A Conversation on the Constitution: Jury Service

From the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics. 

This 10-minute video is structured as a conversation among Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer and a group of high school students.  Using hypothetical questions, the justices teach students about the history and responsibilities of juries and the role they play in the U.S. judicial system.   

The video contextualizes the questions of why juries exist in the U.S judicial system and why having a judge and jury is important.  The video is accompanied by an downloadable lesson plan for teachers to use (Jury Service: Our Duty and Privilege as Citizens lesson plan) and related additional videos (FAQs: Juries: 11 short videos on juries and jury service). 


How do you use it?

This resource is an accessible, if rather dry way for a high school audience to understand the role of juries in the American judiciary system.  The video could be used as an introductory assignment in advance of a judge coming to give a presentation or for a classroom visit to a courtroom, or it could be used during a presentation to help break up a "lecture" on the same material or to reinforce information presented. 

The related lesson plan (pdf) serves as a teacher's guide and includes handouts and questions and sample answers .  Key questions during the film itself also help students stay engaged with the film and the issues it raises.

The Annenberg Classroom website is a multimedia environment that gathers together videos, lesson plans, current news and interactive games.  As the site says:  "This website connects our award-winning, comprehensive curriculum on the Constitution and its amendments to daily civics news and student discussion. And when we say 'connects,' we really mean it. Twice daily, our nonpartisan writers sift through national and local news and select current events expressly for social studies classrooms. And twice weekly, they write an article on a portion of this news with links to our multimedia curriculum. You can use these articles—we call them 'Speak Outs'—in your class or right here online. When your students 'Speak Out' at AnnenbergClassroom.org, they participate in a moderated, national dialogue of their peers.  We publish up to 10 news stories a day, many media resources each year, and at least two Speak Outs each week during the school year."

Other Resources on the Annenberg Classroom Site:
Because of the range of resources on the site, judges and other presenters might find it valuable to browse deeper into the site to determine if there are other resources of value for a particular presentation.  There is special depth of curricular materials relating to the Constitution and the Courts.  For example, 11 videos on juries and jury service can be found here.  Links to organizations interested in the courts can be found here.  The homepage of the site can be found here.  All the videos on the site are gathered here.

Who is the audience?

The concepts explored in this video are quite sophisticated — and there is a significant amount of history involved — so the intended audience is older than a first glance might expect.  The focus and specificity of video make it especially appropriate for high school and older students, albeit the material and style of presentation is sufficiently accessible that younger students could use the video and be taught from the lesson plan with some direction.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. Civil Mock Trials  Case study/mock trial from Street Law (H, A)
  2. Considering the Constitution  Document from Scholastic (P, M, H) 
  3. Court Shorts: Jury Service  Video from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (M, H, A)
  4. Criminal Mock Trials  Case study/mock trial from Street Law (H, A)
  5. Deciding by Group: You Are the Jury  Document from Scholastic (P, M, H)  
  6. Juror Selection  Document from Scholastic (M, H) 
  7. Pathways to the Bench  Videos from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H)
  8. Quiz #3: Civil Cases  Lesson Plan from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)
  9. Quiz #4: Criminal Cases  Lesson Plan from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)
  10. Texting While Driving  Case study/mock trial from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H, A)
  11. Trial Court 'Go Fish'  Game from iCivics (P, M)

Additional Recommended Resources Off-Site Links

  1. A Constitutional Timeline
    • Multi-aged audience timeline that highlights key dates in history of Constitution, with links to text, audio and video clips. From National Constitution Center's Constitution Day site. 
  2. Interactive Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that enables users to search Constitution by keyword or topic, with access to explanatory materials throughout. From National Constitution Center.   
  3. The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that lists the text of each section of every article in the Constitution, and provides explanation of what the text means in plain language.  From the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics. 
  4. Understanding the Federal Courts
    • Multi-aged online textbook-type document that includes sections on Article III, the Federal Court system and the geographical boundaries of the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts, the code of conduct for judges, juror qualifications, exemptions and terms of service, as well as categories of bankruptcy cases.  From the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.