L. Ralph Mecham, Director of the U.S. District Court System, explains the three levels of the Federal Court System.
The Judicial Branch’s powers are outlined in Article III of the United States Constitution. Article III creates the U.S. Supreme Court and gives Congress the ability to create “inferior” courts, which make up our federal court system. Students will begin the lesson by learning about the three levels of the Federal Court System. Students will continue in the lesson to gain an understanding of how the three levels of federal court work together through following the landmark Supreme Court case Katz v. U.S., through the court system.
Before beginning the lesson, have students test their understanding of the following vocabulary words. You may print this out or you may assign it to each student individually using Google Classroom or Schoology or another classroom platform. This activity is divided into two pages.
Activity: Vocabulary Drag and Drop Activity (Google Slides)
As a class, view the video clip linked below and have the students work in groups to complete the graphic organizer
Video Clip: Structure of the Federal Court System (3:41)
Graphic Organizer: Federal Court System (Google Doc)
The link for the video is in the graphic organizer so students may listen as many times as they need to hear all the information needed to complete the organizer. You could also assign the Graphic Organizer to students individually using Google Classroom or Schoology or another platform. Remember to make a copy before assigning to students.
At the bottom of the organizer students will go to the Federal Court Finder on the uscourts.gov website to find the Circuit and District courts that represent their location.
Here is a KEY for the Graphic Organizer
Assign students to complete the Katz v. United States Assignment on the handout linked below. Remember to make a copy of the document before assigning to each student. You will be able to post this assignment in Google Classroom, Schoology, or other platforms. Students will independently work through the presentation, viewing video clips and answering questions within the presentation.
Assignment: Katz v. United States (Google Slides)
Answer Key for Katz v United States Assignment
Video Clip: Who was Charles Katz (:48)
Video Clip: The Beginning of Katz v U.S. (1:12)
Video Clip: Laws Broken in Katz v U.S. ( :57)
Video Clip: Tracing Katz v U.S. Through the Court System (1:29)
Video Clip: Katz v U.S. Timeline (:40)
Video Clip: Reasons for Circuit Court Decision, Katz v U.S. (:28)
Video Clip: Reason Supreme Court will Agree to Hear a Case (1:14)
Video Clip: Decision in Katz v. U.S. (1:38)
Have students watch the video clip below and give students 5 minutes to write down their thoughts on the extent to how the decision in this case should apply to current methods of communication and technologies. This is a Quick Write. Students do not need to write in complete sentences and it does not need to be collected. As a whole class, students share their ideas and thoughts. You could also turn the quick write into an essay, for students to complete as an assessment.
Video Clip: Future of Privacy Rights (2:57)