Moot Courts

A moot court is a role-play of an appeals court or Supreme Court hearing. The court is asked to rule on a lower court's decision. No witnesses are called, nor are the basic facts in a case disputed. Arguments are prepared and presented on a legal question (e.g., the constitutionality of a law or government action or the interpretation of a federal statute). Moot courts are an effective strategy for focusing student attention on underlying legal principles and concepts of justice.

Use one of our hundreds of case summaries available in our free store or a current case before the Court.

 

Preparation

  • Download the case summary of your choice as a Word file.
  • Delete the arguments, decision, and opinions from the document. If you feel your students need more support, you can elect to leave the arguments in the document.
  • Optional: Instead of having students formulate their own arguments or giving them the bulleted arguments in the case summary, follow instructions for the “Classifying Arguments” activity. After students classify the arguments, continue to next step.
  • Consider inviting legal resource people (attorneys, law students, law professors) to help students prepare their arguments or formulate questions.

 

Directions

  • Introduce the format of the Moot Courts to students:
Initial Presentation Petitioner 3 minutes
Initial Presentation Respondent 3 minutes
Rebuttal Petitioner  2 minutes
Rebuttal Respondent 2 minutes

Explain to students that justices will ask questions throughout the attorney presentations except for the first 30 seconds of the initial presentation which is reserved for uninterrupted arguments.

  • Introduce the case you will be mooting. Instruct students to read the edited case summary you prepared by posting or sharing on your online teaching platform.
  • Check for understanding about the background, facts, constitutional issue, and precedents in the case.
  • Divide students into 3 groups and assign groups their roles: attorney for the petitioner, attorney for the respondent or Supreme Court justice.
  • Use breakout rooms or assign students to virtually meet outside of class using a video call platform or by populating a shared document (like GoogleDocs).
  • Using the student handouts for their assigned group, instruct students to prepare a case for their side of the arguments (for attorneys) or questions for attorneys from both sides of the arguments (for justices). Recommended time for preparation 30 – 45 minutes.
  • With 10 minutes remaining in preparation time, instruct groups to choose a speaker for the initial argument and another for the rebuttal. As an alternative, to save time you can assign students to these roles.  
  • You may wish to provide the attorneys with a template to begin their arguments: "Mr./Madam Chief Justice, and may it please this Court, my name is ______________ representing ________________ (the petitioner or respondent’s name) in this matter. I will be basing my argument on ___________________ (constitutional clause) and applying the precedent ___________________ (name of precedent case/s) where the court held___________ (explain holding of the case).” You may need to adjust the wording based on the case you choose.
  • Come back together as a whole class in a synchronous session. Remind students of the structure of the Moot Court.
Initial Presentation Petitioner 3 minutes
Initial Presentation Respondent 3 minutes
Rebuttal Petitioner  2 minutes
Rebuttal Respondent 2 minutes

Remind justices that they will ask questions throughout the attorney presentations except for the first 30 seconds of the initial presentation which is reserved for uninterrupted arguments.

  • Time the presentations and rebuttals and signal the justices when 30 seconds has elapsed in the initial presentation, and they may begin asking questions.
  • Option: Allow students to record their arguments using an app like Flipgrid outside of class, then allow justices to ask questions at the conclusion of the recorded argument. (You may wish to emphasize that this is not an accurate simulation, but similar to the procedure the Supreme Court used during the Spring of 2020 during the pandemic).
  • After the arguments have concluded, allow justices to “conference” and deliberate while other participants are muted.
  • You can end the simulation with the justices announcing who they voted for or continue with the extension.

 

Extension

  • Once justices have decided which side they will find for, divide those students into two groups to write the majority opinion (side with the most votes) and the dissenting opinion (side with the least votes).
  • Instruct justices to write their opinion explaining which party (petitioner or respondent) they would find in favor of and their legal reasoning referencing the constitutional provisions, precedents, and arguments. See “Judicial Opinion Writing” in Using Case Studies in the Classroom for helpful handouts to organize their information. This can be done in breakout rooms while you debrief with the attorneys or outside of class.
  • Instruct justices to post opinions in a discussion board or Google Doc.
  • Encourage students (either just the other justices or all students) to concur or dissent with other students’ opinions and explain their reasoning by replying/responding to posts.

Mini-Moot Courts

Moot courts are often done with a full complement of judges and attorneys. However, there are benefits to conducting mini-moot courts consisting of three students* in some instances. Mini-moots generally take less class time to prepare and conduct, each student in the class is fully engaged, and different decisions may be reached and considered by each mini-moot court.

Use one of our hundreds of case summaries available in our free store or a current case before the Court.

 

Preparation

  • Download the case summary of your choice as a Word file.
  • Delete the arguments, decision, and opinions from the document. If you feel your students need more support, you can elect to leave the arguments in the document.
  • Optional: Instead of having students formulate their own arguments or giving them the bulleted arguments in the case summary, follow instructions for the “Classifying Arguments” activity. After students classify the arguments, continue to next step.
  • Consider inviting legal resource people (attorneys, law students, law professors) to help students prepare their arguments or formulate questions. 

 

Directions

  • Introduce the format of the Mini-Moot Courts to students:
Initial Presentation Petitioner 3 minutes
Initial Presentation Respondent 3 minutes
Rebuttal Petitioner  2 minutes
Rebuttal Respondent 2 minutes

Explain to students that justices will ask questions throughout the attorney presentations except for the first 30 seconds of the initial presentation which is reserved for uninterrupted arguments. Explain to students that their mini-moot court will consist of one attorney for the petitioner, one attorney for the respondent, and one justice.*

  • Introduce the case you will be mooting. Instruct students to read the edited case summary you prepared by posting or sharing on your online teaching platform.
  • Check for understanding about the background, facts, constitutional issue, and precedents in the case.
  • Divide students into 3 groups and assign groups their roles: attorney for the petitioner, attorney for the respondent or Supreme Court justice. Explain to students that they will be preparing with this group but will be the only representative of this group in their mini-moot court.*
  • Provide students with handouts to record the arguments the group generates.
  • Use breakout rooms or assign students to virtually meet outside of class using a video call platform or by populating a shared document (like GoogleDocs).
  • Using the student handouts for their assigned group, instruct students to prepare a case for their side of the arguments (for attorneys) or questions for attorneys from both sides of the arguments (for justices). Recommended time for preparation 30 – 45 minutes.
  • You may wish to provide the attorneys with a template to begin their arguments: "Mr./Madam Chief Justice, and may it please this Court, my name is ______________ representing ________________ (the petitioner or respondent’s name) in this matter. I will be basing my argument on ___________________ (constitutional clause) and applying the precedent ___________________ (name of precedent case/s) where the court held___________ (explain holding of the case).” You may need to adjust the wording based on the case you choose. 
  • Come back together as a whole class in a synchronous session. Remind students of the structure of the Moot Court.
Initial Presentation Petitioner 3 minutes
Initial Presentation Respondent 3 minutes
Rebuttal Petitioner  2 minutes
Rebuttal Respondent 2 minutes
  • Remind justices that they will ask questions throughout the attorney presentations except for the first 30 seconds of the initial presentation which is reserved for uninterrupted arguments.
  • Instruct the justices to time the presentations and rebuttals. When they see that 30 seconds has elapsed in the initial presentation, they may begin asking questions.
  • Assign new mini-moot court teams being careful to assign one attorney for the petitioner, one attorney for the respondent and one justice to each group.*
  • Either send students to breakout rooms in their new groups (of three) to complete their mini-moot court (being careful to assign one attorney for the petitioner, one attorney for the respondent and one justice to each room) or have the groups complete their mini-moot courts outside of class and record it then submit to you.
  • Option: Allow students in attorney roles to record their arguments using an app like Flipgrid outside of class, then allow justices to ask questions at the conclusion of the recorded argument. (You may wish to emphasize that this is not an accurate simulation, but similar to the procedure the Supreme Court used during the Spring of 2020 during the pandemic).
  • After the arguments have concluded, allow justices a moment to decide and then hand down their decisions to the class.
  • You can end the simulation there or continue with the extension.

 

Extension

  • Once justices have decided which side they will find for, instruct justices to write their opinion explaining which party (petitioner or respondent) they would find in favor of and their legal reasoning referencing the constitutional provisions, precedents, and arguments. See “Judicial Opinion Writing” in Using Case Studies in the Classroom for helpful handouts to organize their information. This can be done in breakout rooms while you debrief with the attorneys or outside of class.
  • Instruct justices to post opinions in a discussion board or Google Doc.
  • Encourage students (either just the other justices or all students) to concur or dissent with other students’ opinions and explain their reasoning by replying/responding to posts.

*If you feel your students will be more successful if they to do this activity in pairs, mini-moots work well with groups of 6 (2 attorneys for the petitioner, 2 attorneys for the respondent and 2 justices) or 7 (2 attorneys for the petitioner, 2 attorneys for the respondent and 3 justices) as well. 


Mock Trials

We have 17 Free Mock Trials and basic information about mock trial procedure.

To adapt these materials to online instruction, consider the following suggestions:

  • Instruct students to read the mock trial materials by posting the materials on your learning management system.
  • Check for understanding. Ensure that students understand the underlying issues in the case.
  • Assign students to write an opening statement that provides an overview of the case for the prosecution/plaintiff or defense. Use Flipgrid to record. Upload recordings to online course platform. Encourage students to watch other’s opening statements and give feedback. If you are holding synchronous classes, students can present their opening statements during class. Students may also write out opening statements and share using Google Docs.
  • Assign students, either individually or as a group, a witness in the mock trial (see link above). Instruct them to post direct examination questions and answers in a discussion board or Google Doc for their assigned witness based on the written trial materials.
  • Assign students a second witness (preferably on the opposing side of the case). Instruct them to post cross examination questions and answers in a discussion board or Google Doc for their assigned witness.
  • After students have posted questions and answers, encourage students to read all questions and answers and reply with objections when appropriate. If using Google Docs, simplified objections can be noted by inserting comments. You can play the role of judge or assign a student who will “sustain” or “overrule” objections by replying on a discussion board or within comments.
  • After both direct and cross examination questions have been posted and objections registered, instruct students to record a Flipgrid closing argument which summarizes either the prosecution’s/plaintiff’s case or the defense’s case (see opening statements for other online adaptions).
  • Using a polling/voting feature during a synchronous class, have students act as a jury and vote for a verdict. Polling of students as the jury can also take place in a discussion board.