Court Packing vs. Reorganizing: The Supreme Court in the New Deal

This activity presents students with a 1937 letter written by newspaper publisher Frank Gannett opposing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s plan to “reorganize the judiciary” (also known as his “court-packing” plan). Students will read and analyze this letter to understand Gannett’s perspective on this controversial issue.

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).

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.

Campaign Finance

Students can hear Sal give an introduction to campaign finance up to and after Citizens United, including the difference between soft and hard money, the influence of PACs and super PACs, and the impact of the McCain-Feingold Act. They can then follow that up with an in-depth video on Citizens United v. FEC in which Sal discusses the background and holdings of the case with scholars Richard Hasen, professor of law at UC Irvine School of Law, and Bradley Smith, former chairman of the FEC. Teachers can then assign an exercise to their students aligned to the current AP Government and Politics exam to assess how well they understood the content of the lesson.

Selective Incorporation

Teachers can use this lesson as a supplemental resource in their federalism unit, their Supreme Court unit, or their civil rights and civil liberties unit to help students understand how some rights apply to the states and others don’t. This lesson includes a video from Sal in which he describes the basic concept of selective incorporation, a video about McDonald v. Chicago in which Kim interviews Alan Gura and Elizabeth Wydra about the facts and outcome of the case, and practice questions aligned to the new AP Government and Politics exam.

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.

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.