Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer discusses the difference between, federal district, circuit court and Supreme Court judges and justices.
A hallmark of democracy is that the people have a say in their government. In the United States, this happens by voting elected officials into office to make decisions for us at the federal level. However, the Supreme Court and federal justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by Congress. The people do not have a say. In addition, the United States Constitution gives no requirements but that the justices serve during “good behavior.” So who are the people who sit on America’s top court? This student centered activity requires learners to investigate the background, work experience and views of Supreme Court justices using multi-media sites and digital media from C-SPAN’s video library.
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, Schoology or another classroom platform. This activity is divided into two pages.
Activity: Vocabulary Drag and Drop Activity (Google Slides)
Read, Article III, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution aloud to students.
Article III. - The Judicial Branch, Section 1 - Judicial powers The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services a compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
Have students turn and talk (20 seconds) to a partner to discuss the following question:
INTRODUCTORY VIDEO CLIP:
As students share their answers, emphasize the point that very little is written about qualifications in the Constitution and the Constitution gives the President and Congress the power to decide on any qualifications.
As a class, view the following video clip and have students share with their partner the answers to the following question.
Video Clip: Supreme Court Justice’s Role (1:02)
What makes the job different for a Supreme Court Justice compared to a Federal District Judge or Circuit Court of Appeals Judge, according to Justice Breyer?
Have students complete the handout on U.S. Supreme Court Justices.
Assignment: U.S. Supreme Court Justices- Research and Resumes (Google Doc)
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 on this assignment.
Students will choose one current Supreme Court Justice and one Historic Supreme Court Justice. The assignment has two parts for each Justice they choose to research.
Part 1: Students will complete a short resume for one current Justice and one historic Justice.
Have students share with the whole class, one of the Supreme Court Justices they researched. Students should share the video clip, then explain why they chose that clip to represent the personality/opinions of the Justice.
Have students pair up and share their resume of their current and historic Justices. Students should discuss the differences between the justices they chose (education, work experience, legal experience). Have each group share with the class the similarities and differences.
After all groups have shared, have students complete a Quick Write. For Quick Write; give students 5 minutes to write down their thoughts on the following question; students do not need to write in complete sentences; it does not need to be collected. After the 5 minutes, students may volunteer to share their thoughts. You could also turn the quick write into an essay, for students to complete as an assessment.
What did you notice about the education and work experience of the various Justices? Were there many schools represented or the same ones over and over?
What are some if any, potential drawbacks of having Justices with the same background and educational experience?
Find a political cartoon of a current Supreme Court Justice and have students analyze how it shows the qualifications, characteristics/personality or views of the current Supreme Court Justice. Students analyze the use of media as a source using the following questions:
How does the information about the person in the resume compare to the information in the political cartoon? What are some similarities and differences?