Through our partnership with Bard High School Early College, a public school with campuses in Manhattan and Queens operated with Bard College, we have developed middle school curriculum for Bard’s after-school program the Bard Early College Academy. The pilot program launched in spring of 2012 for students in grades 7 and 8. The goal is to teach students about the role of courts in a civil society; the importance of the New York State and United States constitutions; the operation of the Rule of Law; and how courts, judges, and lawyers contribute to the administration of justice. Below we have provided resources for educators that can help students develop critical thinking skills relating to these themes. The Society plans to continue work to bring judges and lawyers into the classroom and students into the courthouses.
If you have used any of these materials in your classroom, we are interested in hearing your feedback. How did you adapt our resources to meet the needs of your classroom? What activities worked for you? What activities didn't work? We invite you to email us at the Historical Society of the New York Courts.
The Lemmon Slave Case provides students of U.S. history a window into the legal challenges and moral conflicts over slavery before the Civil War. This case requires a close examination of federal and state law. The New York courts freed slaves brought into the free state, while the United States Supreme Court decided Dred Scott was not free though he had travelled to a free state with his master’s family. Many curricula place a strong emphasis on the Dred Scott decision, but the Lemmon case shifts focus to New York and allows students to contemplate state’s rights implications and the interpretation of the law through a lens of human equality. The middle school curriculum was adapted from Prof. Laura Hymson’s high school curriculum; both are included here for reference.
The purpose of this unit plan is to provide an introduction to the judicial branch of government and the role of the courts in American democracy. Students learn about conceptual matters of justice and the need for an independent judiciary; the structure of the court system in the United States; and how judges should be selected and how their roles should be conceived. Students also have the opportunity to view courts in action through a field trip to some of New York State’s courts while developing writing, critical thinking, and discussion skills.
Historical Society Resources
Judicial Notice: Rutgers v. Waddington: Alexander Hamilton and the Birth Pangs of Judicial Review by David A. Weinstein
Judicial Notice: Foward to The Nature of the Judicial Process by Andrew L. Kaufman
New York & the Ratification of the Federal Constitution (1788) Primary Source Document and Transcript
Garfinkel Essay Scholarship 2016: You the Juror
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