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a document American colonists wrote in 1776 to get Americans to fight for separation for Britain. (see: John Locke).
Articles of Confederation
U.S. rules from 1781 to 1789
U.S. Constitution
(See all General principles in Unit One except: confederate and authoritarian!)
U.S. Bill of Rights
the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Most U.S. rights were copied
common good
beneficial to all (eg: clean environment; equity)
representative democracy
people rule indirectly through elected legislators
limited government
public officials must obey the Constitution
central and state levels of gov’t share power
separation of powers
three branches with different power (executive legislative judiciary)
checks and balances
each branch is powerful and can block other branches
rule of law
everyone must always obey the law
individual rights and responsibilities
each of us must respect everyone else’s rights
a system in which the states have more power than the central government. Opposite of unitary. For example, if Maryland, Virginia, and the 48 other states had more power than the government in Washington, D.C., then the system would be confederate.
a system in which the central government has more power than the states. Opposite of confederate. For example, the Maryland government in Annapolis has more power than Montgomery County and any of the other county governments in Maryland.
a government that many people control. Most people have power.
undemocratic. A government that few people control. Most people have no power.
improvements to the U.S. Constitution. More than 3/4 of the states must approve these.
consent of the governed
gov’t has power only because we obey the law
majority rule
largest group has most power
popular sovereignty
McCullough v. Maryland
a case in 1819 in which the U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled that:
1) national powers are stronger than state powers, and that
2) Congress can make laws not listed in the Constitution as long as the goal fits one of the other powers the Constitution gives to Congress.
Marbury v. Madison
a case in 1803 in which the U.S. Supreme Court justices established the power of judicial review. Maybe the most important case ever.
Plessy v. Ferguson
1896 USSC case that began when the state of Louisiana arrested Homer Plessy for buying a ticket for the white part of a segregated train. Plessy argued that Louisiana’s law violated the equal protection clause of Amendment 14. Louisiana argued that the railroad cars were equal because all were going to the same destination. The majority of USSC justices ruled that separate is legal if it is equal.
Brown v. Board of Education
1954 USSC decision that racial segregation in public schools violated the equal protection clause of Amendment 14. This decision overruled the USSC’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. The court ruled that even if the government funded black schools equal to white schools, the policy of segregation hurt the feelings of black people forever. Thus, separate can never be equal.
Miranda v. Arizona
a 1966 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court set the precedent that before police can question a suspect, they must inform the suspect of some of his due process rights.
Gideon v. Wainwright
case in which the U.S. Supreme Court set the precedent that states must pay for counsel for indigent poor defendants.
Tinker v. Des Moines Board of Education
case in which the U.S. Supreme Court set the precedent that students may participate in symbolic political speech in class as long as it does not violate other the rights of other students.
New Jersey v. T.L.O
case in which the U.S. Supreme Court set the precedent that a public school administrator can search a student if he has reasonable suspicion that the student has evidence regarding a violation of a school rule or a law.
electoral process
to be a candidate, one must file for office, win a party primary, and then win a general election. to be a voter in Maryland, a person must be an 18 year old citizen by general election day and must register 30 days before the election.
political party
a private organization that works to get its member to win elections. The two major political parties are the Democratic and Republican parties. (Fewer and fewer citizens are joining these two parties.)
interest group
private organization that lobbies. Most interest groups also do research, educate people, and try to win elections.
people born in the U.S. or whose parent is a U.S. citizen. Noncitizen residents can become citizens through the nationalization process. Citizens under 18 and noncitizens cannot vote but can give time and money to interest groups, parties, and candidates.
Mass Media and its roles
TV, movies, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the world wide web. Technologies that people use to communicate with many people at once. Helpful for propaganda to influence public opinion.
public opinion
the way people feel about issues. Surveys (polls) can measure this.
regional interests
people who live in different geographic areas have different needs. For example, people who live in rural areas want government to help farmers.
campaign finance
money a candidate raises to pay for advertising through the media and to pay for staff.
demographic trends
the ways in which statistics about groups of people seem to be going. For example, one demographic group is younger voters. The current trend among younger voters is that more and more of them are apathetic and do not participate in politics.
primary and general elections
parties have primaries to select one candidate to represent the party in final (general) election against the other party.
voting patterns
the way certain groups of people tend to vote. For example, people with more wealth and education are more likely to vote than people with less wealth and education.
political action committees (PACs)
organizations that raise money and contribute it to candidates. Very similar to interest groups.
people who to ask the government for something such as 1) kill unfavorable bills and 2) vote to pass favorable bills.
people who have officially filed for office and are running to win elected office.
citizens get to vote YES or NO on a ballot question in an election. If more people vote YES than the question becomes a new law.
citizens collect signatures of registered voters to qualify a question for a referendum.
changing the assignments of legislators due to a change in population distribution. For example, after the census every 10 years, the government reassigns the 435 U.S. House of Representative seats among the 50 states so that states that have gained the most population may gain seats at the expense of states that have lost the most population.
powers of legislatures
making laws, checking the executive and judicial branches.
amendment process
normally a law can only become an amendment if 2/3 of Congress proposes an amendment then 3/4 of states ratify it.
influencing the lawmaking process
people, interest groups, and PACS can use 1st amendment rights to lobby legislators and participate in elections.
structure of the national and state legislatures
states created the Constitution to include a bicameral ( two house) Congress similar to state legislatures. Both levels have a House and a more powerful Senate.
powers of the executive
states created the Constitution to include a President similar to state Governors. Each carries out laws with the help of executive departments headed by cabinet secretaries. Each can check the legislative and judicial branches. Only the President is Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces.
roles of executives
The Governor and President have executive, legislative, judicial, political ( party), and symbolic functions. The President also has diplomatic and military power
structure of executive branch
each executive department includes hundreds or thousands of worker headed by a cabinet secretary. The executive is the boss of the secretaries.
presidential use of power and executive orders
as time has evolved, the national government has gained power at the expense of the states. The President has grown more powerful compared with Congress. An executive order is a written command from the executive to an executive department.
helps protect our environment.
helps protect us from unsafe medicine and foods.
helps protect us from unfair actions by businesses.
helps protect us from unfair action by communication companies.
helps make air travel safer.
judicial review
the power of the courts to strike down (cancel) a law or executive action that violates the U.S. Constitution. It is an important part of checks and balances. One cannot find this term in the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court established judicial review by precedent in the case Marbury v. Madison.
structure of judicial branches
there are two levels of courts: federal ( national) and state. Each has district courts in which a jury or judge listens to evidence from witnesses and decides the verdict. Losing parties can appeal to a higher or appeals court. The higher court will only take an appeal if the earlier trial was unfair or if the law in question might violate the Constitution. The highest court is the U.S. Supreme Court.
government role in balancing rights v. order/safety
if the government increases security, it may consequently decrease freedom. For example, security cameras above sidewalks infringe on our right to privacy.
Bill of Rights
contents include: separation of church and state, free exercise of religion, free speech, free petition, free assembly, free press, right to bear arms ( guns), freedom from having soldiers quartered in your home, and MANY specific parts of due process of law, right to a jury trial in civil cases, and other rights not listed.
14th amendment due process clause states, not just the national government, must not "deprive people of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." That means it can hurt you unless it follows the steps.
states, not just the national government, must not "deprive people of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." That means it can hurt you unless it follows the steps.
5th amendment due process clause
says that the national government must respect all the steps before hurting us.
civil right
a citizen freedom or action that the government protects.
actions people should do. These can be voluntary (such as voting) or mandatory (such as serving on a jury). A primary responsibility is to respect other peoples’ rights.
freedoms that some believe are given by God or nature, whether or not a particular government protects it. One may NOT exercise a right if it hurts other peoples’ rights.
due process
no unreasonable searches and seizures ( arrests), right to know the charges against oneself, writ of habeas corpus, freedom from self-incrimination, right to counsel ( lawyer), freedom from trial for a felony unless upon indictment by a grand jury, right to a speedy public trial, right to an impartial jury, right to compel witnesses for one’s defense ( subpoena), right to confront witnesses, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and right to appeal.
fairness; equal protection.
eminent domain
the government’s power to take your property. It can only do this if it will use it for the common good (such as for a road) and pay you just compensation ( a fair price). You can find this in Amendment V.
equal protection
Amendment 14 says that government must treat people the same unless there is good reason not to. For example, racial segregation violates equal protection; separate bathrooms for men and women does NOT violate it.
the party defending itself in a case. A suspect defends herself against the prosecution. (When we study civil law, we will see that defendant also means the party defending itself against a lawsuit.)
the government attorney trying to prove the defendant guilty.
reasonable doubt
a juror on a petite jury in a criminal law trial must say that the defendant is "not guilty" if ANY specific evidence makes them think the defendant might not be guilty. It takes more evidence to win in criminal law than in civil law.
a major crime.
a minor crime.
grand jury
a impartial jury that looks at evidence to decide if there is enough evidence to send the suspect to court for a trial. If they decide that there is enough evidence, then they vote to indict. If the grand jury does NOT indict, then the person does NOT go to trial. Usually only guaranteed to suspects in federal or serious state crimes. It has 23 members
a grand jury’s formal decision to send the suspect on trial.
probable cause
likely chance, such as chances are better than 50% that the suspect is the one who committed the crime. Police usually cannot arrest a suspect without probable cause.
presumption of innocence
everyone is innocent of a crime until a petite jury announces a verdict of "guilty"
plea bargaining
negotiating between prosecution and defense. In most cases, instead of having a trial, the defendant pleads ( states that he is) guilty to a lesser charge and/or testifying against another suspect in exchange for the prosecutor not prosecuting him for the bigger crime.
writ of habeas corpus
a judge tells a suspect why the police arrested him. This protects us from a bad cop.
the defendant has the power to force witnesses to testify in her favor.
the party suing (in civil law). complainer.
actions that hurt someone or someone’s property and can result in losing a civil law suit.
an agreement guaranteed by law. (see: breach of contract)
breach of contract
to violate a legal agreement. The person who breaks the contract might get sued and might lose!
payments the court forces the negligent defendant to pay to the plaintiff.
preponderance of evidence
greater weight of the proven facts. In a civil case, the petite jury must rule for the party that the facts favor, even if it is only a little bit greater (e.g.: 51%)
petite jury
an impartial jury that listens to all evidence in a trial. At the end of the trial, it decides who won the trial. It has between 6 and 12 members.
out of court settlements
solving a disagreements

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