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Supreme Court Simulation

(Suggested time: 40 minutes)

The teacher organizes the students into three groups. The first group consists of the Supreme Court Justices. One justice is designated as the Chief Justice. The second group consists of lawyers for Hazelwood School District (which represents Hazelwood East High School). The third group consists of lawyers for the student journalists, including Kuhlmeier. Hazelwood School District is the petitioner. Kuhlmeier is the respondent.

Procedures for Modified Oral Arguments

  1. The Chief Justice swears in student justices.
  2. The Court timekeeper signals time limits to speakers.
  3. The teacher chooses a student marshal who announces the opening of the court session using the Supreme Court cry.
  4. The Chief Justice calls the Court to order, announces the case, and asks the petitioner to begin.
  5. Student attorneys for petitioner argue (10 minutes).
  6. Student attorneys for respondent argue (10 minutes).
  7. Student attorney for petitioner – rebuttal (5 minutes).
  8. Student attorney for respondent – rebuttal (5 minutes).
  9. Justices deliberate in front of audience (5 minutes).
  10. A justice in the majority announces decision(s) from the bench, each student justice explains his/her rationale to the audience (5 minutes).

Student Justices Preparation
Following are points that the student justices might want to consider as they prepare questions to ask the lawyers:

  • What is an open-ended question? Give some examples.
  • What is the best way to get at the heart of an issue? How do you find the core issue?
  • Apply the lawyers' arguments to a similar situation that has some different facts. Ask the lawyers whether their arguments would still hold up in that situation.
  • Purposely try to find exceptions to the lawyers' arguments and point them out to the lawyers. What would be the appropriate response under these circumstances?

Student Lawyer Preparation
If there are a large number of students present, the student lawyers for both the respondent and petitioner select three persons to present their case to the Court. Two lawyers present the main case to the Court. The third lawyer presents the rebuttal case. Justices may ask questions of the attorneys after the first two minutes of presenting the case.

Note
It is important to remember that this is a simulation of oral arguments in the Supreme Court and not a trial. No evidence is collected and no witnesses are called. The lawyers for both sides are simply putting forth their best legal arguments, and answering any questions that the justices may have.