Court Shorts: An Impartial Federal Judiciary

From the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

On the YouTube channel of, a video in the series "Court Shorts" focuses on the importance of a fair and impartial Judiciary. 

In the five-minute video, students question federal judges to explain the meaning and reasons behind the principle of judicial independence, which allows judges to make decisions according to the rule of law, without the influence of private citizens and public officials or the pressure of economics, media or public opinion.

This video is a stand-alone resource and does not have a dedicated lesson plan attached to it.


How do you use it?

Because of the brevity of this resource, it is best to use it as an introduction to the subject of judicial independence.  Because those being interviewed are federal judges, another judge using this for his/her own presentation might find those additional judicial voices to be useful in articulating the principle of judicial independence.   The video would also nicely set up an in-person question-and-answer session with a judge or, alternatively, a panel discussion with judges and lawyers.

In addition to this video, the website does include a broad range of potentially related teaching materials.  In addition to this series of "Court Shorts" videos there are several other series.  One set of videos that could be mined is the "Pathways to the Bench" series — interviews with sitting judges about how they came to the bench. Presenters who wanted to supplement the topic of judicial independence with discussion about how judges, no matter their backgrounds, value the principle of judicial independence might find that series of value.  

In addition, the website includes a page of podcasts (audio recordings) relating to judicial independence:  see here.  Those too could be mined for a presentation on judicial independence.

This Court Shorts:  An Impartial Judiciary video does not provide any specific additional resources, questions, handouts or case studies.  Any background information about the principle of judicial independence would have to come from supplemental information supplied or discovered by the presenter.  

Who is the audience?

The clarity as well as the sophistication of the Court Shorts video make it appropriate for middle school and older students.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. A Conversation on the Constitution: Judicial Independence  Video and Lesson Plan from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (M, H, A)
  2. Beyond Labels  Lesson Plan (PowerPoint) from the Florida Bar (H, A)
  3. Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice   Video from the American Bar Association (M, H)  
  4. Talking Points on Judicial History: Judicial History and Federal Courts  Teaching module from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)

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.