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October 14, 2020

Why do Supreme Court nominees avoid answering so many questions?

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Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. To read the transcript of the video above, click here

Summary: The Senate Judiciary Committee pressed Judge Amy Coney Barrett for answers on hot-button issues Tuesday, the second day of her confirmation hearing. Senators asked the Supreme Court nominee about her judicial philosophy, her opinions of court precedent on abortion and the Affordable Care Act and whether she would recuse herself from any cases resulting from the election.

Discussion:

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

    • Who is the story about?
    • What is the Supreme Court and what important role does it serve in the U.S.?
    • When and where are hearings taking place about the potential future Supreme Court justice?
    • Why is the Supreme Court so important to politicians? The public?
    • How do Senators try to gauge the suitability of potential justices?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus questions:

  1. Do you think Supreme Court nominees should discuss their opinions or understanding of past Supreme Court cases? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think Supreme Court nominees should discuss their opinions on possible future cases before the Supreme Court? Why or why not?
  3. If Supreme Court nominees are reluctant to discuss their legal opinions, what do you think Senators should ask them about instead? Alternatively, you might ask a question that Ms. Glover, an educator on Twitter shared with us in response to the lesson’s title: “The real question is why are they permitted to.”

Media literacy: If you were covering a Senate confirmation hearing that spanned multiple days, what sort of information do you think it would be most important to convey to your audience?

Dig deeper: Want to learn more about the ways the Supreme Court nominating process works? Use this resource from iCivics to learn more about the politics involved, the president’s role and the Senate’s role. Note: You’ll need to register for a free iCivics account in order to access the lesson plan. In this lesson, students will learn:

  • Identify ways in which the nomination of Supreme Court justices is and is not political
  • Evaluate the effect of politics on the nomination process
  • Compare judicial philosophies
  • Research and analyze the nominations and confirmation processes of Robert Bork, Harriet Miers, Clarence Thomas and Merrick Garland

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