Archive for January, 2012

posted by Richard Joyce on Jan 22

Mock Supreme Court (Moot Court hearings)

INTRODUCTION: What is a “moot court”?

A  moot court is a role play of an appeals court or a U.S. Supreme Court hearing. The court, composed of a panel of justices, 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 (for example, the constitutionality of law or of a government action). Since moot courts are not concerned with the credibility of witnesses, they are an effective strategy for focusing attention on underlying legal principles and concepts of justice.

Grade: The cumulative grade (230 points) includes the following –

– Moot Court draft written appellate brief (optional, but strongly recommended) for the student justices’ use – 30 points (3rd ranking period)

– Moot Court typed (double-spaced) appellate brief  (required) for the student justices’ use – 100 points (4th ranking period)

– Moot Court Oral argument – 100 points (4th ranking period)

– Moot Court Justice role — 2o points (4th ranking period)

There will also be additional project grades throughout the year, which will be part of the ranking period grades rather than the overall project grade set forth above.

The appellate brief – or argument in support of your position – will include:

a one-sentence statement of the legal issue you are asking the justices to decide. For example, in the JUSTICE class, a selected case might involve a search of a car  conducted under the 4th Amendment. A statement of the legal issue for the former might be: Was the search of an automobile constitutional, despite the absence of a search warrant?

Another example, in the POLITICS class, a law was passed banning partial-birth abortion procedures. A statement of the legal issue for the latter might be: Can the government impose an absolute ban on partial birth abortions?
a summary of the key facts that created the issues. For example, for partial birth abortions, the federal government in 2003 passed legislation banning all partial birth abortion procedures. This would be included as background for the issue. What else might be included in basic background facts? How the case got to the court – for example, a lawsuit by a woman denied the procedure. Medical information about what the procedure entails and why it is used.

For the search case, what were the circumstances under which the authorities conducted the search? How extensive was the search? How did the case work its way to the Supreme Court?
legal arguments: What are the reasons you feel your client should receive a favorable ruling on the issue? This is the most detailed and important part of the brief. As part of your argument, you will want to cite cases that you believe are precedents in support of your position, as well as explain why cases that seem to argue against your position should not be used as precedents by the court to rule against you on the issue. You should plan to have at least one precedent case to discuss as part of your argument. For the precedent case(s), you should have prepared a memorandum which will be
attached to the brief. Remember that you need to be able to address cases that are against your position, as well as those that support your position.

The student briefs — or outline  of precedent cases — will include a statement of facts; a statement of the issue; and the decision and its rationale.


– rough drafts of the appellate brief due by mid-MARCH (sample appellate brief is available on the course MOODLE website)

– final  appellate brief (typed, double-spaced) and the student briefs (typed) due prior to the start of April vacation

Oral arguments begin in mid-May  (YOUTUBE examples of oral arguments are available on the course MOODLE website).