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New Supreme Court Justice Sworn In



Subjects

Subject(s) Social Studies --Civics --Current Events --History ----U.S. History

Grades

Grades 2-up

News Content

John Roberts was confirmed as the new chief justice of the Supreme Court by a Senate vote of 78 to 22.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below.

  • The Supreme Court is the most important court in the United States.
  • The Supreme Court has 50 justices, one for each state.
  • President Bush nominated John Roberts as the new chief justice of the Supreme Court.
  • Roberts' nomination had to be approved by the United States Senate.
  • Chief Justice Roberts replaces Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

    News Words

    Introduce these words before students read the article:

  • Supreme Court -- the highest court in the United States
  • nomination -- the act of presenting someone as a candidate for a position
  • chief justice -- on the Supreme Court, the chief justice is the one with the most responsibility

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this week's news story New Supreme Court Justice Sworn In.


    Reading the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:
    • Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.
    • Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.
    • Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.
       

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.

    John Roberts, age 50, was confirmed as the new chief justice of the Supreme Court by a U.S. Senate vote of 78 to 22. All 55 Republicans in the Senate voted for Roberts. Senate Democrats were evenly split, 22 for and 22 against.

    In accepting the nomination, Roberts thanked President Bush by saying, "There is no way to repay the confidence you have shown in me other than to do the best job I possibly can do, and I'll try to do that every day."

    Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York (1955) and grew up in Indiana. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1979. He worked as a clerk for Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. As a lawyer, he has argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court.

    About the Supreme Court

    The United States Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation. The U.S. Constitution (Article III) created the court to make sure all parts of the government follow the laws of the Constitution.

    The United States has two court systems. The federal court system governs cases that involve powers granted by the Constitution to the federal government. The state courts govern laws set by the states.

    If a party is not happy with a decision of a lower court, that party can "appeal" the case (bring it to a higher court). If the case is a state case, it is appealed in an appellate court. If it is a federal case, it is appealed to a United States District Court or the United States Courts of Appeals. If those higher courts disagree with the lower court rulings, the decision of the higher court prevails. If the higher courts agree with the lower courts, the losing party may ask that the case be presented to the Supreme Court so long as the case involves federal or Constitutional law.

    About 7,000 "petitions" are presented to the Supreme Court each year. Court clerks review most cases and provide memorandums to the justices. About 70 percent of the petitions go no farther; the justices decide at the memorandum stage that

  • the decision of the lower court was correct,
  • the case has no national significance, or
  • that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction. If a case comes before the Supreme Court, lawyers for each side have 30 minutes to present an "oral argument" for their side of the case. Most years, the Supreme Court hears argument on fewer than 100 cases. The decisions of the Supreme Court are final. Only the Supreme Court can overturn, or change, its own decisions.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it.

  • The Supreme Court is the most important court in the United States. (true)
  • The Supreme Court has 50 justices, one for each state. (false, the Supreme Court is made up of nine members, a chief justice and eight associate justices)
  • President Bush nominated John Roberts as the new chief justice of the Supreme Court. (true)
  • Roberts' nomination had to be approved by the United States Senate. (true)
  • Chief Justice Roberts replaces Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. (false, he was originally nominated to replace O'Connor, but when former Chief Justice William Rehnquist died, President Bush placed Roberts' name in nomination for Rehnquist's position)

    You might follow-up that activity with some of these questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • How many chief justices have served before John Roberts? (Roberts is the 17th chief justice, so 16 have served before him)
  • Who nominated Roberts to be the next chief justice of the Supreme Court? (President Bush)
  • How long has it been since one of the nine Supreme Court justices has been replaced? (11 years)
  • What was the tally of the final Senate vote for Roberts' nomination? (78 votes for and 22 votes against)
  • How long do Supreme Court justices serve? (for the rest of their lives; note: or until they resign, retire, or are impeached)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students' news page.

    Follow-Up Activities

    News follow-up. All 55 Republicans were united in their support of John Roberts nomination as chief justice. They were joined by 22 Democrats and one independent senator. Twenty-two Democrats voted no. Have students use newspapers or other resources to determine how your state's two senators voted on the Roberts nomination. The CNN News resource Democrats on Roberts Vote will provide the information for you.

    History. The Supreme Court is made up of nine justices. When the Supreme Court was first convened -- on February 1, 1790 in New York City -- it was made up of six justices who were appointed by George Washington. The number of justices has been nine -- eight associate justices and one chief justice -- since 1869. Throughout its history, a total of 16 chief justices and 108 associate justices have served on the Supreme Court. Share the resource below with students:

    Members of the Supreme Court of the United States
    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0101281.html
    You might
  • project the resource on a wall,
  • print copies of it for pair or small groups of students, or
  • post it on the wall in a classroom learning center. Have students use the graphic organizer/chart to answer these questions. Note: On the chart, the chief justices names are easy to pick out; they appear in bold type.
  • Who was the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court? (John Jay)
  • Oliver Ellsworth became chief justice in 1796. From which state did Ellsworth come? (Connecticut)
  • For how many years did Chief Justice John Marshall serve? (35 years)
  • Two people from Ohio have served as chief justice. One was Morrison R. Waite. Who was the other one? (Salmon P. Chase)
  • Who was the person of the Roman Catholic faith to become chief justice? (Roger B. Taney)
  • Between which years did Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller serve? (1888-1910)
  • Charles E. Hughes served as an associate justice from 1910-1916. Then he left the Supreme Court. In which year did he return as the chief justice? (1930)
  • Chief Justice John Roberts was born in New York (N.Y.) How many other chief justices were born there? (two others, John Jay and Charles Hughes)

    Math challenge. Chief Justice John Roberts is only 50 years old. He could easily be on the Supreme Court for 20 or 30 years or more. Justice William O. Douglas, who retired in 1975, served on the Supreme Court for the longest period of any justice. He served for 36 years. Have students use the resource Members of the Supreme Court of the United States to figure out how many justices have served 30 years or more. (fifteen justices, including current Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, have served 30 years or more)

    Assessment

    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    National Standards

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Civics
    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-C.K-4.1 What Is Government?
    NSS-C.K-4.3 Principles of Democracy
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NSS-C.5-8.1 Civic Life, Politics, and Government
    NSS-C.5-8.2 Foundations of the American Political System
    NSS-C.5-8.3 Principles of Democracy
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NSS-C.9-12.1 Civic Life, Politics, and Government
    NSS-C.9-12.2 Foundations of the Political System
    NSS-C.9-12.3 Principles of Democracy

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: U.S. History
    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-USH.K-4.3 The History of the United States: Democratic Principles and Values and the People from Many Cultures Who Contributed to Its Cultural, Economic, and Political Heritage
    GRADES 5 - 12
    NSS-USH.5-12.1All Eras

    See recent news stories in Education World's News Story of the Week Archive.
     

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2005 Education World


     
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