Lesson Plan: Researching a Supreme Court Justice - Who They Are

Backgrounds of Supreme Court Justices

National Law Journal Supreme Court correspondent Tony Mauro discussed the backgrounds of the Supreme Court 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 Supreme Court Justice 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.



    Introductory lecture on Constitutional requirements of the Supreme Court Justice documented on the handout below.

    When complete, conduct the student scavenger hunt exercise in the Constitution for the requirements of a Supreme Court Justice, also documented in the handout below.

  • STEP 1.

    Watch the following video clip and have students answer the following questions:

    VIDEO CLIP: Background of Supreme Court Justices (3:45)

    • Which law schools did the Supreme Court Justices mentioned in the clip attend? What does it illustrate about the Supreme Court?

    • Describe some of the varied backgrounds of previous Supreme Court Justices compared to the justices mentioned in the clip. What are some potential drawbacks of having such similar backgrounds?

    • Which presidents appointed the Supreme Court Justices mentioned in the clip? Explain why the appointments are so important to the presidents who nominated them.
  • STEP 2.

    Assign students or pairs/trios one of the nine Supreme Court justices.

    Hand out the instruction sheet below:

    HANDOUT: Supreme Court Justice Resume (Google Doc)

    Have students fill out Part I on the handout “Supreme Court Justice Resume”.

  • STEP 3.

    A résumé lists general background and work experiences. However, it doesn’t show the personality and views of the person. In Part II on the “Supreme Court Justice Resume” handout, students will use digital programming from the C-SPAN Video Library to create a clip of the current Supreme Court Justice that highlights his/her character traits/personality, and views.

  • STEP 4.

    Students will analyze the clip and answer the Common Core questions on Part II of the “Supreme Court Justice Resume” handout.

    Students present their clip to class individually or as a group.

  • STEP 5.

    Class discusses the qualifications and characteristics of the Supreme Court Justice and takes notes on handout “Judicial Qualifications & Characteristics- Note-Taking”

  • Wrap Up/Assessment (Suggested Activities)

    • Quiz on Qualifications and Characteristics/Personality and Views of the current Supreme Court Justice

    • Have students compare and contrast the qualifications, characteristics/personality and/or views of their nine different justices.
  • Extension (Suggested Activities)

    Find an article, political cartoon, photograph of the current Supreme Court Justice and analyze how it shows the the qualifications, characteristics/personality or views of the current Supreme Court Justice using evidence from the “Supreme Court Justice Resume” and “Judicial Qualifications & Characteristics- Note-Taking”

    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 video clip? What are some similarities and differences?

    • What are the advantages and disadvantages of the video clip in the information it provides about the person, their background, personality and views?

Additional Resources


  • Constitution
  • Judicial Branch
  • Justice
  • Law
  • Qualifications
  • Requirements
  • Supreme Court


Judicial Branch


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