Interactive Diagram of the Federal Court System


This is a simple, neutral interactive chart that, when "played with," provides a detailed explanation of the Federal Court system appropriate for presenting to students in middle school and above.  Clicking on one of the boxes 'opens' that part of the court system to present more in-depth information via videos of judges speaking about the court structure.  

How do you use it?

The simple clarity of this flow chart, and the non-linear way in which a student engages with the material is an advantage for judges and other presenters.   The material could be used as-is for an introductory assignment in advance of a judge’s presentation at a school or at the courthouse. Many of the clickable links open to videos of judges explaining what they do. A judge presenting this flow chart could reproduce the dynamic chart as a two-dimensional handout, and give the necessary background and context through a lecture or talk.

This interactive chart is found on the Annenberg Classroom website, 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, 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, a set of five videos on the separation of powers among the three branches of government and the system of checks and balances can be found here.  There are multiple games on the site, including Court Quest here (and linked on this site below), as well as a second online game titled Branches of Power, found here, that "immerses students in the workings of our three branches of government. Players take on the roles of legislator, president and Supreme Court justice to get constitutional laws enacted. Players juggle several bills at once while holding press conferences and town hall meetings."  Links to organizations interested in the courts can be found here.

The homepage of the site can be found here.  All the interactive games on the site are gathered here.

Judges who plan to use this interactive chart will want to click through it themselves beforehand and determine how best to use it in a presentation; there is no teacher's guide along with it. 

Who is the audience?

The complexity of the information in this resource makes it appropriate for middle school and older students, albeit the material and style of presentation would make the material accessible to younger students.  The videos that elucidate the key structures of the court system use a substantial amount of legal jargon.  It is likely that even high school students will need help understanding the material.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. Appellate Courts: Let's Take It Up  Lesson Plan from iCivics (P, M, H) 
  2. Court Quest  Game from Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics and iCivics (M, H, A)
  3. Courts in the Classroom  Videos from the Judicial Council of California and the Administrative Office (P, M H)
  4. Federal Courts & What They Do  Document from the Federal Judicial Center (H, A)
  5. Oyez Baseball  Game from Justia and the Oyez Project (M, H, A)
  6. Supreme Decision  Game from iCivics (M, H) 
  7. What the Federal Courts Do  Website/slideshow from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)
And on Bankruptcy:
  1. What is a Bankruptcy Case?
  2. How Bankruptcy Cases Move through Federal Courts 
  3. How Bankruptcy Cases Move Through Federal Courts — Quiz #6

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.