Unit 1, Lesson 3: The Rule of Law and Impartiality of the Courts
Featured Text for This Unit
By David Shannon
This is the third lesson in the unit, No David! Introduction to the Rule of Law. Students will focus on the meaning of impartiality, especially as it relates to the judiciary. A PowerPoint reviews the three branches of government (and/or introduces), and uses the analogy of the role referees are assigned at a baseball game to the role of judges in the courtroom.
Materials & Resources Needed
- Vocabulary Note page, for reference from Lesson 2 (PDF)
- Impartial Judiciary PowerPoint (two versions — usage depends on the level of your students and their prior knowledge on the branches of the government):
- Open-ended prompt handout (PDF)
California History Social Science Content Standards
- 5.7.5: Discuss the meaning of the American creed that calls on citizens to safeguard the liberty of individual Americans within a unified nation, to respect the rule of law, and to preserve the Constitution.
Grade 5 Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards
- Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Essential Questions / Issues
- What is justice?
- In what ways does the Rule of Law apply to impartiality of the courts?
- Are the processes in place in democracy designed to “level” individual bias in the court system effective? Why or why not?
- Should one’s “character” influence judicial decisions? Why or why not?
Students will analyze the impartial role of judges, and understand the purpose of the Rule of Law as evidenced by discussion, and answers to an open-ended writing prompt.
Teacher observation based on the following writing prompt and rubric:
- What does it mean to have an impartial judiciary?
- What does the Rule of Law have to do with impartiality?
- Give a specific example of how the Rule of Law and impartiality might have an effect on you if it were not in place.
- Download these writing prompts as a printable, one-page PDF
Quality Criteria Rubric
|Speaking and Listening
Learning Activities (60–65 minutes)
Hook (5 minutes)
Story / Example: When I was your age, my brother and I had chores we were expected to do. For example, I did the dishes, set the table, dusted and vacuumed. My brother was assigned to help my dad with the yard work on the weekends. I did my chores all week long. When the weekend came, my brother would refuse to sweep up the sidewalk after the grass was mowed, so I had to do it! I felt this was unfair and that we were being treated differently ~ not following the rules of the household.
Think about a time you feel the rules were not applied fairly to you (at school, on the playground, at home, or any activities in which you are involved). Share with your partner.
Whole Group (10 minutes)
Discuss the Rule of Law… With fairness in mind, what do you think is meant by the Rule of Law? Students brainstorm and discuss in small groups and then whole group reconvenes and teacher charts comments. Continue to probe, and bring students to the following understanding:
The rule of law is the underlying framework of rules and rights written in the Constitution that make prosperous and fair societies possible. The rule of law is a system in which no one, including government, is above the law; where laws protect fundamental rights; and where justice is accessible to all (or is for everyone).
Introduce “impartiality”… Write the word “impartiality” on the board…ask students to tell what they think this what means…(delve for vocabulary such as “justice”, “fairness”, the root word, “partial”, impartial), then ask how impartiality would apply to the Rule of Law and the judicial branch of government, role of judges.
PowerPoint (30 minutes)
Show the PowerPoint (lower grades or upper grades), The Importance of an Impartial Judiciary. Assign half the class to “chorally read” the part of the umpire, and the other half of the class to “chorally read” the part of the player.
*Note: Preview the PowerPoint first, you need to be sure that you have the proper program on your computer to show the “video” section. In addition, you may want to modify (delete) parts of this presentation for your own purposes and grade level.
Open-Ended prompt (15 minutes)
Students write to the following prompts (PDF): What does it mean to have an impartial court? What does the Rule of Law have to do with impartiality? Give a specific example (besides the baseball example in the video) of how the Rule of Law and impartiality might have an effect on you if it were not in place.
Related Student Work Samples:
- Two examples of writing prompt responses (PDF)
Closure (10 minutes)
Ask some of the students to share their prompts with the whole group…reinforce understandings about the Rule of Law and impartiality as it relates to justice.
Special Needs of Students Are Considered in This Lesson
The use of visuals, pair share, and the PowerPoint, helps with different learning styles. ELL students can be given some assistance in Spanish, and benefit from grouping strategies and brainstorming, may respond to prompt verbally. GATE students have the opportunity to apply their understanding by creating their own examples during the Open-Ended Prompt.
Have students research the cases in the video (for example, Brown vs. Board of Education), or other cases (Courts in the Classroom: courtsed.org) and analyze how the Rule of Law and an impartial judiciary made a difference.
- Common Core State Standards
- California History/Social Science Standards
- The Importance of an Impartial Judiciary, Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento