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Glossary of Terms

Nominated Judge

A nominated judge must pass another approval process before being confirmed. For example, the President nominates candidates for federal judgeships, but they must be approved by the Senate before taking office.

Elected Judge

Elected judges are chosen by a popular vote, just like Representatives and Senators. Some elections are partisan, where the candidates run as members of the Republican or Democrat Party, for example. Some elections are nonpartisan, where there are no Party labels for the candidates.

Appointed Judge

Appointed judges are chosen by elected officials, rather than elected by citizens. In some states, the governor or legislature appoints judges. In other states, special legislative committees choose judges to appoint.

Due Process

Due process is the common law principle that all individuals deserve the same legal process and treatment. For example, the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights guarantees all individuals a jury during criminal trials. When you think of due process, think of a fair procedure.

Appellate Court

Appellate courts review the decisions of “lower” courts. They can either uphold or overturn previous decisions.


In judicial terms, jurisdiction is the geographical or legal area where courts have the authority to rule on the law.


Plaintiffs bring an action to court. They are accusing another of a violation.


Defendants are the accused in judicial procedures.

Civil case

Civil cases are typically lawsuits that do not involve criminal charges by a government against an individual.

Criminal case

These cases are brought against defendants who have been accused of breaking the law.