With this week’s wealth of negative news, let’s focus on something concrete and trustworthy. Let’s look at Article III of the Constitution, which establishes the federal government’s Judicial Branch. Article III is short. The Judicial Branch, which seems so complicated, is understandable. I’ll be teaching some of this material to teenagers this week. Let’s refresh our memories with a portion of the outline.
-The Supreme Court
The U.S. Constitution establishes the Supreme Court. Congress sets up or has the authority to abolish lower federal courts (Article III, section 1). This is why I say the Constitution is trustworthy. There’s some “there” there. If it’s not in there, it is not a part of the “Supreme Law of the Land.”
-Term of Office
Article III declares that all judges shall hold their offices during good behavior. It does NOT say that they retain their offices for life. They may resign, or they can be impeached. Supreme Court Justices are not a fixture for life in their official capacity. I will be correcting this error with my students this week (!)
-Nomination and Qualification
A Supreme Court Justice (SCJ) is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. At the present time, there are 9 Supreme Court justices, with one of those being the Chief Justice. Initially, when our country began, there were six justices. At one point, after the Civil War, there were ten. Since 1869, nine justices serving has been the standard. The Constitution lists no qualifications for the Supreme Court justices. In other words, they do not have to preside over a lower court to be nominated to the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States).
The SCOTUS renders opinions and examines the Constitution with the original intent, not current word meanings or societal expectations. SCOTUS has no authority to make law, according to the Constitution. That job belongs to the Legislative Branch (see Article I, section 1). Rewind: Courts do not make law. This is a fallacy that many Americans believe. Only Congress is constitutionally authorized to make law. My students are often surprised to find that there is no law-making authority for SCOTUS.
In any case, to keep things from becoming a yawn-fest, I plan to engage the students with a few discussion questions, like:
What is Court-packing?
Are nine justices enough? Why or Why not?
What does a Chief Justice do?
What kind of cases are heard by SCOTUS?
Most importantly, turning a “dry” topic that is trustworthy into a class discussion that engages teens is my job this week. Glad to have you here to jump-start my lesson.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. 🇺🇸
Read more details about Article III here: https://civicsandcitizenship.org/simple-civics-101-the-judicial-branch/
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