Conducting a Moot Court
Street Law’s Landmark Cases lesson plans were the inspiration for the structure of this approach to moot court; much additional information about conducting moot courts can be found on their website. Preparation for the moot court varies, based on your students’ background knowledge and experience, but generally takes about 3 class periods, plus one period to conduct the hearing.
Our recommended approach for conducting a moot court is as follows:
- Show students a clip of what a Supreme Court argument looks like. Since the Supreme Court does not allow cameras, here is a clip from the movie Gideon’s Trumpet.
- Give students the moot court outline. Explain that this is a guideline to help them write a persuasive argument to support one side of the case. The formal language used in Supreme Court hearings is provided to help students write in that style.
- Students write a formal argument, using the outline, for the petitioners. Then, the next class period or for homework, write the argument for the respondents. By writing both sides of the case, students understand both sides and can participate effectively in the moot court. For more depth and detail, have students research precedents related to this case. Some related cases include the following; this outline and chart help students organize their notes about precedent cases. Students can read about one of the following precedents and complete the entire precedent outline for it, then share the key points with others in a jigsaw group activity, during which all students complete the precedent chart so they know the basics of all four cases.
- On the day of the moot court, require students to come prepared with both arguments written. This is their “ticket” to participate in the moot court.
- Randomly select students to be judges and attorneys representing the petitioners and the respondents. Select an odd number of judges to their is no tie vote.
- Conduct the moot court. The team representing the petitioner should start with their argument in about 5 minutes, including questions from the judges. Then the respondent has the same amount of time to present its argument and answer judges’ questions. Finally, the petitioner has an opportunity to rebut anything said during the respondent’s argument. The judges then deliberate and vote, and explain their ruling and precedent.