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The cases in the Famous Federal Trials feature illustrate the role the federal courts have played with respect to issues of national controversy, such as women’s suffrage, Chinese exclusion, Prohibition, the Red Scare, and Vietnam War protests. Each case packet includes a detailed summary of the case in its historical context, an explanation of the legal questions involved, biographies of the major participants, excerpts of related documents, and additional historical and legal information. The materials presented here were created for Federal Trials and Great Debates, an annual summer institute for teachers of history, law, and government, hosted since 2006 by the Federal Judicial Center in partnership with the American Bar Association Division for Public Education. While designed for teachers, these materials are valuable resources for all seeking to learn more about the role the federal judiciary has played in our nation’s history.

This feature includes case summaries, discussion questions, and excerpted documents related to cases that had a major institutional impact on the federal courts. The cases address a range of legal issues including the types of controversies federal courts could hear, judicial independence, the scope and meaning of “the judicial power,” remedies, judicial review, the relationship between federal judicial power and states’ rights, and the ability of federal judges to perform work outside of the courtroom.