Establishing Justice: Moot Court Activity

TEACHER NOTES

You are in your final year at Harvard Law School and have been an excellent student. You are looking forward to a great career as a constitutional attorney and hope to argue cases before the Supreme Court some day.

Your law class is holding a Moot Court Competition on cases from the Supreme Court in the 1960’s. Your study group will compete against another study group to present one of the cases to a team of professors who will judge your understanding of these important cases. Now is your chance to develop your oral argument skills and make a name for yourself.

The decisions of the Supreme Court during the 1960's under Chief Justice Earl Warren had a profound effect in the areas of civil and due process rights of the accused. The Court took the initiative in expanding the rights of criminal defendants, particularly at the state level. As a result, the Court itself became the focus of public controversy.

This Moot Court activity will examine some major cases during the 1960's. Your law class study group needs to be aware of the impact that the Warren Court decisions had on society not only to argue the case well, but to understand the significance of these decision on recent constitutional history. It is this context that will influence your work as a practicing constitutional attorney upon graduation.


Task:

You and your team will research and argue the constitutional question in one of these cases from the Warren Court


Procedure:


Materials:


Resources:

Oyez Oyez Oyez: A Supreme Court WWW Resource
http://www.oyez.org/oyez/frontpage

Brown v. Board of Education
http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/early-civilrights/brown.html

Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court
http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/cases/topic.htm

Historic Supreme Court Decisions Database
http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/index.html

Supreme Court F.A.Q.
http://www.usscplus.com/info

How did the Warren Court use judicial review to protect the rights of citizens?
http://www.socialstudieshelp.com/Lesson_106_Notes.htm

Evaluation:

The evaluation of the presentation is based on the Moot court description in Handout 1. For scoring the presentations use the Oral Presentation Rubric
http://departments.oxy.edu/biology/Franck/Bio326_2000F/Oral_presentations/rubric.htm


Reflection:

In a quick write, respond to these questions:


Conclusion:

The concept of giving the Supreme Court power over the legislative and executive branches (Judicial Review) was debated at the Constitutional Convention, but it is not in the Constitution itself. Some people believe that the Framers (Madison in particular) assumed review would be a role of the Court and that the Bill of Rights was developed as a tool to check the power of the legislature through the courts. The application of Judicial Review by the Court actually began in 1803 with Marbury v. Madison.

In the practice of Judicial Review, the political and legal perspectives of the justices becomes important in their interpretation of the law. Historically, four perspectives on interpreting the law have emerged:

From which of these perspectives did the Warren Court evaluate issues of the constitutionality of a law? How would you compare that to the Supreme Court perspectives on the law today?

Adapted from a Lesson by Joan Thompson
Blackfoot High School by
Margaret Hill, Ph.D.
Director SCORE H-SS