federal judiciary

Determine characteristics of the federal judiciary and implications of the adversarial process.

Every player in the judicial system has a responsibility to uphold the laws set forth in the U.S. Constitution, and lawyers are no different. What role do lawyers play in the judicial system? When do our constitutional rights begin and end? How are legal disputes resolved? In this activity, you will examine these and other issues as a young lawyer fighting for your client’s First Amendment rights against the local school system. In the process you will learn about the complexity of the American court system, understand the difficulty of defining whether or not something is in violation of the U.S. Constitution, and identify the various ways in which legal disputes can be settled.
Analyze the factors that play an important role in selecting judicial nominees.

Few decisions that a president makes are as important as the selection of a Supreme Court justice nominee. Both the media and Congress subject nominees to intense scrutiny, as once appointed, the justices serve for life. How are justices appointed? What qualifications do they need? What factors make it more or less likely that a nominee will be appointed? In this activity, you will examine these and other issues as a Democratic president, attempting to have your nominee for the Supreme Court confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. In the process, you will learn about the various challenges that face presidents in deciding who to nominate and better understand the roles played by both the president and the Senate in the nomination and confirmation process.

Trace the process by which Supreme Court decisions are reached and assess influences on this process.

The Supreme Court carries out judicial review, deciding what laws and actions are constitutional, by carefully selecting the cases the justices hear — basing their decisions on earlier precedents. How does the Supreme Court decide to hear a case? Which types of cases are worthy of debate before the high court? What influences impact the Supreme Court decision making process? In this activity, you will examine these and other issues as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Judith Gray. Your primary role will be to filter the various cases by evaluating their merit based on precedent, so Justice Judith Gray knows which cases are worthy of debate in front of the full court. In the process you will learn about the responsibilities of the law clerk in the U.S. Supreme Court, identify the types of cases Supreme Court justices hear, comprehend the role of legal reasoning in resolving legal conflicts, and identify the importance of precedent and judicial review.
Assess the limits on judicial action and the role of the judiciary in a constitutional democracy.

Some countries have strong judiciaries that serve as a check on executive and legislative power, while other countries have judiciaries that lack authority to challenge other branches of government. Some judiciaries rely on precedents, while others rely on strict adherence to and interpretation of existing legal codes. There is a great deal of variation among the judicial branches of different countries. Are the courts in other countries responsible for judicial review? How are judges selected? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a legal tradition based on common law compared to one based on civil code law? Does religion play a major role in judicial decision making in democratic nations? In this activity, you will examine these and other questions as you compare the U.S. judiciary with the judiciaries of five other countries: Great Britain, Russia, Germany, Egypt, and Japan. In the process, you will gain a better understanding of the similarities and differences of judiciaries in different countries and those aspects of the U.S. courts that are distinctively American.

Outline the First Amendment freedoms and the limitations on them.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. Yet the process of applying this abstract right to concrete circumstances is not so simple. Federal judges have had to classify different types of speech, such as symbolic or commercial speech, and establish standards or test to determine when speech should be restricted. Under what circumstances, if any, are governmental restrictions on speech justified? Should all types of speech be protected? How has our interpretation of this freedom changed over time? In this activity, you will examine these and other issues as a justice on the Supreme Court who must decide how to rule on a case involving freedom of speech. In the process, you will explore Supreme Court cases that relate to freedom of speech, identify the various interpretations of freedom of speech, and determine how to apply legal precedents concerning free speech to the case presented in this activity.

Outline the First Amendment freedoms and the limitations on them.

Few people deal with civil liberties as frequently as police officers. Originally granted to citizens through the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the nature of these freedoms has evolved over time through judicial review and legislation. Police officers must understand the current, practical interpretation of our First Amendment rights, the Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” the Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination, and many others. When can the police search private property? Can people be arrested for criticizing the government? How much power does law enforcement have if they suspect someone of being a criminal? In this activity, you will examine these and other issues as a New York City police officer confronted with several different real-world scenarios involving civil liberties and constitutional rights. In the process you will better comprehend the concepts of constitutional rights, learn the rules regarding search and seizure, and understand how suspects should be treated by law enforcement.
Characterize the constitutional rights of criminal suspects.

In times of war, our government must balance civil liberties with security needs. Often challenged during these times are the Fourth Amendments protection from unreasonable search and seizure; the Fifth Amendments right to due process and protection from self incrimination; the Sixth Amendments right to legal council; the Eighth Amendments protection from cruel and unusual punishment; and the Fourteenth Amendments mandate of equal protection under the law. Do police need a warrant when search the property of a suspected terrorist? Do privacy rights apply to electronic communication? Can the FBI arrest a suspected terrorist with little or now evidence? In this activity, you will examine these and other issues as a U.S. Attorney General trying to protect the public from an impending terrorist attack. In the process, you will discover the limits of police power, learn the rules regarding search and seizure, comprehend the role of due process, understand the uses and limitations of racial profiling, and recognize the constitutional boundaries of civil liberty and national security.
Evaluate the roles of institutions and the people in protecting civil liberties.

Civil liberties are individual rights protected from government violation and interference. Although the Framers of the U.S. Constitution regarded civil liberties as “self-evident,” not all governments around the world guarantee civil liberties? What type of variation exists? Do all democratic governments guarantee the same civil liberties to the same extent? Do all or most authoritarian or autocratic governments refuse to guarantee civil liberties? What happens in countries prone to conflict or war? In this activity, you will compare civil liberties in the United States with those in six other countries. In the process, you will gain a better understanding of the factors that impact a government’s likelihood to protect the civil liberties of its citizens.
Compare and contrast the efforts of various groups to obtain equal protection of the law.

Every nation in the world struggles to some extent with the problem of discrimination, the treatment of someone according to a classification that is based on something other than individual merit. As a result, minority groups tend to press for civil rights–rights and protections against arbitrary or discriminatory treatment by governments or individuals based on categories such as race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, or sexual orientation. How do varied histories of immigration, slavery and attitudes toward minorities shape the disposition of governments towards protecting the civil rights of their citizens? How does the list of protected groups and protections vary around the world? In this activity, you will compare the civil rights issues faced by the United States with those of five other countries: Great Britain, Brazil, Germany, China, and South Africa. In the process, you will gain a better understanding of the factors that impact a government’s likelihood to protect the civil rights of its citizens, particularly racial and ethnic minorities.
Assess the status of civil rights in the United States today.

Although Thomas Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal in the Declaration of Independence, it took the Civil War and the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to transform Jefferson’s ideal into law. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees equal treatment under the law and has gradually been extended to include racial and ethnic minorities, women, and people with disabilities__populations with well-documented histories of unequal treatment. Yet many questions remain. Is affirmative action reverse discrimination? Why do some groups receive legal protection against discrimination while others do not? What constitutes sexual harassment? These types of questions reveal the difficulties inherent in extending fundamental rights to populations with well-documented histories of unequal treatment. In this activity, you will examine these and other issues as the mayor of Tampa, FL attempting to resolves civil rights issues that have come to your attention. In the process, you will identify the types of issues classified as under the umbrella of civil rights, learn important court decisions that have shaped civil rights legislation, understand why the Supreme Court has deemed discrimination to be lawful in certain situations, and identify the limitations of affirmative action.

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