The Role of the Courts in a Democratic Society

Created by Meghann Walk & Steven Mazie

NYS Common Core Grades 7 & 8:
History of the United States and New York

The purpose of this unit plan is to provide an introduction to the judicial branch of government and the role of the courts in American democracy. Students learn about conceptual matters of justice and the need for an independent judiciary; the structure of the court system in the United States; and how judges should be selected and how their roles should be conceived. Students also have the opportunity to view courts in action through a field trip to some of New York State’s courts while developing writing, critical thinking, and discussion skills.

This lesson plan meets the following guidelines of New York State’s Common Core Social Studies Framework (2017):

  • American Independence: 7.3c
  • The Constitution in Practice: 7.5b, 7.5c
  • Reconstruction: 8.1c
  • Domestic Politics and Reform: 8.9a, 8.9b

Lesson Plan PDF

Student Resources PDF

The Historical Society’s website contains a wealth of related resources, including mini-biographies of the lawyers and judges included in the lesson.

The Federalist Papers
Written by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

Alexander Hamilton
Author of The Federalist Papers

John Jay
Author of The Federalist Papers

NY Ratification of the US Constitution 

Rutgers v. Waddington
Judicial Notice Article

Rutgers v. Waddington

Courthouse Tours

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