Have you ever tried to persuade someone to change their mind, but were unable to present a good argument for your case? Do you like to solve puzzles or find answers to questions? Have you ever wondered how the legal system works or thought about being an attorney? Would you like to be more comfortable speaking in front of people? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this may be the class for you!
In this class, students will learn about the origins of law and the basics of the United States’ judicial system. The class will look into how laws have been made throughout history and how lawmaking has evolved. We will explore legal terms, courtroom etiquette and individual roles involved in legal proceedings and trials. Students will explore and examine several actual court cases and then actively participate in three to four mock trials (time/class dependent.) Court roles will alternate among students for each mock trial. The cases litigated will increase in complexity as the class term proceeds.
- Student reading level and comprehension must be at upper high school level.
- Student must be able to focus attention and energy and sit quietly during the mock trial scenarios.
- Student must be able to write (we will work on writing skills during preparations for trials.)
- Student must be able to work well within a group and be able to maintain focus on the subject.
- Students must be willing to learn to speak in front of a group.
- Students must be willing to accept and incorporate constructive feedback.
- Students should be able to dress in “courtroom attire” for final litigation.
- Students must be willing to have fun!
- Homework will vary. During the initial 3 classes it will consist of becoming familiar with legal vocabulary, procedures and reading actual trial transcripts. As the class proceeds, depending on the role assigned for the mock trials, students will spend time writing opening and closing statements, becoming familiar with their set of facts as witnesses etc. Students do not memorize scripts, but they should be comfortable enough with the information to answer questions posed to them as witnesses and asking questions of those witnesses as the attorney.
- It is suggested that students attend some sort of court proceeding- depending on time/schedule availability, students could attend an arraignment; general court hearings; civil or criminal trial; bankruptcy hearings; appellate or Supreme Court hearings. More information will be supplied by the instructor closer to the class starting.
Tentative Schedule- This schedule is flexible enough to permit additional trials or areas of student interest to be incorporated into the class.
Historical information/basic legal terms; differences between civil cases and criminal cases; Who makes laws? Role plays/simulations of Hammurabi’s Code trials; discussion about the fairness of laws and of Hammurabi’s Code of law; Magna Carta; English Bill of Rights; Enlightenment Philosophers and their impact on the United States’ Constitution and student’s current knowledge of the United States’ legal system; basis of US judicial system. Court case for review.
Follow up discussion of Class 1; more legal terms; Different Courts discussion: Court of original jurisdiction (factual information decided by judge or jury); small claims court; state vs federal courts; appellate courts, Supreme Court (state or federal); Napoleonic law; famous justices and cases; how to read a judicial opinion; majority opinions; dissenting opinions; case law vs. statutes or administrative rules. Common areas of law, probate, contract, family, criminal, real estate ect. Court case to review.
Discussion of Moot Court/Mock Trial similarities and differences and courtroom etiquette. Discussion of Mediation as an alternative to a trial; mandated mediation. Juries and bias; voir dire; change of venue; mistrials; Students will pick a simple case at this time and trial roles will be assigned or chosen. Class will begin trial preparation; witnesses interviewed; evidence collected.
Actual trial of Case from class 3 and debriefing. Discussion of what was on point with their presentations; what was a surprise? What was most difficult, easiest; what else might have been needed or done? Would either side want to appeal the case? Ect.
Classes 5 & 6
Another case assigned and trial preparations begin. This case will be a bit more complex than the previous trial. Roles reassigned.
Classes 7, 8 & 9
A more complex case assigned. Students will utilize classes 7 and 8 to prepare for the trial. This will include interviewing witnesses, examining evidence, preparing opening & closing statements, practicing with witness etc. Trial will take place during class 9.
Classes 10, 11, & 12
A more complex case assigned. Students will utilize classes 10 and 11 to prepare for the trial. Interviewing witnesses, examining evidence, preparing opening & closing statements, practicing with witness etc. Trial will take place during class 12. Students will be expected to wear “court attire” during the final trial.
Depending on students’ progress and time permitting, some of the classes may be combined and an extra trial added.