Impartiality; An Honest Court

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Lesson At A Glance

This lesson is one that should follow units on the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War and Articles of Confederation.  It takes place during the instruction of Article III of the Constitution. Students will understand that how judges acquire their offices and then maintain those positions may affect their ability to be impartial in their judicial decisions. Specifically, students will read and evaluate court cases and the impact the decisions rendered, have had in shaping public opinion against an independent judiciary.


  • Students will deepen their understanding of the judicial branch of government through the examination and evaluation of past court cases and the effects of public opinion on judicial decisions.    
  • Students will use secondary source materials to create a persuasive editorial detailing the facts of their case, the differences between the terms of office between Federal and State justices, and suggestions on how to protect judicial impartiality.

Standards Addressed:

History Social Science

8.2 Students analyze the political principles underlying the U.S. Constitution and compare the enumerated and implied powers of the federal government.

Describe the ways in which the American ideal of constitutionalism preserves individual rights.

 Students understand the foundation of the American political system and the ways in which citizens participate in it.

Describe how the Constitution provides numerous opportunities for citizens to participate in the political process.

Common Core State Standards for ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS & and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading Grades 6-12

Key Ideas and Details

1.  Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
2.  Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
3.  Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

8.  Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
10. Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.


Big Idea(s):

  • The political process involves participation; understanding requires student engagement. (Integration and application of new learning in multiple learning modalities helps students deepen understanding).
  • The strength of a democracy is equal to the strength of its citizens. (We must understand, participate in, and further develop our system of government to ensure democracy).
  • E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one. (From a variety of sources and experiences, we have developed a successful government and legal system).

Essential Questions/Issues:

  1. Should judges be elected into office?
  2. What should a judge consider before rendering a decision?
  3. Should public opinion direct judicial decisions?

Higher Order Thinking Questions:

  1. Why is an independent judiciary critical to a constitutional government? (Analysis)
  2. To what extent should public opinion play in a judge’s decision? (Evaluation)


Students will be evaluated through informal checks for understanding, teacher observation, self-reflections, and performing an authentic task (GRASP) evaluated by a rubric.

Click here to download assessment tools

Activity Steps:

Click here to download activity steps

This lesson should be divided into 1 or 2 class periods per teacher discretion and student need.  Group-work roles and expectations should have already been discussed, set and used prior to this activity.

Purpose  Teacher  Students

Engage students

7 minutes 

Taking a Stand on Key Questions.

Leads discussion, checks for understanding and encourages individual participation. 

View evaluate the following questions:

1. Should judges consider more than just what the law states when making a decision?

2. Should judges be elected into office?

3. Should public opinion influence a judge’s decision?

Students choose a corner of the classroom and take a stand; agree, disagree, strongly agree, and strongly disagree, then verbally support their decision.

Standards, definitions, and goals
14 minutes

Teacher explains the daily objective.

Definitions of judicial and impartiality are given.

Students write a definition of judicial impartiality.

Explains differences between Federal and State judges, gives worksheet and explains student partner work.

Student’s copy standards, definitions, and answer prompt into notebook.

Student’s view movies clip and discuss teacher lead questions.

Students respond to teacher’s questions.


6 minutes

15 minutes

13 minutes

Miracle on 34th Street movie clip and answer question in notebook.

Teacher explains court cases and worksheet assignment with partner.

Teacher leads student reporting to the class about their court case and its ramifications to an independent judiciary.

Students view movie clip and respond to two questions.

Students read and complete worksheet.

Students summarize their case to the class and share key questions.

5 Minutes 
Teacher will give instructions for student essay concerning an independent judiciary. Students will review their case and notes and begin essay.

Special Needs of students are considered in this lesson: 

Students are put into flexible partnerships that will benefit learning for all types of learners and special needs. Hands-on learning with plenty of visuals, opportunities for movement, verbal, written, and nonverbal expression, and multiple learning modalities are available within the context of this lesson. The opportunity for student choice creates an embedded differentiation opportunity as well as student ownership of learning.

Extension Ideas:

• Students could comment on current issues such as the Prop 8 decision of the court.
• Students may debate the pros and cons of an independent judiciary.
• Students find news articles, of similar issues.
• Students discuss what part fairness plays in the rule of law.
• Students discuss the advantages and disadvantages of no tolerance laws.


Materials and Resources Needed:

  • Screen
  • Laptop
  • PP projector
  • External speakers
  • Daily note page
  • Case worksheets
  • PowerPoint presentation


Student Handouts:

Download student handouts here

Outline of Unit Plan:

This unit is designed to focus on eighth grade standards in Social Science.  These include: student learning, analysis, and understanding the basic political principles of the United States Constitution.  Students also, begin to develop the ability to assess primary and secondary sources and draw sound conclusions from them.