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Lesson Idea: Researching a Supreme Court Justice - What They Do (Common Core Aligned)


Judicial powers in the Constitution are very vague, but we know that the powers/duties of the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS), especially their power of judicial review, is one of the most important checks on the Executive and Legislative Branches and is a characteristic that separates American democracy from other democracies.  If the Constitution doesn’t say much, what are the powers of the Supreme Court and lower courts and how did they develop into the duties we see SCOTUS perform today?  This student centered activity requires learners to analyze the powers/duties of SCOTUS using digital media from C-SPAN’s video library.
Flexible: 1-3 days
  • Computer with internet access
  • Related student worksheets
Background Information (Suggested Activities):
Common Core Assignment (COMMON CORE STANDARDS)
1.      Hand out the instruction sheet,  “Supreme Court Powers/Duties - Assignment.”
2.      Assign students a type of jurisdictional power or have them choose (Individual Rights, State v. Federal Power, Federal Law, U.S. Government is a party, two or more state or citizens are a party).  There are many more cases for individual rights so you could assign more students this jurisdictional power and divide out the cases by amendment.
3.      Students fill out handout “Supreme Court Powers/Duties - Handout.”
4.      Students present their clip to class individually or as a group
5.      Class takes notes on handout “Supreme Court Powers/Duties - Note-Taking”
Wrap Up/Assessment (Suggested Activities)
  • Quiz on Jurisdiction Powers of the Supreme Court
  • Find an article about a case currently on the SCOTUS docket and identify the basic case information  (Issue, Decision, Reasons for the Decision) and explain the jurisdiction power for that case
Extension (Suggested Activities)
  • Create an infographic explaining each jurisdictional power or power of review
  • Students read and analyze how Federalist #48 & 51 influenced the Supreme Court powers identified in Article III of the U.S. Constitution and in the cases shared on the note-taking.
  • Students do a scavenger hunt in the Judiciary Acts to find further jurisdiction powers identified in the annotations in the margins