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Supreme Court Activity

In this activity, students do a simulation of a Supreme Court deliberation that introduces them to the difficult role of the courts in balancing individual rights and public safety when national security is threatened. Using the assumption that the nation's terror alert system has been at orange (the second highest level) for six months, students are asked to assume the role of Supreme Court justices and weigh the risks of eliminating rights to keep the nation safe when it seems that democracy hangs in the balance.

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The teacher assigns all students to a Supreme Court group of nine. "Extra" students - those beyond the nine on each court - are designated by the teacher to be broadcast journalists. Each is assigned to a Supreme Court.

The student Supreme Court is asked to weigh the risks of eliminating rights to keep the nation safe during a national security alert. The journalists will report the decision of their Court to the rest of the class at the conclusion of the deliberations. Each Supreme Court selects its Chief Justice. He/she is "a first among equals" and facilitates the deliberations. Use the suggested procedures for further guidance on the activitiy.

Before the deliberations, all students work in their Supreme Court groups to find a magazine picture representing each of the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution. Groups may select more than one picture per Amendment.

  1. Each picture is labeled according to the Amendment it represents. All groups exhibit their pictures in separate areas of the classroom where everyone can see them.
  2. With the pictures as reference points, each Court deliberates how eliminating one of the rights will impact our life. Use the suggested procedures to deliberate.
  3. At the end of the deliberations, each Court removes the pictures of the rights they have eliminated from the Constitution. The journalist for each group reports which rights have been eliminated and which have survived. All the rights that have survived any Court are displayed together and all the rights that have been discarded by any Court are grouped together where everyone can see and discuss them.
  4. The teacher in the classroom, or the judge in the courtroom, facilitates a discussion about the impact of eliminating or preserving the rights selected by the courts.
  5. Take a quiz on your knowledge of the Supreme Court.