Government And Public Political Science

Government And Public Political Science

In this chapter we discuss Government And Public Political Science.


Written defamation of another person. For public officials and public figures, the constitution tests designed to restrict this are especially rigid.

Ex Post Facto Laws

A law which punishes people for a crime that was not a crime when it was committed. Congress cannot pass these laws, as they work to the disadvantage of the accused and are retroactive.

Civil Liberties

Constitutionally protected freedoms of all persons against government restraint.

Civil Rights

Constitutional rights of all people, not just citizens, to due process and the equal protection of the laws.

Legal Privileges

Granted by the government that may be subject to conditions or restrictions; for example, the right to welfare benefits or a driver’s license.

Due Process Clause

Clause in the Fifth Amendment limiting the power of the national government; similar clause in the Fourteenth Amendment prohibiting state governments from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

Selective Incorporation

The process by which provisions of the Bill of Rights are brought within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment and so applied to state and local governments.

Establishment Clause

Clause in the First Amendment that says the government may not establish an official religion or support one faith over another.

Free Exercise Clause

Clause in the First Amendment that states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

Lemon Test

The three-part test for Establishment Clause cases that a law must pass before it is declared constitutional: it must have a secular purpose; it must neither advance nor inhibit religion; and it must not cause excessive entanglement with religion.

Endorsement Test

Forbids governmental practices that a reasonable observer would view as endorsing religion; championed by Sandra Day O’Connor

Writ of Habeas Corpus

A court order requiring jailers to explain to a judge why they are holding a prisoner in custody.

Nonpreferentialist Test

Constitution prohibits favoritism toward any particular religion, but does not prohibit government aid to ALL religions; championed by Chief Justice Rehnquist

Strict Separation

Separation of Church and State – Even indirect aid for religion crosses the line separating the government from religion; supported by Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer


Money that the government provides to parents to pay their children’s tuition in a public or private school of their choice.


Quality or state of a work that taken as a whole appeals to a prurient interest in sex by depicting sexual conduct in a patently offensive way and that lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Fighting Words

Words that by their very nature inflict injury on those to whom they are addressed or incite them to acts of violence

Commercial Speech

Advertisements and commercials for products and services; they receive less First Amendment protection, primarily to discourage false and misleading ads.

Bad Tendency Test

Interpretation of the First Amendment that would permit legislatures to forbid speech encouraging people to engage in illegal action.

Clear and Present Danger Test

Interpretation of the First Amendment that holds that the government cannot interfere with speech unless the speech presents a clear and present danger that it will lead to evil or illegal acts.

Preferred Position Doctrine

Interpretation of the First Amendment that holds that freedom of expression is so essential to democracy that governments should not punish persons for what they say, only for what they do.

Nonprotected Speech

Libel, obscenity, fighting words, and commercial speech, which are not entitled to constitutional protection in all circumstances.

Prior Restraint

Censorship imposed before a speech is made or a newspaper is published; usually presumed to be unconstitutional.

Content or Viewpoint Neutral

Laws that apply to all kinds of speech and to all views, not just that which is unpopular or divisive.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Law passed in 1966 that requires feral agencies to disclose information to the public upon request. There are some exceptions to this rule, especially when it comes to matters of public security.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

An independent regulatory commission that licenses and regulates broadcasting stations; it may regulate content considered to be indecent.

Civil Disobedience

Deliberate refusal to obey a law or comply with the orders of public officials as a means of expressing opposition.

Time, Place, and Manner Regulations

The right of the court to regulate certain details of assembly out of public interest/a test for public assemblies; time- how long, what time; place- may limit assembly to certain streets; manner- what assembly is doing

Property Rights

The rights of an individual to own, use, rent, invest in, buy, and sell property.

Eminent Domain

The power of the government to take private property for public use; just compensation must be given for the property taken.

Regulatory Taking

A government regulation that effectively takes land by restricting its use, even if it remains in the owner’s name.

Due Process

Principle in the Fifth Amendment stating that the government must follow proper constitutional procedures in trials and in other actions it takes against individuals; restrains government officials.

Procedural Due Process

Constitutional requirement that governments proceed by proper methods; limits how government may exercise power.

Substantive Due Process

Constitutional requirement that governments act reasonably and that the substance of the laws themselves be fair and reasonable; limits what a government may do.

Search Warrant

A writ issued by a magistrate that authorizes the police to search a particular place or person, specifying the place to be searched and the objects to be seized.

Probable Cause

Reasonable cause for issuing a search warrant or making an arrest; more than mere suspicion.

General Search Warrant

Warrants that authorize police to search a particular place or person without limitation – unconstitutional.

Warrantless Search

A search based on reasonable suspicion made without first seeking a warrant and permissible under specified circumstances.

Stop and Frisk

The right of the police to detain an individual for a brief period of time and to search the outside of the person’s clothing if the police have a reasonable suspicion that the individual has committed or is about to commit a crime

Exclusionary Rule

Requirement that evidence unconstitutionally or illegally obtained be excluded from a criminal trial.

Grand Jury

A jury of 12 to 23 persons who, in private, hear evidence presented by the government to determine whether persons shall be required to stand trial. If the jury believes there is sufficient evidence that a crime was committed, it issues an indictment.


A formal written statement from a grand jury charging an individual with an offense; also called a true bill.

Plea Bargain

Agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant that the defendant will plead guilty to a lesser offense to avoid having to stand trial for a more serious offense.

Petit Jury

A jury of 6 to 12 persons who determine guilt or innocence in a civil or criminal action.

Peremptory Challenge

Attorney rejection of a juror without stated reason (may be due to race, ethnic origin, or gender).

Double Jeopardy

Trial or punishment for the same crime by the same government; forbidden by the Constitution.

Natural Rights

The rights of all people to dignity and worth; also called human rights.

Equality of Opportunity

The idea that each person is guaranteed the same chance to succeed in life regardless of race, ethnic origin, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.

Affirmative Action

Remedial action designed to overcome the effects of discrimination against minorities and women.

Equality of Results

Idea that all forms of inequality, including economic disparities, should be completely eradicated; giving certain people a head start so everyone has a fair chance to succeed.


A legal action conferring citizenship to an alien.

Dual Citizenship

Citizenship in more than one nation.

Right of Expatriation

The right to renounce one’s citizenship.

Women’s Suffrage

The right of women to vote.


A tract of land given to the tribal nations by treaties with the federal government.

Equal Protection Clause

Clause in the 14th Amendment that forbids any state to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. The 5th Amendment also imposes this limitation on the national government. This clause is the major constitutional restraint on the power of the government to discriminate against persons because of race, national origin, or gender.

Rational Basis Test

A standard developed by the courts to test the constitutionality of a law; when applied, a law is constitutional as long as it meets a reasonable government interest.

Strict Scrutiny Test

A test applied by the court when a classification is based on race; the government must show that there is a compelling reason for the law and no other less restrictive way to meet the interest

Suspect Classification

Legal classifications based on minority groups that are assumed to have discrimination as their purpose and are unconstitutional – through these, people have been deliberately subjected to severely unequal treatment and have been rendered politically powerless.

Heightened Scrutiny Test

This test hs been applied when a law classifies based on sex; to be upheld, the law must meet an important government interest.

Fundamental Rights

Rights and privileges considered essential by the general society.

Literacy Test

A test administered as a precondition for voting, often used to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote; now illegal.

White Primary

A democratic party primary in the old “one party South” that was limited to white people and essentially constituted an election; ruled unconstitutional in Smith v. Allwright (1944).

Racial Gerrymandering

The drawing of election districts so as to ensure that members of a certain race are a minority in the district; ruled unconstitutional in Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1960).

Poll Tax

Tax require to vote; prohibited for national elections by the Twenty-fourth Amendment (1964) and ruled unconstitutional for all elections in Harper v. Board of Elections (1966).

Majority-Minority District

A congressional district created to include a majority of minority voters; ruled constitutional so long as race is not the main factor in redistricting.

Jim Crow Laws

State laws formerly pervasive throughout the South requiring public facilities and accommodations to be segregated by race; ruled unconstitutional.

Commerce Clause

The clause in the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) that gives Congress the power to regulate all business activities that cross state lines or affect more than one state or other nations.

Class Action Suit

Lawsuit brought by an individual or a group of people on behalf of all those similarly situated.

Restrictive Covenant

A provision in a deed to real property prohibiting its sale to a person of a particular race or religion. Judicial enforcement of such deeds is unconstitutional.

De Jure Segregation

Segregation imposed by law.

De Facto Segregation

Segregation resulting from economic of social conditions or personal choice.

Reverse Discrimination

The assertion that affirmative action programs that require preferential treatment for minorities discriminate against those who have no minority status.