Moot Court

Author: Sylvia Kniest

Time: 9 class periods

Run-off guidelines for student attorneys to research the Supreme Court justices.

Set up moot court schedule and schedule research time in the library or computer lab.

Materials: Guidelines for Supreme Court Research (see activity #2 below).


The final project is the Moot Court. The first 3-4 days of this project will entail student research and discussion of their case. Student attorneys will be given class time to research precedents involving their case, while student justices will use the time to research the political ideology of the Supreme Court Justices. During the final preparation days, student attorneys will prepare for their oral arguments and the student justices will read briefs and compose questions to ask during the oral arguments.

Students will be able to:
1. Describe the appellate process.
2. Analyze persuasive arguments used in court cases.

National Standards For Civics and Government
III-D. What is the place of law in the American constitutional system?

Teacher Background
The previous lesson; “Moot Court Preparation” provides the background material for this final activity of the quarter. The success of the culminating activity is dependent on the quality of preparation by the students. Therefore, the first 3-4 days should be spent in the computer lab and classroom researching the cases and preparing for oral arguments. The teacher may cut down on some of the class time by having the students work outside of the classroom.

Resource Websites

http://www.oyez.org/oyez/portlet/justices/ Supreme Court
http://www.cnn.com/2001/LAW/07/columns/fl.dorf.supremecourt.07.10/ Justice Ideology
http://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/PolitQuiz.html Political Ideology Quiz



Periods 1 and 2: (Research for Moot Court)
1. It is recommended that some class time (1-2 periods) be scheduled for student lawyers on the moot court teams to research precedents for their briefs.

a. Student lawyers will turn in 2 copies of their written briefs. One copy for the teacher and one copy for the three justices on the appeals court (if possible make 2 extra copies so that each justice has his/her own copy to read).

2. While the student lawyers are conducting research on their cases the student justices will research the political ideology of the justices on the Supreme Court to complete the following:

a. Go to http://www.oyez.org/oyez/portlet/justices/. List the nine Supreme Court Justices and the dates they were appointed.
b. Click on each name of each justice: identify and list the name of the President who nominated them and record the age of each of the justices.
c. Take the political ideology quiz on http://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/PolitQuiz.html to determine your political ideology. Are you liberal or conservative?
d. Read the article at: http://www.cnn.com/2001/LAW/07/columns/fl.dorf.supremecourt.07.10/ to identify the justice who most closely matches your own political philosophy.
e. Go to http://www.oyez.org/oyez/portlet/justices/. Click on the name of the justice who most matches your political ideology. Click “biography” and “background” on their page to write a policy statement that elaborates on their policy positions and political ideology. Also include the circumstances involving their appointment to the court. Information to include in your policy statement will be:
Was there any controversy surrounding their confirmation hearings? If so describe?
Does their voting record match their political ideology?
Has their political view or ideology transformed since their appointment?
f. Using the information from “a” and “b”, create a political spectrum: Draw a straight line on a sheet of paper. Label the line; liberal on the left, moderate in the middle, and conservative on the right. Place the justices where they most likely fit on the political spectrum.
g. Write your name on the spot you most likely fit on the political spectrum.
h. The student lawyers will hand in their Supreme Court assignment at the same time that the student lawyers turn in their written briefs.

Periods 3 and 4: (Preparation for Moot Court)
1. Students will work with their teammates to prepare for oral arguments:

a. (2) Lawyers for the appellants or petitioners from each team will plan their oral arguments.
b. (2) Lawyers for the appellees or respondents from each team will plan their oral arguments.
c. The (3) appellate justices from each team will read written briefs and compose questions that they will ask during the oral arguments. The justices should also select a chief justice at this time.

2. Prior to the work sessions the teacher should review the moot court procedures (provided in the previous lesson) with the students.

3. The Clerk (teacher) will assign cases to the docket. Ask the chief justice from each team to draw a number out of the hat. This is the easiest way to determine the order that the cases will be heard and placed on the docket (schedule). Assign one case per day to allow some time for the justices to deliberate after the oral arguments.

a. Remind students to dress appropriately on they day of their trial—professional attire only.

Periods 5 – 9: (Moot Court)
1. On the first day go over the procedures for giving oral arguments. (see Moot Court Instructions from previous lesson).Main points to emphasize:

a. Chief justice will keep time; each side is allowed 10 minutes to present their case.
b. Lawyer may begin speaking when signaled by the court (chief justice)
c. Lawyer begins with phrase, “may it please the court?”
d. Justices may interrupt at any time to ask questions or make comments.
e. Lawyers should stop speaking when a judge is talking.
f. Lawyers must stop speaking when the court signals that their time is up.
g. For participation purposes, it is recommended that both lawyers for the appellant and appellee give a portion of the oral arguments.
h. Order of arguments:
i. Appellant (petitioner) goes first
ii. Appellee (respondent) goes second
iii. Appellant (petitioner) is allowed 2 minutes rebuttal.

2. The teacher should also instruct the audience (those not participating in the case) on the appropriate courtroom decorum:

a. Audience members are expected to show respect for the courtroom by not speaking while court is in session. An option is to offer an incentive for students to pay attention to the proceedings by writing a reaction to what they observed: which side do they think gave the better arguments and why?

3. After oral arguments have ended, allow the three justices to deliberate (in another room if possible). After the justices have reached a decision they will each write their opinions following the criteria listed in the Moot Court Instructions. Student justices will write their own opinions for homework and turn it in for a grade.

4. Follow the same procedure for each day of the moot court. On the final day after all of the cases have been heard have the justices from each court give their judgments on the case. If possible, have the chief justice read the majority opinion (the opinion of the court).

Discuss what the students think about the appellate process: What do they like? Dislike? What was the most difficult part of this project? Why?

Students should be expected to write their final drafts of their written briefs (lawyers) and opinions (justices) outside of class.

Embedded Assessment
The students’ participation in the moot court process will be assessed according to the procedures and guidelines listed in the lesson; “Moot Court Preparation”

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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