Judicial Independence – Essential, Limited, Controversial

Lesson Duration

Author: Linda Weber, Annenberg Classroom

In this lesson, students learn about the role of an independent judiciary in the United States. Through a cooperative learning jigsaw activity they focus on operational differences, essential functions, limited powers, and controversial issues. Students also consider the importance of an independent judiciary to the preservation of a constitutional democracy and the quality of life for all Americans.


  • Define judicial independence and explain why it is important.
  • Identify the qualifications, roles, and responsibilities unique to the judiciary.
  • Identify the essential functions of an independent judiciary.
  • Identify ways in which judicial powers are limited and strengthened.
  • Provide examples of historical and contemporary controversies involving the judiciary.
  • Discuss the role of the judiciary in maintaining the delicate balance of powers.
  • Explain the importance of an informed citizenry for preserving an independent judiciary.
  • Identify other factors beyond the shared powers structure defined in the Constitution that are essential for making the Constitution work for all Americans. (e.g., dispositions or traits of character, commitment to democratic principles and values, personal and civic responsibilities).


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