Magruder's American Government: 13. State and Local Governments, Sections 1–4

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  1. popular
    carried on by or for the people (or citizens) at large
    Because the first State constitutions came out of the same revolutionary ferment, they shared many basic features. Each proclaimed the principles of popular sovereignty and limited government.
  2. sovereignty
    government free from external control
    Because the first State constitutions came out of the same revolutionary ferment, they shared many basic features. Each proclaimed the principles of popular sovereignty and limited government.
  3. fundamental
    being or involving basic facts or principles
    Constitutions are fundamental laws—laws of such basic and lasting importance they cannot be changed as ordinary law can be.
  4. initiative
    a new strategy or plan to solve a problem or improve a situation
    In 18 States, the voters themselves can propose constitutional amendments through the initiative, a process by which a certain number of qualified voters sign petitions in favor of a proposal.
  5. constituent
    a citizen who is represented in a government by officials
    When, for example, it proposes an amendment to the State’s constitution, it is not making law. It is, instead, exercising a nonlegislative power: the constituent power.
  6. referendum
    a legislative act referred for approval to a popular vote
    A referendum is a process in which the legislature refers a measure to the voters for final approval or rejection.
  7. recall
    the act of removing an official by petition
    In 19 States, the governor may be recalled by the voters. The recall is a petition procedure by which voters may remove an elected official from office before the completion of his or her regular term.
  8. veto
    the power to prohibit or reject a proposed or intended act
    Forty-four States give the governor the item veto—the power to eliminate one or more items from a bill without rejecting the entire measure.
  9. clemency
    leniency and compassion shown toward offenders
    Principally, the governor has various powers of executive clemency: powers of mercy that may be shown to persons convicted of crime.
  10. pardon
    a warrant granting release from punishment for an offense
    With the power of pardon, the governor may relieve someone of the legal consequences of a crime.
  11. commutation
    a warrant substituting a lesser punishment for a greater one
    The power of commutation may be used to commute a sentence imposed by a court. Thus, a death sentence might be commuted to life in prison, or a sentence might be commuted to “time served,” which leads to the release of a prisoner from custody.
  12. reprieve
    postpone the punishment of a convicted criminal
    The power to reprieve can be used to postpone the execution of a sentence.
  13. parole
    a conditional release from imprisonment
    The power of parole permits the release of a prisoner short of the completion of a sentence.
  14. constitutional
    sanctioned by or consistent with or operating under the law
    The highest form of law in this country is constitutional law. It is based on the United States Constitution, the State constitutions, and judicial interpretations of those documents.
  15. statutory
    prescribed or authorized by or punishable under law
    There has been a marked failure in every State to distinguish fundamental law, that which is basic and of lasting importance and should be in the constitution, from statutory law, that which should be enacted as ordinary law by the legislature.
  16. administrative
    responsible for managing the affairs of a group of people
    Administrative law is composed of the rules, orders, and regulations issued by federal, State, or local executive officers, acting under proper constitutional and/or statutory authority.
  17. common law
    a law established by following earlier judicial decisions
    Common law is unwritten, judge-made law that has developed over centuries from those generally accepted ideas of right and wrong that have gained judicial recognition.
  18. precedent
    a legal decision that influences subsequent decisions
    A decision, once made, becomes a precedent, a guide to be followed in all later, similar cases, unless compelling reasons call for either an exception or its abandonment and the setting of a new precedent.
  19. equity
    the quality of being fair, reasonable, or impartial
    The equity branch of the law supplements common law. It developed in England to provide equity—“fairness, justice, and right”—when remedies under the common law fell short of that goal.
  20. criminal law
    the body of law dealing with crimes and their punishment
    Criminal law is that branch of the law that regulates human conduct. It identifies and defines those actions that are crimes and provides for their punishment.
  21. felony
    a serious crime, such as murder or arson
    A felony is the greater offense, punishable by a heavy fine, imprisonment, or even death—for example, murder, robbery, assault, or kidnapping.
  22. misdemeanor
    a crime less serious than a felony
    A misdemeanor is a lesser wrong and may be punished by a lighter fine and/or a shorter jail term—for example, a traffic violation, underage drinking, or disorderly conduct.
  23. civil law
    the non-criminal legal code established by a state or nation
    The area of law related to human conduct that is not criminal in nature is known as civil law. Civil law relates to those disputes between private persons and between private persons and government that are not covered by criminal law.
  24. tort
    a wrongdoing for which an action for damages may be brought
    A tort is a wrongful act that involves injury to one’s person, property, or reputation in a situation not covered by the terms of a contract—for example, an automobile accident, product liability, or libel.
  25. contract
    a binding agreement that is enforceable by law
    A contract is a legally binding agreement in which one party agrees to do something with or for another party—for example, an agreement covering the sale of property or the terms of employment.
  26. jury
    a body of citizens sworn to give a verdict in a court of law
    A jury is a body of persons selected according to law to hear evidence and decide questions of fact in a court case.
  27. petit jury
    the group that decides the outcome of a legal trial
    The petit jury, or trial jury, hears the evidence in a case and decides the disputed facts.
  28. warrant
    a judicial writ commanding police to perform specified acts
    A warrant is a court order authorizing, or making legal, some official action.
  29. preliminary
    preceding or in preparation for something more important
    A preliminary hearing is generally the first step in a major criminal prosecution.
  30. magistrate
    a lay judge or civil authority who administers the law
    For the most part, magistrates handle those minor civil complaints and misdemeanor cases that arise in an urban setting. They preside over what often are called magistrates’ courts or police courts.
  31. appellate
    of or relating to a legal appeal or a court of appeals
    The appellate courts have different names among the States, but they are most often called the court of appeals. Most of their work involves the review of cases decided in the trial courts.
  32. jurisdiction
    the right and power to interpret and apply the law
    That is, these appeals courts exercise mostly appellate jurisdiction. Their original jurisdiction, where it exists, is limited to a few specific kinds of cases—election disputes, for example.
Created on May 28, 2021 (updated June 10, 2021)

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