Landmark Supreme Court Cases

When the stories of We the People become cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and when those cases result in the opinions of the Court, history turns. The ways we think about and live under the Constitution are reflected in the Court’s interpretations in both their historical contexts and their legacies. Some cases — and the Court’s opinions in them — so profoundly alter our constitutional understandings that they can only rightly be called Landmark Cases, markers of where we have traveled as a nation. In this way, the Landmark Cases show us what we have tried, where we have been, and where we are — leaving We the People and future sessions of the Supreme Court to determine how we move forward toward a more perfect union.

3 Must-Have Supreme Court Nomination Documents

“3 Must-Have Supreme Court Nomination Documents” looks at President Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 1986. Primary Source A outlines the suggested qualities of an ideal candidate for President Reagan to nominate to the Supreme Court. Primary Source B provides a Memo to the President from Peter J.
Wallison, Counsel to the President, in which Wallison provides background information with a few potential questions for both Justice Rehnquist and Judge Scalia. Primary Source C is a transcript from President Reagan’s August 9, 1986, Radio Talk on the appointment of the Supreme Court Justices. Each of these documents showcase the amount of thought and consideration the president must take when nominating a Supreme Court Justice.

Supreme Court Cases On Display

The purpose of this lesson is to have students working in groups of two or three focus of one historic Supreme Court case. Students will understand the process of bringing a case to the Supreme Court, read arguments and discover the importance of this third branch of government. Students will discover the changes these cases made in the lives of people. Then students can determine how the outcome may have affected their lives.
Use Constituting America’s Constitution Archives on U.S. Supreme Court Cases and Justices to support this lesson.

Landmark Supreme Court Cases

In a partnership with the National Constitution Center, Khan Academy talked to constitutional scholars about ten of the most significant Supreme Court cases in history. Teachers can use this lesson as a supplemental resource during their Supreme Court unit to show how constitutional scholars can debate the outcomes of Supreme Court cases, as well as the impact these cases have had on the United States.

Historic Supreme Court Cases

Students will learn about historic Supreme Court cases and the process of bringing a case to the Supreme Court. They will read arguments and discover the importance of this third branch of government. Students will discover the changes these cases made in the lives of people. From the knowledge they gain, students can determine how the outcome may have affected their lives.

Starter Kit: Judicial Branch Podcast

The Supreme Court, considered by some to be the most powerful branch, had humble beginnings. How did it stop being, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, “”next to nothing?” Do politics affect the court’s decisions? And how do cases even get there?
This episode features Larry Robbins, lawyer and eighteen-time advocate in the Supreme Court, and Kathryn DePalo, professor at Florida International University and past president of the Florida Political Science Association.
This short episode includes a one-page Graphic Organizer for students to take notes on while listening, as well as discussion questions on the back side.

The Appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor

The U.S. Constitution grants the President the power to appoint people to a variety of government positions. These appointments require careful thought and consideration since the people can have a great impact on the lives of many Americans during that President’s term. Some appointments need even greater thought and consideration, and those are to the federal judicial system and more importantly, to the Supreme Court of the United States. Justices of the Supreme Court (and other federal courts) serve lifetime appointments. Their rulings as they interpret the Constitution, and other situations as outlined in Article III of the Constitution, can have far-reaching effects for generations. With this awesome power to appoint comes an equally awesome responsibility to make sure that the individuals are the best people for the job. In this lesson, students will examine the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was also the first female Justice. Students will examine the process by which a President makes the selection and the steps that lead to that person being confirmed by the Senate (or not).

Bush v. Gore (2000)

This lesson looks at Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 election. First, students read about and discuss the Supreme Court case of Bush v. Gore. Then in small groups, students role play Supreme Court justices and apply Bush v. Gore to hypothetical election cases.

Grades 9-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Lesson Plans

The Power of One Decision: Brown v. Board of Education

When minority students decided to take their challenge of the “separate but equal” doctrine to the Supreme Court, the 1954 decision handed down by the court in Brown v. Board of Education and enforced by the executive branch, changed their lives and America forever. In this lesson plan, based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Conversation on the Constitution: Brown v. Board of Education,” students gain insight into decision-making at the Supreme Court, learn about the people behind the case, construct a persuasive argument, and evaluate the significance of Brown v. Board of Education.

Grades 8, 9-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Lesson Plans

U.S. Supreme Court Decisions and Justices Who Made Them

“Who cares what old people in black robes say?” As an educator you care. The challenge is how do you get your students excited about Article III of the Constitution. Constituting America has organized 90 Supreme Court cases of influential and history-changing decisions in its Constitution Archives. Need a judicial decision on what you are studying? Find it here. Need a Supreme Court ruling on a current event? Find it here. You get the picture. The material you seek is here. Your challenge, should you accept it, is make it come alive to your students.