Judicial Independence: Essential, Limited, Controversial

Summary

In a constitutional system of government, the role of the judiciary is essential for maintaining the balance of power, protecting individual rights, upholding the rule of law, interpreting the Constitution, and ensuring equal justice for all.

“The Framers established an independent judiciary because they realized that judges would sometime have to make difficult decisions that the law requires but that are unpopular with a majority of the citizenry. Without the protections afforded to the judiciary by the Constitution, the federal courts may not have been able to issue decisions in . . . cases that have had a dramatic impact on American life and law.” (uscourts.gov)

In this lesson, students learn about the role of an independent judiciary in the United States. Through a cooperative learning jigsaw activity, they focus on operational differences, essential functions, limited powers, and controversial issues. Students also consider the importance of an independent judiciary to preservation of a constitutional democracy and the quality of of life for all Americans.

The estimated time for this lesson plan is two class periods.

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