This lesson is designed to be conducted in two days. The first day is for students
to understand their roles in a mock-judicial hearing and some background on the
president's nominee for the Supreme Court. It allows students to assume some of
the main political positions held on a Senate Judiciary Committee conducting the
In this simulation, students will work in groups, assuming one
of these positions, and will evaluate the candidate's qualifications and possible
political persuasions. Since the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings may go on
for many weeks, the teacher can extend the lesson to include student debates between
the different Senate subcommittees or revisit the lesson when it is more convenient.
to the potential controversial nature of many of the topics discussed during the
nomination hearings the teacher might want to review the materials and resources
Although this lesson is designed to be completed in two class
periods, class time may vary. It is suggested that students be given time in class
and at home (if necessary) to prepare for the simulation on the first day and
then conduct their evaluations of the candidates on the second day.
With the retirement of Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, President Obama will nominate his second member to the Supreme Court in as many years. Justice Stevens was a mainstay of the Supreme Court's liberal wing.
Since the early days of the republic, the Senate has considered a nominees qualifications, the importance of the position and the prevailing political climate in providing advice and consent to the President on his nomination. Your sub-committee's task is to consider the nominee's qualifications and opinions on various issues and determine whether he should be approved by the Senate.
1. Divide the class into four subcommittees each representing one of the different
positions on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and pass out their respective
student handouts. (With larger classes the teacher might want to create more
than one subcommittee of each category to allow for smaller discussion groups.
The teacher can also decide whether to place students in groups that are similar
or different to their own personal views on the issues discussed in the subcommittee
2. Give students time to review the history of
judicial nominations and the role descriptions of their respective subcommittees.
Answer any questions students might have before they begin their research.
3. Have students work in their subcommittees to research the president's
nominee. They can go to the NewsHour special report on the Supreme
Court at or any of the other major news outlets and/or interest groups' websites
listed on their handout (and on the right navigation bar) for information. They
should understand that the interest groups have specific agendas and might be
favorable or unfavorable toward a specific candidate and that information from
these sites should be taken in that context. If necessary, have students extend
their research as a homework assignment.
4. On the second day, have
students meet in their groups to briefly (10 minutes) discuss their findings from
the day before. They have the option of coming to a consensus on the nominee or
"agreeing to disagree" within their group. If this is the case, different members
of each subcommittee should be allowed to present their views.
teacher should then introduce the nominee or have one of the groups introduce
the nominee with a brief biography.
6. Then have each group introduce
themselves to the class by reviewing the role description on their student handout.
After discussing their findings on the nominee using their research guide, the
subcommittees should then vote on whether to accept or reject the nominee.
7. Have students do the follow up questions in either small group or general
class discussion or as a written paper.
- What did you learn about the nominee you researched in class?
is your personal opinion on whether or not you support this nominee as a replacement
- What challenges do you see to your nominee's appointment to the
Court and from whom or where might these challenges arise?
- Of all the
people mentioned as potential nominees, who do you think would best fill Justice
Stevens' position and why?
- In what direction do you think the nominee
would lead the country? What is your opinion on that?
If time allows or at the teacher's discretion, students can extend the activity
by asking the other groups clarification questions on their conclusions (assuming
one group differs from another). They can also send up challenging statements
that reflect their subcommittee's convictions on the various topics and try to
convince the subcommittees of the merits of their decision. This can culminate
in a class vote (or filibuster and the threat of the "nuclear option").