Article III: The Judicial Branch

Article III establishes the judicial branch of government, which is responsible for interpreting the laws. At the highest level, the judicial branch is led by the U.S. Supreme Court, which today consists of nine justices. In the federal system, the lower courts consist of the courts of appeals and the district courts. Learn more about judicial independence and judicial review in the National Constitution Center’s learning module.

From Suffragist Sashes to Antiwar Armbands

In a 19th Amendment video, produced by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for use in classrooms, courtrooms, and the distance-learning space, an unlikely connection is made between two rights activists from different eras. Suffragette Virginia Minor and Vietnam war protester Mary Beth Tinker were separated by 100 years, but their passions came together in the legal history of the nation and of St. Louis, where they each worked through the courts to make social change. Both cases were decided – with different outcomes – by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Dialogue on the Fourteenth Amendment

The American Bar Association Dialogue program provides lawyers, judges and teachers with the resources they need to engage students and community members in a discussion of fundamental American legal principles and civic traditions. This Dialogue on the Fourteenth Amendment is composed of three parts:
Part 1: Equal Protection and Civil Rights – Participants discuss the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and consider how Congress, through federal legislation, has worked to help realize its constitutional promise.
Part 2: Incorporating the Bill of Rights examines the concept of incorporation. Using a case study of Gitlow v. New York, this section provides a guide to how courts have applied the Bill of Rights, selectively, to the states using the 14th Amendment.
Part 3: Ensuring Equality and Liberty explores how the 14th Amendment has been interpreted by courts to protect fundamental freedoms, including individuals’ right to marry.

Pathways to the Bench

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank, of Minnesota, is featured in the latest installment of the Pathways to the Bench video series produced by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to inspire and inform the public about the human face of the federal judiciary. In the series, individual judges talk about the personal, character-building challenges that have prepared them to serve on the bench. In this brief video, Judge Frank says that adversity has made him a better person and a better jurist.

How Federal Courts Impact You Every Day

2018 is the 229th anniversary of the creation of the federal courts. What difference do they make in the daily lives of law-abiding teens? From that first check of the mobile device in the morning to the last newscast at night, decisions made in federal courts touch every aspect of daily life. Who are the judges making the decisions? How are they selected? What is their job description? What is an impartial judiciary? How was the federal court system created?

Grades 6-12
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Research (Digests of Primary Sources)

U.S. Courts: Women’s History Month

The federal courts observe Women’s History Month by celebrating women’s education and accomplishments. Find inspiring profiles of women who made federal court history and inspired others to succeed and watch first-person videos of contemporary women who serve on the federal bench today.

Grades 8, 9-12, 5, 6, 7
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Oral Histories

Pathways to the Bench: African American History Month

Video profiles of seven African American federal judges, who overcame obstacles on their paths to the bench, are featured on the federal courts’ website. In their inspirational first-person narratives, they recount the challenges they faced growing up and offer uplifting insights. The four-minute videos are part of the federal courts’ Pathways to the Bench series.

Grades 10, 11, 12, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Video

The Rule of Law in Your Life

Rule of law is a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are: publicly promulgated, equally enforced, independently adjudicated, and consistent with international human rights principles. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has created this resource to help your students understand rule of law with an overview of the topic; opening discussion questions; relevant landmark case summaries; and discussion questions to check for understanding. In a Court Shorts video, nine federal judges explain how fair and consistent adherence to the law protects our rights and well-being in everyday situations.

Grades 8, 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

The 14th Amendment and the Evolution of Title IX

Congress and the courts have applied the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause to many aspects of public life over the past 150 years. In this activity, students will explore the evolution of the 14th Amendment through the lens of Title IX, which prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from excluding students from participating in educational and athletic programs on the basis of sex. The Supreme Court’s first Title IX case, Grove City College v. Bell, also demonstrates how each of the three branches exercises its authority.