Exploring the Supreme Court of the United States Nomination Process
This week, Justice Stephen Breyer announced his departure from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) at the end of this term. While the announcement was not totally unexpected given the political realities of the midterm elections, some court watchers were surprised by the timing.
This SCOTUS vacancy is a teachable moment to meet the pedagogical requirements of the middle and high school civics course requirements.
- Educators can provide classroom instruction on democratic institutions to help students understand the importance of SCOTUS and its role in the separation of powers in the federal government, and its oversight of state and local governments in our system of federalism and judicial review.
- Students can engage in a current and societal issue discussion on the qualities they would look for in the next justice or other proposed SCOTUS reforms such as term limits and changing the size of the court.
- Students can participate in a simulation of a democratic process and hold their own mock confirmation hearings to understand the process.
- Students can take informed action through service learning by contacting their senators to advocate their position on the new nominee or other policy proposals related to the courts. Students can also interact with candidates for the US Senate to seek out their stand on issues related to SCOTUS.
To facilitate the activities listed above, here are some resources you can use to meet this teachable moment.
- Street Law has wonderful resources for law-related education. For this moment, you might be interested in their lessons around Supreme Court Procedures that include:
- Advising Senators Activity
- An Explainer of Supreme Court Vacancies
- How well do you know SCOTUS?
- How do judges interpret the Constitution
- iCivics has resources for both middle and high school classrooms to understand the courts.
- Use games like Court Quest, Argument Wars, and Branches of Power to help students understand the important role of the courts and how they interact with other branches of government.
- Review the curriculum units for middle and high school help students explore the judicial branch. Check out the lesson on Supreme Court Nominations
- PBS NewsHour Classroom has created:
- A Daily News Lesson, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announces his retirement
- This Checks and balances in Supreme Court nominations lesson plan
- For a quick primer on the Supreme Court nomination process, use this brief article and video clip, from USA Today
- The American Bar Association Division of Public Education has:
- Published this article, These 2 judges are considered front-runners to replace Breyer; who else is getting mentioned?
- Lessons on Judicial Independence that explore topics like, What Makes a Good Judge? Qualities of Judges and Will the Supreme Court Hear this Case?
- Retro Report has a documentary, How Supreme Court Confirmations Became So Bitter: From Bork To Kavanaugh.
- The National Constitution Center has published a blog on Justice Breyer’s Supreme Court Legacy and has lesson plans, podcasts, and panel discussions to support the study of the judicial branch.
- The Bill of Rights Institute has an e-lesson on The Constitution and Supreme Court Nominations, as well as a plethora of resources on the history and precedents of the Court.
- C-Span Classroom has lesson plans and bell-ringer activities to support inquiry into the U.S Supreme Court.
- Annenberg Classroom has video clips and lesson plans to help students understand the Supreme Court.
- Civics 101 Podcast has a Judicial Branch Starter Kit along with episodes highlighting important SCOTUS decisions.
What resources do you use to teach about the judicial branch? How are you addressing the pending SCOTUS vacancy? Please describe below. Together, we can prepare ALL students for college, career, and civic life.