Judicial Lesson Plan

Please note, this lesson plan was created by as a general guide and is not specific to any particular venue listed on our site.

Where the Executive and Legislative branches are elected by the people, members of the Judicial Branch are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

The courts only try actual cases and controversies — a party must show that it has been harmed in order to bring suit in court. Cases brought before the judiciary typically proceed from district court to appellate court and may even end at the Supreme Court, although the Supreme Court hears comparatively few cases each year.


Article III of the Constitution, which establishes the Judicial Branch, leaves Congress significant discretion to determine the shape and structure of the federal judiciary. Even the number of Supreme Court Justices is left to Congress — at times there have been as few as six, while the current number (nine, with one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices) has only been in place since 1869.

The Constitution also grants Congress the power to establish courts inferior to the Supreme Court, and to that end Congress has established the United States district courts, which try most federal cases, and 13 United States courts of appeals, which review appealed district court cases.



The federal district courts hear cases that arise under federal law or the U.S. Constitution. The second levels are the appellate courts, which hear appeals from the trial courts. Both the state and federal systems have a Supreme Court, to serve as the “court of last resort.”

If visiting the state judicial system, study your state court system. How is it structured, how do they relate to each other and the federal system. How are the judges in your state appoints and what are the terms they serve.

If visiting the federal judicial system, study the federal court system. How is it structured, how do they relate to each other and the state system. How are the judges appoints and what are the terms they serve.

When you arrange a tour, see if you can arrange to hear a trial.


Appellate: (typically of a court) concerned with or dealing with applications for decisions to be reversed. Having the power to review the judgment of another tribunal. an appellate court.

Civil Case: a noncriminal lawsuit, usually involving private property rights. For example, lawsuits involving breach of contract, probate, divorce, negligence, and copyright violations

Court: a formal legal meeting in which evidence about crimes, disagreements, etc., is presented to a judge and often a jury so that decisions can be made according to the law.

Criminal Case: involve an action that is considered to be harmful to society as a whole.

Defendant: an individual, company, or institution sued or accused in a    court of law.

Defense Attorney: an advocate for the accused, for criminal or civil cases, charged with protecting his client’s interests and making sure the law works as it should.

Felony: a crime, typically one involving violence, regarded as more serious than a misdemeanor, and usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or by death.

Judical: belonging to the branch of government that is charged with trying all cases that involve the government and with the administration of justice within its jurisdiction.

Judiciary: also known as the judicial system or court system) is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes.

Judicial Branch: the court systems of local, state, and federal governments, responsible for interpreting the laws passed by the legislative branch and enforced by the executive branch.

Jury: a body of people (typically twelve in number) sworn to give a verdict in a legal case on the basis of evidence submitted to them in court.

Misdemeanor: a nonindictable offense, regarded in the US as less serious than a felony.

Prosecutor: a person, especially a public official, who institutes legal proceedings against someone. A government attorney who presents the state’s case against the defendant in a criminal prosecution.

Supreme: highest in rank or authority.

Trial: a formal examination of evidence before a judge, and typically before a jury, in order to decide guilt in a case of criminal or civil proceedings.


– Listening skills

– Verbal communication

– Vocabulary development

– Writing


Discuss the various jobs in a courthouse.

Based on the rules in your classroom/school, set up a mock trial for a broken rule. Have students role play the various parts (Judge, Defense Attorney, Jury, Prosecutor, Defendant, Court Reporter, Witnesses).