Virtual Civics - The Judicial Branch


A request for a higher court to review a case from a lower court.

Bench Trial

A trial in which the judge alone hears the case; a trial without a jury.

Circuit Courts

Part of federal court system made up of the 13 courts spread across the US. They are also known as the "courts of appeal" because they hear cases appealed from the District Courts.


In a civil trial, it is the person or party that answers a complaint. In a criminal trial, it is the person or party that is being accused of committing a crime.

District Courts

Federal trial courts; the lowest federal courts.

Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988)

Supreme Court decision which held that public schools can limit what appears in school-sponsored student publications, such as school newspapers, yearbooks, theatrical productions, and creative writing assignments, so long as their actions are related to

Judicial Review

The power of the courts to declare laws unconstitutional.


The authority of a court to hear a case.


A written statement by the court (or a justice) expressing the reasons for its decision in a case.


An individual or group who bring a complaint against another party in a court of law.


A prior judicial decision that serves as a guideline for settling similar cases in the future.

Supreme Court

The highest federal court in the United States. It consists of nine justices, each appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Appointment is for life. John Roberts is the current Chief Justice.

Texas v. Johnson (1989)

Supreme Court case which struck down a Texas law that banned flag burning. The majority decision of the court stated that flag-burning is symbolic speech with a political purpose and is protected by 1st Amendment.

Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

Supreme Court case which ruled in favor of public school students' rights to freedom of expression, when such displays do not cause disruption. Students in an Iowa school were suspended for wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam war. The court rule