At a Glance

From John Jay to Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court is the final word in law.

Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court is an essential body in the teaching of U.S. history and civics. So what does it do, and where did it come from? To begin, the Supreme Court's existence was specified in Article III of the U.S. Constitution. As for its duties, the Supreme Court serves largely to hear appeals from cases which originated at a lower level. However, original cases are heard when they involve ambassadors, public ministers, consuls, and/or when a U.S. state is involved.

The Supreme Court's page may not be the most beautiful website on the block, nor the most technologically up-to-date. However, the navigation is clear; and the site does provide information which could easily be of use to you in the classroom.

Simply click on About the Supreme Court to access a list of the most relevant resources.

Need a quick handout on the Court—current members, origin, jurisdiction, and term, for example? Then A Brief Overview of the Supreme Court is perfect for you. Or maybe, since C-SPAN and other such providers are not permitted to film the Court proceedings, you would like to conjure an image of the courtroom for your students? In that case, try the Visitors' Guide to Oral Argument, which describes the function of the various people in the courtroom and provides a diagram of their general seating arrangement.

Another option is to assign The Court and Constitutional Interpretation, The Court as an Institution, and/or The Court and Its Traditions as short homework or in-class readings. Note that they are not written at a level which will be accessible to early elementary students. That said, you can always read them yourself, and condense the information into a lively presentation for younger students.

Be sure to check out the rest of the list, as well. How much do you know about the history of Supreme Court oath taking?