Friday, December 24, 2004

Teaching about the United States Supreme Court. In the United States, it looks like there will probably be several new appointments to the Supreme Court in the next several years. This will be widely covered in the media and should provide teachers and librarians many teachable moments about the Supreme Court. The blogged site of the day has a nice essay on the topic.

From the site:

The Supreme Court is one of the most important institutions in the United States. Thus, social studies teachers should emphasize the significance of the Court in our nation's history. This ERIC Digest highlights the origin and foundations of the Supreme Court, discusses the changing role of the Supreme Court in the United States, and recommends World Wide Web resources helpful in teaching and learning about the Supreme Court.

CONSTITUTIONAL AND STATUTORY FOUNDATIONS OF THE SUPREME COURT.

The majority of the men who met in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 agreed on the need to create a more powerful central government. Concurrently, however, many of the delegates feared the abusive power a new national government could wield. During the ratification struggle, James Madison, in "Federalist 51," emphasized the necessity of providing for "auxiliary precautions" to limit governmental power. The judicial branch was designed in part to exercise such precautions on the legislative and executive branches. At the same time, the framers placed checks on the judiciary in order to ensure that no single branch would dominate the others.

The judiciary was the least discussed branch of government at the Constitutional Convention, and Alexander Hamilton in "Federalist 78" later referred to the Supreme Court as the "least dangerous" branch of the proposed national government because it possessed neither the power of "the purse" (legislative power) nor that of "the sword" (executive power). The debates surrounding the Court's creation reveal a broad consensus that the federal judiciary shall have jurisdiction in all cases pertaining to the Constitution, federal statutes, and treaties. The delegates provided for the Supreme Court to have original jurisdiction only in cases involving "Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party." In all other cases under its authority, the Court was granted "appellate jurisdiction" (Article III, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution). In addition, the convention delegates agreed that Congress would be empowered to establish inferior courts (Casto 1995, 14).

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