle for racial equality and justice in the 1950s and 60s in the United States
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Coerceto persuade someone to do something by force or threat
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Coin (verb)to make money
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Commercethe buying and selling of goods
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Commerce Clausethe part of the Constitution that says Congress has the power to pass laws about the buying and selling of goods and services between the states
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Compellingvery important and persuasive
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Compulsorymandatory, obligatory, without choice
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Concurring opinionwritten explanation of a decision when a justice agrees with the result of a case, but for a different reason than the majority
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Condoneto accept and allow immoral behavior to continue
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Confessiona written or oral statement admitting to guilt, made by a person who has been accused or charged with an offense
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Confidentialdone or communicated in secret
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Constitutionalallowed by or contained in the Constitution
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Controversyan important issue about which people have differing opinions
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Conveyto communicate an idea through words or actions
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Convictionthe judgment of a jury or judge that a person is guilty of a crime as charged
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Corruptdishonest or immoral
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Counsela lawyer
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Curfewa regulation requiring the withdrawal of specified persons from the streets; the closing of business establishments or places of assembly at a stated
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Custodywhen a suspect is deprived of their freedom of movement; not free to go
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Defense (defence)the case presented by the defendant/the defendant’s attorney against an accusation of a crime or lawsuit
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De facto segregationsegregation (setting apart by race) not based in law, but in fact or circumstance
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De jure segregationsegregation (setting apart by race) set by law.
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Defamationsaying or writing something that would hurt another person’s reputation. The statement about that person has to claim to be a fact instead of an opinion. Defamation usually implies that the statement is not true.
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Defamatorydamaging the reputation of a person or group
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Delegateto give one’s power to another person
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Democratic processwhen citizens participate in their government by, among other things, voting, running for office, and telling their representatives about what issues are important to them
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Demonstrationa public showing of a group's opinion, as by rally or march
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Descentderivation from an ancestor (birth, lineage)
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Desecration/Desecrateto violate; to damage or disrespect something that is sacred
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Desegregationthe process of ending racial segregation
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Diplomaticdealing with international relations
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Disadvantagedthe state of not having the same resources as those who are “advantaged”
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Discriminateto treat someone unfairly and differently than others just because of certain characteristics, like their race or gender
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Discriminationwhen someone is treated differently just because of certain characteristics, like their race or gender
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Disruptto throw into confusion or disorder
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Dissentan opinion written by the justices who disagree with the majority’s decision
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Dissenteddiffered in opinion.
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District Courta U. S. federal trial level court that serves a judicial district
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Doctrinea belief or set of beliefs.
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Draftrequired enlistment into the armed forces
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Due processthe rule that states that the government cannot take someone’s life, freedom, or property without a trial
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Due process clausethe part of the 14th Amendment that says the states cannot take away someone’s life, liberty, or property without due process of law. “Due process of law” means that the government must follow certain procedures, like a trial. These procedures are different depending on what the government is trying to take away.
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Economythe way a country manages its money and resources to produce, buy, and sell goods and services
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Endorseshow public support or approval for
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Enslaved persona person who is legally considered the property of a person or household and who is required to serve
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Enslavera person who enslaves others requiring them to serve and holding them as property
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Entitledqualified for by right according to law
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Equal Protection Clausethe part of the 14th Amendment that guarantees that individuals are treated equally regardless of their race, gender, religion, nationality, or other characteristics
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Equal protection of the lawsthe idea that people who are in the same situation must be treated the same by the government
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Espionagethe practice of spying or using spies to obtain information about the plans and activities especially of a foreign government or a competing company
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Espionage Act of 1917an act passed by Congress during World War I. This act made it a crime for any person to interfere with U.S. efforts in the war against Germany. Anyone who publicly protested the war or the military draft was subject to investigation
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Establishment Clausethe part of the First Amendment that protects Americans from government-sponsored religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”
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Evidenceoral statements, documents, and other material objects that are admissible as testimony in a court of law
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Exclusionary Rulerule that prohibits the use of illegally obtained evidence in a criminal trial
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Executive branchthe part of the government that is responsible for carrying out laws. The president is the head of the national executive branch.
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Executive orderan order to the executive branch by the president. This has the same effect as a law, except it is not passed by Congress.
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Executive privilegethe idea that a president can keep certain information private from Congress, the courts, or the public
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Expressive conductactions that convey a particular message
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Expresslyspecifically listed in the text of the Constitution
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Facilitya building or place that provides a particular service or is used for a particular industry
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Fair administrationa fair way to carry out a procedure.
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Federalthe level of government that controls the United States as a whole rather than just a single state.
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Federal Courta court established by the authority of a federal government, as opposed to one established by a state government
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Federal criminal casea case in which the defendant is being accused and tried for breaking a United States federal law (as opposed to a state law).
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Federalisma system of government that divides power between the state governments and the national government.
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Felonya serious criminal offense punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year
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Fetusthe medical term used for an unborn baby.