Module One: American Values and the Judicial System




Teacher Notes

Key Concept Chart 1: Examining Historical Documents

Key Concept Chart 2: Principles, Values, and Ideals

Transparency Master 1: Separation of Powers

Activity: The Case of Wallace v. Bone

Module One Supplemental Resources

The Constitution of the United States

Declaration of Independence

North Carolina Constitution (1776)
Note: This link is a State Library Resource and is not a part of this website.


Module One: American Values and the Judicial System


  • To introduce the students to the basic American principles and values found in federal and state documents (U.S. and N.C. Constitutions and the Declaration of Independence) and relate them to the court system and court rulings.


  1. Introduction: Examining Government Documents (Lecture and Discussion)
  • Identify American values and principles
  • Relate values and principles to government structure
  1. Comparison: Wallace v. Bone (Classroom Exercise)
  • Relate and compare values and principles in government structure to N.C. Supreme Court case
  1. Analysis and Application: Current Events (Enrichment/Enhancement)
  • Distinguish current and relevant judicial actions to values and principles


  1. Compare the basic principles of the United States Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the North Carolina Constitution (Lecture Materials, Activities 1-3)

ELP Curriculum Connection:

  • 6.2: Identify the principles found in the United States Constitution which were stated in the Declaration of Independence and explored in the Federalist Papers
  1. Distinguish the values and ideals that make up the foundations for the federal and state governments and assess how these notions translate into the state court system (Lecture Materials, Activities 1, 3)

ELP Curriculum Connections:

  • 2.5: Explain the rights and freedoms available to all citizens of the United States
  • 6.1: Explain how constitutions define the framework of governments
  1. Outline in general terms the system of checks and balances between the three branches of government with particular emphasis on the judicial branch (Lecture Materials)

ELP Curriculum Connection:

  • 6.3: Explain how constitutions grant and limit the authority of public officials and government agencies
  1. Analyze a North Carolina Supreme Court case and make an opinion on the constitutionality of the government's action (Activity 2)

ELP Curriculum Connection:

  • 6.5: Analyze cases which illustrate that the [United States] Constitution is the supreme law of the land

Teacher Notes

  1. Examining Government Documents

Purpose: The students will be introduced to the basic American principles and values as defined by historical documents. The students will use primary sources in which to base their conclusions.

Teacher Preparation:

  • Please find Teacher / Student Resources 1 and 3, Module 1 and Transparency Master 1, Module 1 for use with this activity
  • Distribute copies of the U.S. Constitution, the N.C. Constitution, and/or the

Declaration of Independence for the students to skim for class discussion

  • Ask for student input on the core values, ideals and/or principles that underlie the foundations of the document. Write these responses on the chalkboard
  • Based on these responses, lead a class discussion on how these values reflect the government structure in terms of the separation of powers in a democracy
  • VARIATION: If time and classroom dynamics permit, divide the students into groups and distribute the separate documents to each group
  • Ask the groups to brainstorm their own lists on the core values and principles found in their respective documents
  • Have each group present their lists and write their main ideas on the chalkboard
  • Lead a class discussion based on these responses, making sure the students understand the necessity of the separation of powers in a democratic government
  • This variation provides an effective method for the students to make important comparisons between all the documents and practice their social skills in a team brainstorm

Assessment: The teacher can gauge students' progress by the manner in which they grasp the ideas and incorporate them into comparative studies between the documents.

ELP Skills Curriculum Connections:

  • I: The learner will acquire information from a variety of sources
  • III: The learner will develop skills in constructive interpersonal relationships and social participation
  1. Comparison: Wallace v. Bone -- N.C. Supreme Court Case

Purpose: The students will analyze a summary of a North Carolina Supreme Court case by identifying the facts, issues, arguments, and reasoning on both sides of the case. As a practical extension of classroom discussion, the students will predict why the court ruled the way it did and make opinions on the constitutionality of the decision.

Teacher Preparation:

    • Distribute copies of the Wallace v. Bone case summary to the students for class discussion.

    • Ask the students to read the case summary. [From the case summary the students will know what the Supreme Court ruled (that a law was declared unconstitutional) but the purpose of the exercise is for them to tease out the reasons why the justices ruled the way they did (the law violated the separation of powers clause in the North Carolina Constitution)].

Assessment: Please find Teacher / Student Resource 2, Module 1: Wallace v. Bone Discussion Questions. These questions at the end of the case summary provide an opportunity for the teacher assess the students' progress in understanding the American ideals found in the governing documents and correlating these notions towards practical problems in law.

ELP Skills Curriculum Connections:

    • II: The learner will use information for problem-solving, decision-making, and planning
  1. Enrichment/Extension Application: Current Events

Purpose: The students will use various informational sources to find a current event or topic regarding a judicial action. The students will analyze the core American values that underlie the problems or conflicts from their research.

Teacher Preparation: For an enrichment and enhancement activity, instruct the students to research in periodicals or on the Internet to find an article on a court case, court hearing, or other type of judicial action. The students should briefly summarize the information and analyze what core constitutional and/or American values underlie the problems or conflicts in the case (about 6-8 sentences).

Assessment: The activity tests the student's ability to research pertinent information, summarize the appropriate information accurately, and relate the topic to American values and principles.

ELP Skills Curriculum Connections:

    • I: The learner will acquire information from a variety of sources
    • II: The learner will use information for problem-solving, decision-making, and planning

Activity: The Case of Wallace v. Bone

The following case was heard in the North Carolina Supreme Court in January of 1982. The seven Supreme Court Justices ruled that one of the laws the North Carolina General Assembly passed in 1979 was unconstitutional under the state constitution. Summarized below are the facts from the case. Based on what you have learned from the United States and North Carolina constitutions, try to figure out why the Justices ruled the law unconstitutional.

The Defendants: 2 members of the N.C. House of Representatives

(Representative Bone and Representative Nash)

2 members of the N.C. Senate

(Senator Harrington and Senator Thomas)

The Plaintiffs: 4 North Carolina citizens (Wallace, Howells, Barkalow, and Armstrong)

The Background:

All of the above persons belonged to the Environmental Management Commission (EMC), a seventeen-member regulating executive board for the state. Currently, the governor appoints thirteen of the commission members and the General Assembly appoints the remaining four (two members are appointed each upon the recommendations of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate Pro Tempore).

The EMC's duties include creating the rules and regulations that protect, preserve, and enhance North Carolina's natural resources. The seventeen members represent a wide range of experience, expertise, and background including areas such as the medical profession, agriculture, fishing and wildlife, municipal or county government, and the public at large.

The Case:

In 1979, the General Assembly passed legislation that increased the membership of the EMC from thirteen to seventeen members. Included in the legislation was a law requiring that the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate appoint two representatives from each of the legislative houses to serve on the EMC.

Less than two years after the 1979 legislation was passed, the plaintiffs called into question the legality of the four legislative members serving on the an executive board. The Supreme Court ruled in the plaintiffs' favor, declaring that the clause in the 1979 law requiring that the four appointed members come from the legislative houses was unconstitutional.





The Case of Wallace v. Bone

Discussion Questions

  1. Based on your knowledge of the North Carolina Constitution, under what specific clause in the NC Constitution did the judges rule in the plaintiffs' favor?





  3. What types of circumstances could this law create some problems for preserving the separation of powers within the state government?






  5. Given the information above, can you predict the solution that came out of the Wallace v. Bone? Specifically, how could the Speaker of the House and the Senate Pro Tempore still appoint four people to serve on the EMC but still stay within the guidelines of the law?


Wallace v. Bone Court Ruling

"G.S. 143B-283(d), increasing the membership of the Environmental Management Commission by providing two members of the N.C. House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker of the House, and two members of the N.C. Senate, appointed by the President of the Senate, shall be members of the EMC, is unconstitutional as it violates the Separation of Powers Clause of the North Carolina Constitution. The principle of separation of powers is a cornerstone of our state and federal governments which can be discerned from early N.C. cases, all three versions of the N.C. Constitution, records with respect to the drafting and adoption of our first N.C. Constitution and of the federal constitution, and from the failure of various constitutional amendments. Decisions of sister states also demonstrate an adherence to the separation of powers principle. Therefore, as the duties of the EMC, G.S. 143B-282 et seq., are administrative or executive in character and have no relation to the function of the legislative branch of government, which is to make laws, the legislature cannot constitutionally, under Section 6 of Article I of the N.C. Constitution, create a special instrumentality of government to implement specific legislation and then retain some control over the process of implementation by appointing legislators to the governing body of instrumentality. Section 1, Articles II, III, and IV of the N.C. Constitution."

Cite: State ex rel. Wallace v Bone, 304 N.C. 591, 286 S.E.2d 79 (1982).