When Court Cases Get Appealed

Author: Catharine Niuzzo Honaman

Time: 2 days
2 hours to read lesson, get cases off of the web, and make copies of the cases for class
Materials: Court cases from http://www.streetlaw.org/pdfs/scsi03/Chavez_v_Martinez.pdf


Students will list the parts of a court case. Then they will read the summary of an actual court case, seeing how the arguments were made for each side, what the judgment was, the grounds on which the case was appealed, and the Supreme Court judgment. For a second summary they will read the facts of the case, the issue involved, and amendment that was pivotal in deciding the case. With this information they will speculate on what arguments the lawyers for each side used in appealing the trial judge’s decision. Finally, they will see how the case was actually decided.

Purpose – This is the Engage Lesson.
Students will read and analyze two real court case summaries. They will employ prior knowledge from their government class (reviewed at the beginning of this class), and the court case summaries to predict the outcome of the cases and then to draw conclusions about how court cases, in general, are appealed.

Students will be able to:
1. Read and analyze two functional documents (actual court case summaries)
2. Predict outcomes using prior knowledge and documents read in class
3. Draw conclusions about how court cases are appealed

English Education Standard
Strand 1: Concept 5: Fluency
PO 1. Read from a variety of genres with accuracy, automaticity, and prosody.
Strand 1: Concept 6: Comprehension Strategies
PO 1. Predict text content using prior knowledge and text features.
Strand 2: Concept 2: Functional Text
PO 2. Synthesize information from multiple sources to draw conclusions.

Teacher Background
It would be helpful if you understood how and why court cases get appealed. This information can be found in any 12th grade government textbook or at the following web site:

Resource Websites

http://www.streetlaw.org/pdfs/scsi03/Chavez_v_Martinez.pdf (Chavez verses Martinez a summary of the case, its arguments, grounds for appeal, the Supreme Court decision, and the dissent)

http://www.streetlaw.org/content.asp?contentid=189 (Summaries of Cases Used in 2003 at Streetlaw. com)

http://www.streetlaw.org/pdfs/scsi03/Nike.pdf Nike, Inc. et al. verses Kasky, Marc a summary of the case, its arguments, and the decision)

http://www.aboutgovernment.org/judicialbranch.htm (explanation of how cases are brought to court and the appeals process)



1. Begin the class by asking the students what they know about what basically happens when a case goes to court. Use an overhead or the blackboard to write out the steps:

The prosecution or plaintiff gives its opening arguments.
The defense gives its opening arguments.

The prosecution or plaintiff calls its witnesses.
The defense cross-examines the prosecution’s witnesses.
The defense calls its witnesses.
The prosecution cross-examines the defense’s witnesses.

The prosecution or plaintiff gives its closing arguments.
The defense gives its closing arguments.
The prosecution is allowed a short.

The judge gives the jury its instructions.
The jury deliberates.
The jury hands down its decision (and decides the amount of damages they will award, if any, in a civil case).

The judge issues the punishment in a criminal case.

2. There are times when the plaintiff or the defendant has sound legal reasons to ask for the case to be reconsidered. This is called “appealing a case.” Read Chavez v. Martinez with the class going through the facts. This is where most court cases end.

This case, however, had grounds for an appeal to be filed. Now read through the issue, what are qualified immunity, the arguments for Martinez, and the arguments for Chavez, paying attention to how the arguments were made and the logic behind them. (Print the Supreme Court Decision and the Dissent on a separate page to be given to the students separately.)

3. Give the students a few minutes to consider the arguments and then ask them to put themselves in the place of the judge. Ask them to write down how they would decide this appeals case and why they would make this decision. Then hold a class discussion in which the students present their decisions and why they made them. Students can also challenge the logic used by others to make their decisions.

After the class discussion give the students the page with the Supreme Court Decision and the Dissent. Read the Supreme Court decision and the Dissent with the students, comparing how close your class’s ideas were to the actual results.

4. Now give the students just the first page of the Nike, Inc. et al. v. Kasky, Marc case summary which includes the facts of the case, the issue, and the First Amendment. Read through this with the students.

5. Now divide the class into two groups. Have the students in one group individually come up with arguments for Marc Kasky to use to make an appeal for a new court case if he loses this case. Have the students in the other group individually come up with arguments for Nike to use to make an appeal for a new court case if the company loses this case. Arguments need to be based on the First Amendment. After the students have come up with a few arguments (in actuality there are four arguments for each side) hold a class discussion in which students from both sides present their arguments. Put these up on the board or overhead so the class can refer to reasons already given as new ones are introduced.

6. After the class discussion give your students page two of the Nike, Inc. et al. v. Kasky, Marc case summary and read the actual arguments with them. When you read the decision section make sure that they understand that this case summary is a slight variation on the process of appealing after a case is lost since the lower court judge refused to hear the case in the first place; this is an appeal to have the case heard.

Review with the students that not every court case is appealed and, of the cases that petition the Supreme Court to be heard, only about 10% are accepted. To appeal a case is not a frivolous endeavor and not easily accomplished.

Embedded Assessment
In this lesson the student understanding can be evaluated by the quality of the verbal responses given during the class discussions and how extensively the students answered the questions posed in class which required written answers. How seriously the students approached their work is another indication of how engaged they were with the material of the lesson.

An extra-credit option or enrichment option for this lesson would be to have the students write a summary of a court trial presented on a television show. There are numerous popular television shows and movies which are either centered on a court case or have a court case as an important component of their plot (such as Law and Order or LA Law). Ask the students to use the parts of the case delineated in the first activity of the lesson. In the program that they saw, what happened in each one of those sections? What were the main arguments of the prosecution or plaintiff and the defendant?

Embedded Assessment

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

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo