Pull out your white wigs and your gavels, it's time to play 'You be the Judge.' (Think I am kidding... I even have a cute stamp I put on the kids papers...)
My final stab at reading and writing skills AND interpreting the Constitution is a whopper. I assign the kids to play Supreme Court Justice. They get to decide issues of constitutional interpretation, judicial philosophy, precedent, and politics. All in one nice, neat little two page paper. I guide the students through two of them (it makes for a great class discussion!) and leave them to their own devices on the last one.
Per the student's request, our first of four papers is Sebelius v Hobby Lobby. My students are asked to tackle two plain-english derivations of the case before the SCOTUS, as well as two, more technical discussions.
I lead them through the various questions on the assignment, and take time to tackle some of the more complex legal maneouvering. In this case, the question before the court requires application of strict scrutiny. I find strict scrutiny, as well as all judicial tests, to be a problem for most students. This little video is super helpful.
Once I get through this video, I take care to explain the different tests, including intermediate scrutiny (the lesser used due to VMI.) Point here is whether or not the federal government has to treat Hobby Lobby as a "person," as it is not explicitly stated in the 1st Amendment, and "person" is loosely defined in the Federal Dictionary Act. Hmph. Pesky little boogers.
So, if they, meaning Hobby Lobby and the Green family who owns this chain of stores, are a person, then the government will have to employ a strict scrutiny test... and that requires the federal government to show:
-A compelling (or necessary and.or crucial) interest
If Hobby Lobby can show that their fundamental constitutional right to free exercise has been compromised, the then the government has to argue through evidence that Hobby Lobby's free exercise rights are NOT being infringed. But that is if the courts agree first that Hobby Lobby is a person. And if Hobby Lobby finds the Court seeing them as a person, then the government has about a 60% chance that the Courts will find in their favor. (That whole 'strict in theory, fatal in fact' argument is not as fatal as previously advertised.)
And below, because I have to 'make life impossible' for my students, are my notes on the case. If they find it, great. Key is you found it.
Great question; I am glad you asked.
As previously stated, I am super passionate about this unit. So, let's peel those beautiful crimson drapes back and get into it.
In looking at the creation of the courts, I draw two distinct parallels. The courts are OOAK (one of a kind) and not so much.
Why the courts are OOAK:
Why not so much:
I then get into the distinction between Title III and Title I courts, as well as courts of original jurisdiction and appellate jurisdiction.
Primarily, Article III courts are those that created in Article III of the Constitution, naturally. They tend to have a generic docket that hears all court cases under federal jurisdiction. There is one court created by the Constitution (the Supreme Court), as well as one class of jurists (Supreme Court Judges). The rest of the courts are created under statute (most notably the Judiciary Act of 1789)
Article I courts are created by Congress under Constitutional authority, specifically Article I Section 8 Clause 9. There are several types of courts who are crafted pursuant to the powers in the Article I: tax courts, regulation of territories and DC, and military courts. (And to make it even more complex, consider the over 4,000 executive adjudicators who work in varying degrees of independence, though never full independence, from the executive. The Supreme Court can and does review their decisions, as in the case NLRB v Canning.)
Here is a great resource for use to explain this...
From this point, we discuss the lovely world of judicial activism vs judicial restraint. I don't belabor the various subgroupings like textualists, originalists, etc... we just get a general understanding of reading into a decision with the desire to write rulings that either live within the text of the Constitution or broadly interpret the Constitution.
I have a worksheet that covers this in a nutshell, and even has a great video link from Annenberg that pairs Justice Scalia up with Justice Breyer in a head to head debate over the merits of each interpretation. (Up on TPT).
For an even MORE in-depth review of the various philosophies, try the first chapter in Scalia Dissents. It is succinct and has an appropriate treatment for the content. And, it is pretty humorous. Actually, the whole book is hilarious, but that is for another day.
This is, and probably always will be, my favorite unit in all of government.
And my first observations on the court are borrowed ones.
When you ask Americans to rank the three branches of the government, the Supreme Court usually ranks number one in the hearts of mice and men. This is followed by the President and Congress. Right now it is in that order.
(As of today, SCOTUS ranks around 48%, POTUS is coming in strong at 44%, and Congress is bringing up the rear at a dismissal 13%.)
REALLY!?! While I love the SCOTUS, I find this stat to be incredible for TWO reasons...
1.) The SCOTUS is the least democratic of the three branches. Those guys and gals in black are there because of some President's nomination... and Congressional approval. And once they are in, they are in for a term of "good behavior." Whatever that means. (Means they have to generally exercise ethical conduct. Folks have been impeached for alcoholism in the past in the judicial branch... and some other unsavory activities.) And if they are impeached, remember... that is 2/3s of both chamber doing their thing. You better have broad, bipartisan support. I view this as meaning that the justices do not have to fear being impeached for political reasons, especially if they are accused of being overtly political in their decisions.
Um, ahem. That is the way it is supposed to be. But we'll get back to that in a few.
Think about it like this, too. Eisenhower is famously cited as saying that Earl Warren was the biggest mistake of his presidency... not for Warren's role in advancing civil rights, but for Warren's track record on criminal law. (And that quote... it's apocryphal... but he probably said something pretty darn similar to that.)
2.) The SCOTUS, in trying to interpret laws, has a strong track record of ruling on the behalf of the minority. Think about it... at least in recent years, we have seen legislation undone by the Courts despite strong, popular support... things like:
They have to rule for the minority. That is the peculiar function that the courts were crafted to accomplish. While there is little in the Constitution about courts, aside from establishing jurisdiction, the Supreme Courts, terms for judges, and allowing Congress authority to craft an efficient legal system... The fact that these folks have "life" terms that are isolated from politics gives them the ability to make calls that are politically unpopular with the majority.
And while the courts have assumed the right of Judicial Review courtesy of the Marshall court, it is not explicitly stated in the Constitution. This implied has become one of the largest swords the courts wield, and is firmly established in American jurisprudence.
The amazingly beautiful thing about this branch's personality is pretty much exactly how Madison intended it. Madison and the other founding fathers constructed a branch that was unique in human history. An independent branch with powers separate from the others (unlike the Crown's courts in England, or the non-permanent courts under the Articles)... in which the court was there to judge actions against natural rights and precedent. The fact that Marshall enabled a check that actually erased illegal actions is truly another completion of this power.
So, as we continue through the court units we begin and end our reflections here.
Oh, lovgubbers. It has been quite a while since my last post... and so much has happened.
My radio silence is due to my yearly diversion into my own version of March Madness... Research papers. I finished grading my 125 10-page papers in less than two weeks, and then needed a BREAK.
But learning and teaching continued despite this interlude...
And while I was grading, I was also teaching Monetary and Fiscal Policy.
So, I primarily rounded this up digitally. I used a blendspace activity for both lessons. While this is repetitive in terms of presentation, which I really don't like to do, this unit is constantly in flux. Having the ability to change my presentation each year as necessary is really helpful, and blendspace is super easy to share.
Here is my fiscal policy blendspace:
(I really like the first video; it is a great hook. The concluding video is for kids who are not in class the day I show the full length movie. IOUSA is going on 8 years old; it is really informative and shocking to see how off the figures they site are!)
And here is my monetary policy unit. It is an adaptation of a couple of lessons created by the fed reserve, and is really helpful. Additionally, I do have my kids listen to the interview of Neil Irwin... it is great to put some of this information in context.
I want to start by thanking Mr. Snowden and Mr. Greenwald for their uncompromising dedication to giving the NSA violations air time and transparency. I wanted to share some of the most important things I have learned from this book bef...
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
by Bill Bishop
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
I lovgov. LOVE IT! I love teaching government, learning about it, debating, discussing, asking questions about government. And not the standard boiler plate questions, but the hard ones that are NOT in the books.