Teaching Tools for Civics Education

This website-based set of resources is intended to assist judges, members of the federal court system, educators and others in their outreach to students and teachers, in both classroom and courtroom presentations. 

Nurturing Understanding & Good Citizenship

This website focuses on the federal courts and the national issues these courts address. It includes links to selected materials for use by judges and other presenters in educating the public, especially students at all levels, about the judiciary’s crucial role as a coequal third branch of government dedicated to the fair and impartial administration of the law.

The materials illuminate the critical role of the judiciary in safeguarding our freedoms, and the corresponding importance of judicial independence -- the courts’ ability to decide disputes impartially, without fear of direct or indirect social, economic or political reprisal. 

Focus on Critical Topics

This web-based set of resources features the following topics: 
  1. The United States Constitution in general, with an emphasis on separation of powers and the concept of federalism. 

  2. Judicial Independence, including the role that fair and impartial courts  play in preserving rights and protecting liberties. 

  3. The Structure of the Federal Courts, including the roles of trial, appellate and special purpose courts.

  4. The Bill of Rights in general, with special emphasis on the 14th and 15th Amendments, the Equal Protection clause and Due Process. 

  5. First Amendment Rights & Intellectual Property Law, with special emphasis on freedom of the press and free speech issues & intellectual property, copyright and patent law.

  6. Fourth, Fifth & Sixth Amendment Rights  — "Street Law" in other words — including juvenile justice issues, individuals’ rights in law enforcement encounters and the sequence of events following arrest, if an individual is brought to court. 

  7. Civil & Criminal Litigation basics, including the events and roles of parties in criminal cases and civil cases and the role of judge and jury.

  8. Bankruptcy Proceedings and their basic legal principles. 

How To Use This Site

The resources that are included on this website (and linked in the Index of Resources section as well as on the various subject pages) are intended to assist judges and other presenters as they prepare for a public speech or program. 

The resources selected include document handouts and case study simulations, slide presentations, videos and online games, as well as multi-dimensional lesson plans.   

Some are suitable for use as stand-alone presentations. Others provide guidance or components for user-developed presentations. Each resource is coded to indicate the recommended audience – P (Primary school), M (middle school), H (high school), and A (general adult).

See the FAQ page for more information.

Please note that this website is focused on national issues that are addressed by the federal courts; it addresses state- or district-specific issues only tangentially.

Photo Credit:  Ivy, Picasa WebAlbum

    Take a look at these resources that other judges are using:

    For Primary School Students:
    • Matching Game with the Constitution — This lesson plan teaches early primary students about the Third Branch by asking them to recognize and match key images related to the Constitution and the courts. From the Center for Civic Education
    • Trial Court Go Fish — This game teaches students about the many characters in the courtroom, including the judge, bailiff, prosecutor and juror. From iCivics
    • Courts in the Classroom — This web page hosts three series of videos, a set on Big Ideas, (Due Process, Checks and Balances, etc.), a set on The Third Branch, and a set on Landmark Cases. From the Judicial Council of California and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

    For Middle School Students:
    • Amazing Amendments — This one-page document summarizes how an amendment gets ratified. From Scholastic
    • What the Federal Courts Do — This online series of "documents" details the Federal Court system via an online slideshow. From the Federal Judicial Center 

    For High School Students (and older):
    • 45 Words — This 15-minute video and lesson plan explains the origins of the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. From the Newseum 
    • Argument Wars — This interactive online game and lesson booklet teaches how the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution to make decisions. From iCivics
    • Bankruptcy Basics — This online series of "documents" and videos explains bankruptcy, the various "chapters" and their related procedures. From the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
  • 1. The Federal Judges Association (FJA) The Federal Judges Association is a voluntary not-for-profit association of judges nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate under Article III of the Constitution. The FJA is devoted to seeking the highest quality of justice for the people of the United States, including by preserving and protecting the independence of the judicial branch, a fundamental principle embodied in the Constitution of the United States. At its annual meeting in April 2011, the FJA Board approved the undertaking of a civics education initiative to enhance public understanding of the Constitution, the role of the courts, judicial independence and the rule of law. This project, which is being undertaken in cooperation with ...
    Posted May 6, 2012, 7:53 PM by Susan Moeller
  • 2. The Federal Magistrate Judges Association (FMJA) The Federal Magistrate Judges Association is a voluntary not-for-profit association of federal trial judges who serve in accordance with Article I of the U.S. Constitution. The FMJA is devoted to promoting cooperation among the Magistrate Judges, and supporting the administration of the magistrate judges system by meeting with members of Congress, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding policy issues concerning its member judges. The Association further seeks to educate the public about the importance of the magistrate judge system and working through its rules committee seeks to influence positive change in various rules of procedure affecting federal courts.  In 2011, in connection with its purpose of ...
    Posted May 6, 2012, 7:53 PM by Susan Moeller
  • 3. National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges (NCBJ) The National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges is a voluntary not-for-profit association of the Bankruptcy Judges of the United States which has several purposes: to provide continuing legal education to judges, lawyers and other involved professionals, to promote cooperation among the Bankruptcy Judges, to secure a greater degree of quality and uniformity in the administration of the Bankruptcy system and to improve the practice of law in the Bankruptcy Courts of the United States.  As part of its mission, the NCBJ, through various committees, provides public outreach and education  regarding the impact of bankruptcy on the public’s lives and livelihood, the impact of bankruptcy law on non-bankruptcy legal rights and remedies, and the purpose and jurisdiction of ...
    Posted May 11, 2015, 2:07 PM by Ryan Sellinger
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