Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Trump v. Hawaii and Korematsu v. United States

“The President of the United States possesses an extraordinary power to speak to his fellow citizens and on their behalf.” Chief Justice John Roberts, majority opinion.

“ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens.” –Justice Sonia Sotomayor, dissent in Trump v. Hawaii

One of the most exciting things about Teaching AP Government and Politics is that there is always new examples to illustrate how the Constitution is interpreted. This Supreme Court term, the justices explored the executive order signed by President Trump regarding the following questions (cited from Oyez):

  1. Are the plaintiffs’ claims challenging the president’s authority to issue the Proclamation reviewable (“justiciable”) in federal court?
  2. Does the president have the statutory authority to issue the Proclamation?
  3. Is the global injunction barring enforcement of parts of the Proclamation impermissibly overbroad?
  4. Does the Proclamation violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution?

The Supreme Court reached the conclusion in a 5-4 decision that the President’s Proclamation No. 9645 is a lawful exercise of the president’s statutory authority and does not violate the Establishment Clause.

Within teaching this issue, it is important to stick to the Constitutional issues. Often times, these cases can stir up emotions. However, I have found that within researching primary sources (including the Constitution), if the conversation is steered toward the interpretation of those sources, we can take some of the emotion out of the argument. It is understood that every classroom is different and that you know your students best.

I absolutely love podcasts, as well as having my students listen to them in class or as an out of class assignment. Often times, these primary sources or cases an be a LOT to deal with, even as teachers. Having podcasts, such as the Constitution Center {which the new AP Redesign uses} is helpful to chunk in out and help with the complicated legal issues.

Street Law has a lot of great resources and I recently found one on the travel ban. As I was researching, I also read an article regarding Korematsu v. United States. Both sides brought up this case and the Supreme Court tossed out the 1944 decision. As a result, Radio Lab reprised the podcast, American Pendulum on the Korematsu case (listed below). Since both the Solicitor General and Mr. Katyal (for Hawaii) brought this case up in oral argument, and the Supreme Court cites it, it is a great way to bring in judicial history, as well as a comparison of presidential powers as it relates to national security. While there are clear differences between the two cases, it is relevant to the study of history. The National Constitution center has a great article in their blog as well. 

Pointing students to nonpartisan (as possible) resources, digestible primary sources, and encouraging questions produces conversations where students can understand the complexity of the Constitution, as well as the historical implications of decisions of the Supreme Court.

Lesson Ideas for Civil Liberties and Civil Rights [CR3}:

  • Socratic Discussion: Evaluate the Supreme Court’s decision to include Korematsu in the discussion in Trump v. Hawaii
  • Argumentative Writing Prompt: Defend or refute the Supreme Court’s decision to throw out the Korematsu decision 74 years after it was upheld.

Resources:

Constitution Center Podcast- The Supreme Court Considers the Travel Ban Case

Korematsu Institute

Podcast- Radio Lab More Perfect: American Pendulum {Podcast on Korematsu)

Argument Activity in Korematsu (A good warm up or quick activity)

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