What is Justice?

These activities provide excerpts from the Constitution and quotes from influential figures in history which help to define the concept of justice. By discussing these ideas, students will develop an understanding of justice, and articulate how the Constitution aims to promote justice.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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

Advice & Consent: Choosing a Justice of the United States

According to Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, “[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint… Judges of the supreme Court….” In March 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to serve as a Justice. This lesson is designed to have students consider which issues and questions they think are important to explore in confirmation hearings.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Corruption and Judicial Independence: Should our democracy elect judges?

Blind Justice: Justice that is fair because it is neutral and objective. It weighs facts and law, but is “blind” to the relative wealth, status, or identity of those facing judgment. But what happens when the system of justice is corrupted by outside influences? This lesson provides students with background information and arguments for and against electing judges. Students are encouraged to deliberate the issue and come to their own conclusions based on evidence and reason.

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

The Supremacy Clause

Tension between the states and the federal government has been a constant throughout U.S. history. This video explores the supremacy clause in Article VI of the Constitution and key moments in the power struggle, including the landmark case McCulloch v. Maryland. In McCulloch, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the supremacy clause unequivocally states that the “Constitution, and the Laws of the United States … shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Moments in History: Remembering Thurgood Marshall

Few people know the legal mind of justices or judges as well as the law clerks who have worked with them. Justice Thurgood Marshall’s former law clerks offer unique insights into the character, values, and thought processes of the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.  In this 8.5-minute video called “Moments in History:  Remembering Thurgood Marshall,” prominent lawyers reminisce about the examples of compassion and courage they saw in the life and work of this legal legend.  

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject:
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12