Civic Education

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Citizens' understanding of the fundamentals of civic rights and responsibilities of individuals and the history and functions of our government, including the role of the courts, helps to strengthen our democracy and the rule of law. Our civic education initiative supports educational institutions and other community organizations in developing age-appropriate interactive and engaging learning experiences.

In connection with court visits by classes, internship and mentorship programs, and in special programs for educators, we facilitate and assist in providing civic education training on the administration and development of the law, to high school students enrolled in law-focused courses, public school students enrolled in general social studies courses, and teachers in professional development programs.

In promoting these goals, we have worked closely with public entities, community groups and professional organizations. For example, we have collaborated with New York City's Justice Resource Center (JRC) in its development of civil and criminal law, constitutional law, mock trial and moot (appellate) courts, and legal research courses for high school students enrolled in special law-focused public school programs throughout New York City. We also provide venues and logistical support for moot appellate court and mock trial competitions. The following JRC courses are being introduced in the 2016-2017 academic year:

  • 9th grade: Intro to Law 1; Intro to Law 2
  • 10th grade: Criminal Justice; Criminology
  • 11th grade: Constitutional Law
  • 11th grade: Moot Court and Mock Trials

A 12th grade Legal Research and Writing course is still in development.

In another collaboration with the JRC, we developed and presented, with the integral participation of federal judges, faculty from numerous law schools and practicing lawyers, a week-long summer professional development program for New York City and Albany, NY, teachers in 2016. The program focused on the teaching of a comprehensive high school civics education curriculum ("We the People"). The teachers who participated in this special program were selected from among those working in schools in economically challenged areas. Work is under way to repeat the program in the summer of 2017, and to provide additional courthouse-based professional development programs during the school year. We also collaborated on and hosted a New York City Teachers Professional Day at the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in the spring of 2016, which featured discussions with judges, a legal research seminar and a screening of a film concerning the work of U.S. District Judge Constance Baker Motley, who was a leading civil rights litigator before she began her career in the Southern District of New York in 1966.

We also hosted participants in several internship programs for law students and high school students in our New York City courthouses during the summer of 2016. These included the Sonia & Celina Sotomayor Judicial Internship Program, whose high school interns were placed in judges' chambers and attended weekly seminars on practical topics such as college applications, career exploration and cyber-security, as well as legal research training in our law libraries, other law-related skills, and legal history.

Further projects for the 2016-2017 academic year include collaboration with the New York City Department of Education on the enhancement and implementation of judiciary and law-related aspects of the general social studies curriculum, through commentary on draft materials and the development of components that will enhance students' understanding of the role of the courts, particular legal issues, and significant historical events, and collaboration in a summer professional development program for teachers in the Albany area.

With advance notice, we welcome court visits from school groups, mentorship program participants and community groups throughout the Second Circuit, as well as dialogue on how we can assist educators in enhancing civic education. Civic education opportunities are potentially available every week day (other than national holidays).

We look forward to expanding our civics education work and partnerships throughout the circuit.

Learn More

For materials specifically for teachers and others interested in enhancing civics education, click here. For materials specifically for students, click here.

Non-governmental sources that are available through the links may have restricted use policies or other requirements in connection with the use of particular material. Please note the information provided on the websites and linked materials.

Acknowledgements: In addition to the faculty in teacher programs described above, the courts of the Second Circuit acknowledge and are deeply grateful for the exceptional services provided to the civic education initiative "Justice for All: Courts and the Community" by Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution and the Governance Institute, with support of a grant from the Leon Levy Foundation to the Governance Institute.


Contact Us

  • U.S. Court of Appeals Library
    Thurgood Marshall
    U.S. Courthouse
    40 Foley Square
    New York, NY 10007

  • Email


  • Telephone

    (212) 857-8930