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Explore the Court System

Inform Yourself

Watch a video on the power of the courts. The perception and power of the federal court system have changed over the course of the nation’s history. Even at the Constitutional Convention, held in 1787, there were disagreements over what exactly the court system should look like. Watch the Standard Deviants’ introduction to the judicial branch. What was included in the Constitution versus the Judiciary Act?
Compare the jurisdictions of federal and state courts. The federal courts are not the only courts in the United States. The cases that are deemed federal or state fall into specific categories, listed here. Which cases are heard by state courts? Do any of these classifications surprise you?

Express Yourself

Take a stand on free speech and technology. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) often files amicus curiae briefs on cases that involve civil rights or civil liberties infringements. A recent case originating in Virginia argues that “liking” something on Facebook is equivalent to protected speech and that employers should not be able to fire employees for this action. Read the ACLU post. Would you rule for the plaintiff or the defendant in this case? Share your opinion by posting a comment to the ACLU blog or Facebook page.
Weigh in on judicial elections. Are judicial elections held in your state? View the map of the United States and see whether members of your home state’s supreme court are elected or appointed. If they are elected, are they elected in partisan or non-partisan elections? If they are appointed, is it using the merit plan or another system?
After viewing this information on the appointment versus the election of judges, what is your opinion? What is the fairest method of selecting judges? Follow the “Justice at Stake” Twitter feed and consider sharing your opinion online. If your state holds judicial elections, how will you choose between judicial candidates in the next race?

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