New York Life

New York Life is proud to Sponsor The Supreme Court on PBS
& the Educator's Web Site historyofsupremecourt.org

New York Life will be the sole corporate underwriter of “The Supreme Court,” a four-part PBS and Thirteen/WNET New York series premiering January 31 and February 7, 2007. The “Supreme Court” is the first major television series to trace the story and influence of America's highest court. The “Supreme Court” will highlight the Court’s history, evolution and impact on American society. The series will be supported by an ambitious national outreach effort, including a companion Web site on PBS.org. “The Supreme Court” is the fourth series that New York Life has sponsored focusing on the untold stories of American history. Prior programs were “The American President,” “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow,” and “Slavery and the Making of America.”

The Supreme Court has helped author the history of America. But even though it is one of the pillars of American democracy, no television series has profiled the workings of the Court and the justices who shaped it. Until now. "Now is the ideal moment to explore the history and impact of the Supreme Court," said John F. Wilson, senior vice president, PBS Programming. "With the recent appointment of a chief justice and the congressional hearings for a new associate justice, Americans are paying heightened attention to the Supreme Court. This series, which will debut just as the new Court begins to make its mark, promises to offer American viewers invaluable insight into what is perhaps the least-understood branch of our government."

"From the Civil War and Reconstruction to desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement, the history of the Supreme Court is the history of America," says Jody Sheff, executive producer of the series. "Many see the Court as a monolithic institution removed from the volatility of everyday life. But in this series we will lift the curtains and discover the personalities and power-plays of those mysterious figures on the high bench. And we will explore the dramatic stories of the individuals whose cases have come before the court to shape the laws of our land." Over four hours, the series will trace the Court's evolution from its establishment to the present day. It will do so by focusing on the temperament and constitutional vision of key justices and the key cases throughout our history. The chronicle will explore the continuing struggle over how the Court defines its role and manifests its powers. As Alexander Hamilton put it, "with neither sword nor purse," this least known branch of government has had to walk a fine line to enforce its decisions. The programs will elucidate the shifting yet delicate balance between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. Numerous accounts will highlight the complex and explosive collisions between the Court and the presidency. Portraits of many key figures -- presidents, justices, attorneys, plaintiffs, and defendants -- will illustrate how all Americans, both the powerful and the penniless, have been able to have their day in court -- the results of which have sometimes made a lasting change on our culture and society.

The Series
Program One: "The Least Dangerous Branch" will examine the creation of the Court through the brink of the Civil War. It will pay particular attention to the fourth chief justice of the Supreme Court -- John Marshall -- and his successor, Roger Taney. One presided over the most famous case before the Court, the other the most infamous.

Program Two: "Making America Modern" will look at the issues before the Court during the period after the Civil War when America experienced unprecedented economic growth. Culminating in the cases of the New Deal, the program will cover the evolution in judicial activism from Justice Stephen Field to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Here the complex struggle of power between business interests and the rights of the individual worker takes center stage, as does the fight for racial and gender equality against the backdrop of Reconstruction and the Industrial Revolution.

Program Three: "By the Content of Their Character" will focus on the Court's reaction to state and federal legislation on Bill of Rights freedoms, with special attention to the explosion of civil rights cases from the early 1940s to the present. This program will highlight the Warren Court as it confronted the issues of race, gender, and religion.

Program Four: "With Liberty and Justice for All" will review how the Court has undertaken to define individual rights or civil liberties in America. This last hour of the series will investigate how the Court, especially under the leadership of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, has risen in importance to become the institution most responsible for resolving the central questions of American life.

Educational Outreach
New York Life is funding an educator's Web site similar to those it supported for "The American President," "The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow," and "Slavery and the Making of America." Created by teachers all over America, working in conjunction with recognized academics and in partnership with the National Council for the Social Studies and the National Archives, the site, www.historyofsupremecourt.org, is already online in partial form and is drawing steady teacher traffic. The site organizes the Court's history and role along themes drawn from national social studies curriculum standards and includes original essays, lesson plans, and other resources in addition to a unique interactive timeline.

Thirteen/WNET will be creating national educational outreach in support of the series. Materials will enable viewers to use the series as an educational tool in homes, schools, libraries, and community groups. The series will be accompanied by a substantial Web site, a widely distributed viewer's guide, and a companion book. Workshops will enable teachers to incorporate the series into their classes, hold mock trials on key Supreme Court cases, and help students explore the workings of the judicial and political systems in their communities

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