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An educational service of the American Judicature Society

High School Curriculum on the Judiciary

The American Judicature Society is committed to helping educate the public about the workings of the judicial branch of government. The High School Curriculum on the Judiciary is a four-lesson unit prepared for high-school seniors. We invite you to download the lesson plans described below, use them in your classroom, and then suggest revisions to the plans and share your comments and questions about them. 

The Jury System (#4 in the series)
The Jury System lesson helps students understand the role of juries in our judicial system and how juries came to be used to ensure justice and protect individual rights. There are lesson plans in PDF format and a video offered as supplemental material. (provide link after location identified)

Judicial Independence (#3 in the series)
The Judicial Independence lesson uses a variety of activities and assignments to help students understand the concept of "judicial independence," why it is important for our courts, and how it can be threatened. Upon completion of the lesson, students should be able to: identify the three branches of government and the role of each branch; understand the concepts of “separation of powers” and “checks and balances” and the role of the courts in these systems; understand how judges make decisions; understand how judges are selected and retained in the federal system and in your state, and how this relates to judicial independence and accountability.
Lesson Plan               Videos

The Supreme Court (#2 in the series)
The Supreme Court lesson involves research and students role playing U. S. Supreme Court justices, their clerks, and opposing attorneys. Upon completion of the learning activities, students should be able to: know the jurisdictions of the various courts; understand how the Supreme Court works; understand the changing role of the Supreme Court through history and its relationship to the two other branches of government and understand the Constitution as a living document.
Lesson Plan            Videos

Court Procedure (#1 in the series)
The Court Procedure lesson is a simulation game about a murder. It requires students to role play witnesses, prosecuting and defense attorneys, detectives, CSI team members, jurors, a court clerk, journalist, photographer, and other justice-system actors. At the completion of this unit students will be able to understand the rights of the accused; know the role of the players in the court system; know the protections in the Bill of Rights that apply to an accused; know the influence of the Supreme Court on the court process and understand relevant legal terminology.
Lesson Plan           Video


Who Made This Possible?

This curriculum was made possible by a grant from the Spencer Williams Foundation for Judiciary Independence. Project staff at the American Judicature Society worked with a committee of judges, lawyers and high-school social science teachers and a curriculum writer to draft and refine the lesson plans. Then they were pilot tested in three high schools, one suburban (Miller Place High School, Miller Place, NY), one urban (Somerville High School, Somerville, MA) and one rural (Lake Havasu High School, Lake Havasu, AZ), and evaluated by professionals at the Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE) at Iowa State University.

Lessons may be downloaded and used free of charge for educational purposes only.
Commercial use is prohibited.