HistoryCentral.com > American History > US Civic Terms > A
The Civics Glossary A
Act of Settlement (1701) - British law asserting the independence of the court system from the monarchy. Along with the British Bill of Rights (1689) and the Petition of Right (1629), this law helped shape the British constitutional system.
Affirmative action - a set of policies and procedures aimed at corrected the effects of past discrimination against women and minorities, especially in employment and education. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the major government agency which deals with affirmative action issues. Affirmative action has been a controversial issue among those who view it as unconstitutional "reverse discrimination" (see Bakke v. Regents of the University of California, 1978) and those who feel that it is a necessary, if flawed, way of ensuring equality in hiring and school admissions. One of the consequences of the 1989 case, Wards Cove Packing Company v. Atonio, was that the Supreme Court shifted the burden of proof of discrimination from the employers to the employees. This overturned the previous precedent that required employers to prove that hiring and employment practices were non-discriminatory with regards to gender or race. Nevertheless, Congress passed a law in 1991 which overturned the Wards Cove decision. The future of affirmative action policies is still unclear.
African Development Foundation - independent federal agency which reports directly to the President of the United States. Established by the African Development Foundation Act, it became operational in 1984, and is headed by a seven-member Board of Directors appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. The African Development Foundation provides assistance and support for indigenous, community-based self-help organizations in their efforts to solve their development problems.
Agricultural Cooperative Service - part of the Department of Agriculture. It assists farmers in their efforts to form cooperatives and maintain them, especially those geared to marketing crops and purchasing farm supplies.
Agricultural Marketing Service - created in 1972 by the Secretary of Agriculture as part of the Department of Agriculture. This agency helps farmers market their products. In addition, it provides daily reports on crop conditions, and other agricultural market data, such as demand and prices. The Agricultural Marketing Service enforces laws against fraud and other deceptive marketing practices.
Agricultural Research Service - part of the Department of Agriculture. It conducts research programs, both basic and applied, on all phases of agriculture; and provides grants to support research and other activities at state agricultural experiment stations and land-grant universities. The Agricultural Research Service also provides funding for the Cooperative Extension Service, which promotes "beyond the classroom" education and other program, especially in rural areas, through land grant universities and county extension agents. In addition, the Agricultural Research Service administers grants and other forms of financial aid for higher education in food and agricultural sciences, and in veterinary medicine.
Amendment (constitutional) - an alteration or addition to a document. Although over 6,000 constitutional amendments to the US Constitution have been proposed in Congress, only 27 have been adopted, the most recent having been ratified in 1992. According to the Constitution, there are four ways in which it can be amended. An amendment can be proposed to the states either after a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress, or by a vote in two-thirds of the state legislatures. Once it has been proposed to the states, it can be ratified either by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states or by conventions in three-fourths of the states. All 27 amendments, except the 21st Amendment, were proposed by a two-thirds majority of Congress and ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states.
Amicus curiae - a written brief which is submitted to the Supreme Court by a third party, either an individual or organization. An amicus curiae allows the opinions of the third party, with regards to the case at hand, to be considered by the court. "Amicus curiae" means "friend of the court" in Latin.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service - most recently established in 1977, part of the Department of Agriculture. This service conducts inspections of animals and plants to prevent pests and disease, or to control and eradicate them once they are discovered. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has the authority to impose quarantines to stop shipments in interstate and foreign commerce. The service also licenses and regulates the manufacture and sale of chemical and non chemical products used to prevent or treat animal and plant pests and diseases.
Appeal - formal request that a higher court hear a case that has been decided in a lower court. State Supreme Courts are the highest courts which can hear appeals for cases involving state law, while the US Supreme Court is the highest court which can hear appeals for cases involving federal or constitutional law. An court appeal to a state appellate court are generally made on procedural grounds, i.e., on the basis that some aspect of proper legal procedure was not observed in the original trial. Anyone can petition the US Supreme Court to take a case under advisement. However, the Court is only likely to accept a case if it involves issues related to the constitutionality of the lower court's decision, or state versus federal powers.
Appellate court - a court which hears cases which have been decided in lower courts. For cases involving state law, most states provide state appellate courts, while federal circuit courts ("courts of appeal") deal with most appeals related to federal law. The State Supreme Court is the highest appellate court, the "court of last resort," for cases involving state law, while the US Supreme Court is the highest appellate court, the "court of last resort," for cases involving federal law.
Appointed - chosen by one person or a small group of people. Some positions in government are filled by people who are appointed by other public officials. Supreme Court justices, members of the President's Cabinet, and directors of many federal agencies are appointed by the President. All people appointed by the President have to be approved by the Senate, through the confirmation process.
Armed Forces of the United States - consists of the US Army, US Navy (which includes the Marines), the US Air Force, and the US Coast Guard. The Coast Guard is at service in the Department of Transportation, except in times or war or when the President directs, at which time it operates as part of the Navy. The Army, Navy and Air Force are at service under the Department of Defense.
Articles of Confederation - pre-Constitution document, ratified in 1781, creating the first government of the United States. The Confederation, established by the Articles, was a loose union of states with a weak Congress and no executive or judicial branch.
Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development - an official of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development administers grant programs to help state and local governments in their efforts to improve urban housing conditions.
Assistant Secretary for Housing - also called the Federal Housing Commissioner. An official of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Housing Commissioner administers three types of programs: mortgage insurance programs; loans programs to facilitate the housing projects for the elderly and the handicapped; and the Rent Supplement Program, in which the federal government pays part of the monthly rents of low-income families.
Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing - part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing administers public housing programs for low-income families, as well as housing programs for areas on or near Native American reservations. He or she also enforces laws which curb interstate land sale fraud.
|© 2000 MultiEducator, Inc. All rights reserved
Report Problems here.