Civic Learning Initiative

The Power of Democracy

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye is committed to a broad and far-reaching effort to improve civic awareness, learning, and engagement in California. The Power of Democracy campaign is supported statewide in partnership with the judicial branch to help revitalize democracy in California.

2015 California PTA Convention
The power of civic learning and engagement was front and center at the California PTA Convention, when Chief JusticeTani G. Cantil-Sakauye was interviewed by past PTA president Carol Kocivar.

Civic Learning and Engagement Efforts

The Power of Democracy Steering Committee
The Chief Justice appointed this statewide judicial branch leadership group to promote civics literacy in California's schools. The committee includes representatives of all three levels of the California courts, the State Bar and local bar associations, as well as local and state education organizations that are also actively supporting the effort.

Chief Justice’s Civic Learning Award
Presented in collaboration with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, this award was first announced at the Civic Learning Summit in Feb 2013. In its first two years, the awards program recognized public high schools for their achievements in civics education. In 2015, the award concentrated on public elementary and middle schools. These award-winning school programs serve as models and are shared with educators throughout the state committed to improving their own local civic learning efforts.

chief justice with studentsLaw Day
This annual event is commemorated during the first week in May. Courts, in partnership with local bar associations, host local events. 

Civic Learning Presentations
The Chief Justice and members of the leadership group frequently speak about civic learning and present at conferences such as the California School Boards Association, the Association of California School Administrators, and the California Council for the Social Studies conferences.

Courts in the Classroom
The judicial branch partners with the Constitutional Rights Foundation to host this animated online resource about the courts for middle and high school students. The two organizations also co-sponsor the annual Bill of Rights Cartoon Contest with the California PTA.

Online Civic Education Resources
The California On My Honor program was defunded in 2011 due to budget cuts. The products of that program are still of great value by providing online civic learning resources for teachers and students, including a free searchable collection of K-12 lesson plans created for teachers by teachers. 

Supreme Court
Hundreds of California high school, college, and law school students attend the student outreach sessions of the California Supreme Court. The program includes instructional materials for teachers, online legal briefs, and a live statewide broadcast of the court’s oral arguments on important legal issues.

Appellate Courts
The Appellate Court Experience (ACE) is a program designed to deepen high school students’ understanding of the judicial system. The program includes a classroom curriculum, followed by a visit to a Court of Appeal to observe oral arguments in the case previously studied in the classroom.

Watch this video about how one appellate court collaborated with the local school district to develop artwork depicting famous court cases for its new courthouse.

Superior Courts
Youth courts in California have been growing at a phenomenal rate over the last 15 years. In 1991, there were only two youth courts in California. Now there are now over 80 in California and over 1,400 nationwide.
• Courts host competitive mock trial competitions with their County Offices of Education.
• Students visit the courts, observe trials, and interact with judges and court staff.

Watch this video of New Technology High School's visit to the Superior Court of Sacramento County.

2014-2015 Civic Learning Award

Recipients Announced
On Mar 3, 2015, nine schools were announced as recipients of the Civic Learning Award.

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