Lesson Plan: Landmark Supreme Court Case: Katz v. United States (1967)

Supreme Court Case Katz v. United States: The Fourth Amendment

Law professors Jeffrey Rosen and Jamil Jaffer talk about the Fourth Amendment and how this case relates to current National Security Law.


In this 1967 Supreme Court case, Charles Katz, a bookie, was recorded by the FBI transmitting illegal bets from a telephone booth. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case expanded Americans' right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment.


  • STEP 1:

    As a class, view the following video and engage in class discussion to establish an understanding of the Fourth Amendment. You may use the accompanying questions as a guide.

    HANDOUT: Katz v. United States (Google Doc)

  • VIDEO CLIP 1: The Fourth Amendment (3:30)

    • Explain the significance of this case as Jeffrey Rosen discusses.

    • How does this case relate to National Security Law according to Jamil Jaffer?

    • Explain the development of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as Jeffrey Rosen describes.

    • Describe the importance of the Fourth Amendment as Jamil Jaffer explains.
  • STEP 2:

    Students can either work independently or in groups to view the following video clips and respond to the accompanying questions to learn about this case.

  • VIDEO CLIP 2: Charles Katz (1:40)

    • Who was Charles Katz?

    • Describe Harvey Schneider's role in this case.
  • VIDEO CLIP 3: Background (4:20)

    • Describe the circumstances surrounding this case as Harvey Schneider presents in his oral argument.

    • What authority were the FBI agents operating under during this time?

    • Explain the legal parameters for this case.
  • VIDEO CLIP 4: Evidence (4:31)

    • Explain the theory that was used to introduce the evidence that was collected by the FBI.

    • Why did the Ninth Circuit uphold this conviction?

    • Explain the process in which this case made its way from the Ninth Circuit to the Supreme Court.

    • Describe the role of the phone company in this case.
  • VIDEO CLIP 5: The Court (3:26)

    • Describe how the makeup of the Supreme Court at this time impacted this case.
  • VIDEO CLIP 6: Oral Argument (4:10)

    • Explain the distinction in this case that is being made between the Assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General and Justice Byron White.
  • VIDEO CLIP 7: The Decision (2:05)

    • Explain the outcome in this case.
  • VIDEO CLIP 8: Legacy (5:15)

    • How did Congress react to the Supreme Court's decision?

    • Explain the significance of the Katz case to the newer cases presented in the video.

    As a class, review and discuss the significance of this case, the precedent it set and its legacy.

  • Extension Activities:

    View the following video clip and ask students to debate the extent to which the decision in this case should apply to current methods of communication and technologies.

    Lasting Impact (2:53)

  • Extension Activities:

    Students can listen to the oral arguments in this current case and apply the decision in Katz v. United States in a mock trial. This case considers if a search warrant is needed for law enforcement to gain access to a person’s cell phone location data history. Timothy Carpenter was convicted in connection to a string of armed robberies in Ohio and Michigan in 2010 and 2011. The government, through the Stored Communications Act, gained access to Mr. Carpenter’s cell phone location records and used this information to convict him. Mr. Carpenter filed suit arguing his Fourth Amendment rights were violated due to the lack of a search warrant. The district court and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the government’s favor.

    Carpenter v. United States Oral Argument (1:22)

Additional Resource


  • Civil Liberties
  • Edward Snowden
  • Indiscriminately
  • Intangible
  • Jurisprudence
  • Mere Evidence
  • Money Laundering
  • Olmstead V. United States
  • Repudiate
  • Surveillance
  • Tyranny
  • Warrant
  • Writ Of Certiorari
  • Writs Of Assistance


Civil Rights & Civil LibertiesConstitutional FoundationSupreme Court CasesU.S. History


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