Rules for Mock Court

1. The class will resolve itself into a Mock Supreme Court during class. At that time it will hear the cases of Texas v. Johnson 491 U.S. 397 (1989) and Lee v. Weisman 505 U.S. 577 (1992).

2. There will be four "law firms." The first will represent Texas. The second will represent Johnson. The third will represent Lee. The fourth will represent Weisman.

3. It is perhaps good advice that only one person should speak during the oral argument, but each firm may apportion the work load any way it wishes.

4. The lawyers who are not arguing the case will serve as the Court.

5. All firms must submit before class an electronic (PDF) copy of a written brief. which will be distribited to all to read at the start of class before oral arguments begin. The brief may not exceed one side of one page. In both written briefs and oral arguments, lawyers may only reference events and cases up to the date the Real Court heard the case in history. And lawyers may not make any reference to the Real Court's actual decision in the case (though may draw freely from the arguments in its majority opinions or dissents.)

6. During oral arguments, both sides will have six minutes in which to make their oral presentations. The speeches will be closely timed, and shown by time cards.

7. Petitioner may reserve for rebuttal up to ninety seconds of the six minutes allowed. But petitioner will be penalized if the rebuttal is used to develop an argument not already presented.

8. Respondent will stand only once and may not reserve time. Instead, respondent will be expected to rebut during the six minutes.

9. Unless something is unclear to the Chief Justice, the lawyers can expect not to be interrupted during the presentation. The Chief will interrupt if he cannot understand something. Firms should practice the oral argument among themselves so that it is in fact understandable to other minds.

10. When finished, lawyers will be allowed to remain in the room while the Court goes into "conference." But since lawyers are not supposed to be there at all, they must be careful not to make any gesture or noise while the Court is conferring. Any violation of this rule, and a lawyer will be thrown out of the classroom and a serious penalty assessed.

11. This also may be good advice. Although the members of the Court will have read the briefs, lawyers will be prudent not to expect that the Justices will understand much of what they read or even much of what they hear in oral argument. Clarity, then, and patience, will be the hallmarks of most winning lawyers' presentations. In any case, lawyers should not plan to read aloud that which the members of the Court have just read.

12. Grades for the Mock Court will be shared by all members of the "law firm" preparing the written brief and prepping the "litigator" for his/her appearance before the bench.

13. Members of the class not assigned as "lawyers" will be assigned to write a per curiam opinion or dissent (one page maximum) on one of the cases after the deliberations, to be submitted in class the next day. Samples are here and here.


Last revised: November 11, 2018