Judicial Independence: Essential, Limited, Controversial

In a constitutional system of government, the role of the judiciary is essential for maintaining the balance of power, protecting individual rights, upholding the rule of law, interpreting the Constitution, and ensuring equal justice for all. In this lesson, students learn about the role of an independent judiciary in the United States.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

An Independent Judiciary: Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Cooper v. Aaron

This documentary explores the Supreme Court cases Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Cooper v. Aaron (1958) that defined our understanding of the role of the judiciary. In Cherokee Nation, the Supreme Court ruled it lacked the jurisdiction to review the claims of an Indian nation in the U.S. In Cooper v. Aaron, the Court affirmed that its interpretation of the Constitution was the “supreme law of the land” and that states were bound by its decisions. A PDF lesson guide is provided.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Special Needs/Language Focus, Surveys, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Role of the Judiciary

In this lesson, students learn about the judicial system, aka the judiciary. First, students read and discuss an article on the role, structure, and principles of the judiciary. Next, they participate in a Civil Conversation on the reading. In this structured discussion method, under the guidance of a facilitator (the teacher), participants are encouraged to engage intellectually with challenging materials.

  • Resource Type: Descriptive Text, Interactives, Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Origin, Nature and Importance of the Supreme Court

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and high school students discuss the Supreme Court: its history and traditions, how it selects and decides cases, and the role of an independent judiciary. A lesson guide accompanies the video.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

A Conversation on Judicial Independence

Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Anthony M. Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor and high school students discuss why an independent judiciary is necessary and how Article III, Section1, in the Constitution safeguards the role of judges. This video complements the documentary An Independent Judiciary: Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Cooper v. Aaron.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Translated Materials, Video
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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?

  • Resource Type: Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Judical Nomination Process

What is the nomination process for Supreme Court justices and federal judges? Find out in a multimedia package of educational resources geared to high school students, their teachers, and interested adults. What do judges promise in the judicial oath of office? What is the role of justices and judges? What kinds of information are nominees asked to share during the nomination process? What do judges, themselves, say about what it means to be impartial?

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

The Supreme Court: The Judicial Power of the United States

This lesson provides an introduction to the Supreme Court. Students will learn basic facts about the Supreme Court by examining the United States Constitution and one of the landmark cases decided by that court. The lesson is designed to help students understand how the Supreme Court operates.

The federal judiciary, which includes the Supreme Court as well as the district and circuit courts, is one of three branches of the federal government. The judiciary has played a key role in American history and remains a powerful voice in resolving contemporary controversies. The first governing document of this nation, the Articles of Confederation, gave Congress certain judicial powers, but did not establish a distinct federal court system.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8