The Judicial Branch

Class Length: 1-2 Class Meetings


Students will be able to:

  1. Explain the importance of judicial review as it relates to overall functionality of the United States Constitution.
  2. Learn how a case moves through the various levels of the court system.
  3. Describe the role judges play in the judicial process.
  4. Apply the leadership characteristics to the role of judges
  5. Apply their understanding of the judicial system to contemporary cases.


- Internet


Teacher will explain the role of the Judicial Branch in the scheme of the United States government (Teacher will find the necessary instructional assistance from , , and/or ):

- Judiciary hears cases that require interpretation of the legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President.

- Consists of Supreme Court and the lower federal courts.

o Number of Justices in the Supreme Court is determined by Congress

§ Composed on 1 Chief Justice (nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate) and 8 Associate Judges

o Lower Federal Courts:

§ District Courts:

· These are general trial courts, hearing both civil (family, financial, juvinile, land/property) cases and criminal (misdomeanors or felonies) cases.

§ Courts of Appeals:

· 13 Courts of Appeals in the United States

· They must hear all appeals from the lower courts.

o Appointees to the federal bench serve for life or until they voluntarily resign or retire.

Teacher will explain that a Judge is often seen as the “leader” of the court and judicial system on its various levels. Students will consider the following questions:

  1. What sorts of professional and/or personal characteristics must a judge possess? At the Supreme Court level? Lower levels? Is there a difference? What conflicts of interest might these professionals face?
  2. What are the goals of a Supreme Court Justice, or another member of the judicial branch?
  3. How do current events play a part in leadership challenges for members of the judicial branch? To what degree should the Constitution be influenced by social, cultural or political changes?
  4. In what ways does one who defends and/or amends the Constitution advocate for justice? Is there any limit to prevent these people from pursuing justice or protecting the United States Constitution? Should there be?
  5. How might social trends or popularity affect decision-making processes at the judicial level? Should social issues have such an affect?

Students will review and contemplate two recent widely public court cases: the 1994 O.J. Simpson murder trial or the recent 2003 Terry Schiavo quality of life case. Students will engage each case from multiple perspectives:

- As a member of the general public

- As a family member and/or friend of the persons involved in the trials (O.J. Simpson brother, friends, individual members of the Goldman and/or Brown families, Terri’s husband and/or parents)

- As the judge residing over the case.

For information on the Schiavo case students can refer to: . For information on the O.J. Simpson case students can refer to:

Students will describe the pressing legal and personal issues each role may have experienced, comparing and contrasting them with one another. Ultimately, when in the role of residing judge, students will determine what information to consider from the other sources.

Students will compose their response for the respective roles to the American Bar Association Journal in the form of a “Letter to the Editor.”

References: (2007). Unit six: The judicial branch. The federal court system. Mr.

Goto’s Lesson Plans Page. Retrieved November 13th, 2007 from

Courtroom Television Network LLC (2007). O.J. simpson murder case. Courtvnews.

Retrieved November 13th, 2007 from

International Information Programs (2007). Judicial branch. Government and Politics.

Retrieved November 13th, 2007 from (2007). Terri schiavo case: The who, what, where, when, why. How

To Legal Articles--Estate Planning and Business Law. Retrieved November 13th, 2007 from (2007). Judicial branch. Government: Branch. Retrieved November

13th, 2007 from

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