Natural law – God’s or nature’s law that defines right from wrong and is higher than human law.
Separation of powers – Constitutional division of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, with the legislative branch making law, the executive applying and enforcing the law, and the judiciary interpreting the law.
Checks and balances – Constitutional grant of powers that enables each of the three branches of government to check some acts of the others and therefore ensure that no branch can dominate.
Divided government – Governance divided between the parties, especially when one holds the presidency and the other controls one or both houses of Congress.
Direct primary – Election in which voters choose party nominees.
Initiative – Procedure whereby a certain number of voters may, by petition, propose a law or constitutional amendment and have it submitted to the voters.
Referendum – Procedure for submitting to popular vote measures passed by the legislature or proposed amendments to a state constitution.
Recall – Procedure for submitting to popular vote the removal of officials from office before the end of their term.
Marbury v. Madison - A landmark case in United States law and the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States, under Article Three of the United States Constitution. The case resulted from a petition to the Supreme Court by William Marbury, who had been appointed as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia by President John Adams shortly before leaving office, but whose commission was not delivered as required by John Marshall, Adams's Secretary of State. When Thomas Jefferson assumed office, he ordered the new Secretary of State, James Madison, to withhold Marbury's and several other men's commissions. Marbury and three others petitioned the Court to force Madison to deliver the commission to Marbury. The Supreme Court denied Marbury's petition, holding that the statute upon which he based his claim was unconstitutional.
Judicial review – The power of a court to refuse to enforce a law or a government regulation that in the opinion of the judges conflicts with the U.S. Constitution or, in a state court, the state constitution.
Writ of mandamus – Court order directing an official to perform an official duty.
Impeachment – Formal accusation by the lower house of legislature against a public official, the first step in removal from office.
Executive order – Directive issued by a president or governor that has the force of law.
Executive privilege – The power to keep executive communications confidential, especially if they relate to national security.
Impoundment – Presidential refusal to allow an agency to spend funds that Congress authorized and appropriated.
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