New website designed to educate public about federal court system

J. H. Osborne • Feb 25, 2019 at 5:30 PM

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee has launched an exciting new website that helps students, teachers and the general public learn more about the federal judicial system, Chief Judge Thomas A. Varlan announced last week.

The webpage is part of the court’s civics and outreach program designed to enhance public awareness and understanding of the unique role and function of the federal judiciary in the American government system.

The website provides information about the court — from its role in resolving disputes in society, its jurisdiction and its activities, to how to arrange a visit to the court or obtain a program speaker.

The website (connections.tned.uscourts.gov) is designed to be like attending a civics class. It includes information about our country’s founding documents and the rule of law. There are videos of judges telling about their path to the bench, and viewers may learn the difference in the jurisdictions of the federal and state courts, learn about the naturalization process, read about landmark cases in the Eastern District of Tennessee and even take a quiz about the federal judiciary.

There’s also a link to iCivics, which was founded in 2008 by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to “ensure every student receives a high-quality civics education and becomes engaged in — and beyond — the classroom.”

The program provides lesson plans to promote civics education that encourage students to become better citizens. But whether a student, a teacher, or a member of the general public, the website offers opportunities to become better informed about the courts.

The jurisdiction of the Eastern District of Tennessee court covers 41 counties of East Tennessee, from Bristol to Chattanooga. Development of the webpage was led by U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifton Corker of the Greeneville office of the court, with input by court personnel, educators and lawyers.

The idea for the webpage evolved from the establishment of a Civics and Outreach Committee by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. That court is composed of all of the federal courts in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan. Part of that committee’s direction was that each district court within the Sixth Circuit should also establish such a committee, and Senior U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier, Chattanooga, was named by Varlan to head the panel.

Collier stated he was very pleased with the new website and the work of the Eastern District of Tennessee Civics and Outreach Committee overall. He applauded Corker for chairing the subcommittee charged with the responsibility of developing the website. Collier said that the website should assist the committee in its primary goal of endeavoring to enhance the public’s understanding and knowledge of the essential role and function that the federal judiciary plays in our American form of government. He expressed the hope that those who use the website will gain a better appreciation and understanding of the federal court system and thereby become more informed and engaged members of our society.

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