Civics & Economicsby Matthew Caggia

Unit 3C: Comparative Government - Judicial Branch

Chapters 8, 13.3, 14.1&2

Finally, the Judicial Branch. Here we will look into the branch the interprets the laws - the referee, if you will. Important for our study is how this branch balances out the government with the people and how we leave it up to the courts to sort out the mess that be created by the laws and their enforcement. We will see how the rights investigated in the Bill of Rights and in Article I, section 9 of the Constitution are protected and applied in the courts and in practice. Luckily, most of the same rules apply to both the federal and state levels of our court system, but it should be remembered that most of the time, any appearance made in court will be in state court, not federal.

We will also investigate the Supreme Court's role as final arbiter in all things Constitutional. Through the power of Judicial Review, the Supreme Court has adopted the ability to declare laws unconstitutional if they disagree with the Constitution.

Study Tools

Online Textbook Resources

These pages contain the links to the online content for student practice. It includes Chapter Overviews, Web Activities, Self-Check Quizzes, ePuzzles and Games, Vocabulary Flashcards, Charts in Motion (to accompany diagrams in the textbook), and Interactive Graphic Organizers.


Link to Quizlet! Vocabulary is the key to understanding any subject. Once you can break down the barrier of language the ideas and concepts are wide open. Here you can find the vocabulary for the unit to practice by using online flash cards and by practicing online generated vocabulary quizzes.

Slide Shows

The slideshows are best viewed full screen. Slideshows will be blocked until AFTER the homework is due to encourage students to read the required sections of the textbook.

The Federal Courts

This presentation, for section 8.1 & 8.2, describes the role of the court system as well how the Federal Court System is organized.

The Supreme Court

This presentation goes along with secgtion 8.3 and 8.4 Guided Readings for the textbook. Not only does it answer the questions, but provides additional information about the topic.

NC State Court System

This is an overview of the Judicial Branch in the North Carolina system. It includes basic information about each of the different courts and the people who work in the court system.


Crash Course #18: Legal System Basics

From the publisher:
This week Craig Benzine takes a first look at the judicial branch. It's pretty easy to forget that the courts, and the laws that come out of them, affect our lives on a daily basis. But how exactly these decisions are made and where each law's jurisdiction starts and ends can get pretty complicated. So complicated in fact that you may want to smash something. But don't worry, Craig will clear the way.

Crash Course #19: Structure of the Court System

From the publisher:
This week Craig Benzine is going to talk about the structure of the U.S. court system and how exactly it manages to keep things moving smoothly. We’’ll talk about trial courts, district courts, appeals courts, circuit courts, state supreme courts, and of course the one at the top - the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s all quite a bit to manage with jurisdictions and such, but it's important to remember that the vast majority of cases never even make it to court! Most are settled out of court, but also terms like mootness and ripeness are used to throw cases out altogether. Today, we're going to focus on how cases make it to the top, and next week we’ll talk about what happens when they get there.

Crash Course #20: Supreme Court of the United States Procedures

From the publisher:
This week Craig Benzine talks about what happens when a case makes it to the Supreme Court of the United States (or the SCOTUS). We're going to focus on court procedure today. We talk about how to petition to get your case heard, how written arguments, or briefs, are made, what actually happens on the courtroom floor, and of course the variety of ways the SCOTUS issues opinions on cases.

Crash Course #21: Judicial Review

From the publisher:
Today, Craig Benzine is going to tell you about the Supreme Court's most important case, Marbury v. Madison, and how the court granted itself the power of judicial review. Judicial review is the power to examine and invalidate actions of the legislative and executive branches. It happens at both the state and federal court levels, but today we're going to focus primarily on the court at the top - the Supreme Court of the United States. Now it's important to remember that the court has granted itself these powers and they aren't found within the Constitution, but as with the executive and legislative branches, the courts rely heavily on implied powers to get stuff done.

Crash Course #22: Judicial Decisions

From the publisher:
Today, Craig Benzine is going to dive into the factors that influence judicial decisions. As you may have noticed, the Supreme Court recently handed down some pretty big decisions on same-sex marriage (in Obergefell v Hodges) and the Affordable Care Act (in King v. Burwell). Now, it's important to remember that these decisions are not made in a vacuum, but influenced by the other branches of government, political affiliations, and past court decisions. We’re also talk about a judge’s judicial philosophy - that is their relative restraint or activism in making decisions on laws. Judicial restraint is often equated with conservatism, but as we’ll show you, this is not always the case.

Video Link: Annenberg Media -

Equal Justice Under Law: Marbury v. Madison

This documentary takes a look at, arguably, the most important Supreme Court case decided (or not decided, for that matter) in the history of the United States. This pivotal case gave the Supreme Court purpose and a role in checking the powers of the Legislative and Executive branches - Judicial Review. Part dramatization, part documentary, this film explores the background, details, and implication of the case. (NOTE: This video contains far more detail and information needed for our study of Civics & Economics.)


Judicial Branch

Copyright M. Caggia 2016