Supreme Court Legal Brief Assignment
This is the most important assignment and assessment of the semester. You will be
writing a legal brief on a landmark Supreme Court case. Landmark Supreme Court
cases deal with Constitutional issues that directly impact the freedoms of everyday
citizens like you. This legal brief will later become the basis for our Moot Court
where you will team up with another classmate in order to argue your case against
another team before our Student Supreme Court Justices. This counts as a
summative assessment for both the History and English.
The timeline for this project moves very quickly. Do not procrastinate.
Because we do not have a school library or computer lab much of the research for
this paper will have to be done outside of school.
Your Local Library!!!!! Please go. Please.
Streetlaw.org-Landmark Cases: has case summaries and key excerpts from the
Oyez.org-Chicago Kent College of Law: Searchable database of all Supreme Court
cases. Quality of information varies.
PBS-The Supreme Court: Summaries of cases and impact on society
Wikipedia-List of Landmark Decisions classified by type of case (freedom of
speech, religion, search and seizure, capital punishment, etc.)
The following is a list of landmark cases that you will probably be able to find
enough information on to complete your brief:
Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857)-Slavery Brown v. Board of Education (1954)-
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)- Segregation, Equal Protection
Segregation Mapp v. Ohio (1961)-Search/Seizure
Korematsu v. U.S. (1944)-Japanese Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)-right to
Miranda v. Arizona (1966)-Right to remain silent
Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)-Freedom of Speech (students)
Roe v. Wade (1973)-Right to privacy, abortion
Regents of University of California v. Bakke (1978)-affirmative action
New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985)-Student search/seizure
Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988)-Student freedom of the press
Texas v. Johnson (1989)-Flag burning, freedom of speech
In re Gault (1967)-Juveniles right to due process
Furman v. Georgia (1972)-Capital punishment (death penalty)
Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993)-freedom of religion,
Atkins v. Virginia (2002)-Capital punishment, executing the mentally retarded
Roper v. Simmons (2005)-Capital punishment, executing minors
McDonald v. Chicago (2010)-Right to bear arms
Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2011)-Free speech, sale of video
National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012)-Affordable Care
Act (Obamacare), Commerce clause, Elastic clause, and power to tax
This is not a complete list. You may write your brief on a any U.S. SUPREME
COURT CASE. Be careful. Each state has a state supreme court. Your brief is for
a case that was heard by the federal/U.S. Supreme Court.
Mon Dec. 3rd :Come to class with a case and resources/books/printouts to use
Week of Dec.3-7 writing Rough draft in class
Monday Dec. 10th-Rough draft due, ready for peer review
Thursday/Friday Dec. 13/14-Final draft of brief due
Week of Dec.10-14: Begin prep for moot court
Dec.17-21: Begin Moot Court and continue after break
Requirements/Grading Rubric for Legal Concurring Opinion (justice’s name)
Brief Were there justices who agreed with the
majority decision but for a different reason? List
Standard: 8.2 Students analyze the political
the justice(s) and summarize his/her reasoning.
principles underlying the U.S. Constitution and
compare the enumerated and implied powers of the
federal government Dissenting Opinion (justice’s name)
Summarize the points made by the justices
“A” paper contains ALL of the following disagreeing with the majority opinion. List all
and fully addresses each substandard dissenting justices
“B” paper contains MOST of the following
and/or meets the basic expectation of the Evaluation/Analysis of Case (about
substandard 1-1.5 pages)
“C” paper contains SOME of the following Final outcome
and/or does not meet the basic expectation What was the final outcome of the case? How
of each substandard did the justices make their decision?
“I” paper fails to address any of the
following standards/substandard What was the immediate response to the court’s
Legal Brief (about 2 pages) decision? How did people react? Were there any
people/groups angry with the decision?
Case and Case # Satisfied?
Facts of the case: Did you case change/reverse any previous
Briefly summarize the case and the facts up to decisions made by the Supreme Court? Has
its arrival in the Supreme Court. Include the there been a lasting impact on American citizens
decisions of the lower courts and the legal system? Did the decision in your
case change any laws? Are there any laws today
The Law: that are questioned because of the decision?
What is the law in questions for this case?
Landmark cases are an issue of Subsequent Cases
Constitutionality. Does the decision in your case still stand or has
it been changed by subsequent cases? Have there
been any related cases decided by the Supreme
Legal Question: Court?
What is the question the Supreme Court needs to
answer? Your Opinion
What is your opinion regarding this case and its
Arguments impact on American society? Is it important or
Briefly summarize the arguments each side gave not, explain? Do you agree with the decision of
to the Supreme Court. What are the main points the court, explain your reasoning while citing
on each side of the argument? the law to support your position.
Opinion of the Court (justice’s name) How does this case affect your life?
Summarize the opinion of the court (decision).
List all of the justices who were part of the Citations
majority opinion. (List all justices in agreement). Include a bibliography in MLA with minimum
of 3 sources
Supreme Court Legal Brief Outline
Legal Brief (About 2 pages)
Facts of the case (Summary of facts of case and its journey to Supreme Court)
The Law (What is the law in question? Ex: 4th Amendment illegal search and seizure)
Legal Questions (What is the question the Supreme Court needs to answer?)
Briefly summarize the arguments each side gave to the Supreme Court. What are the main points
on each side of the argument?
Opinion of the Court
Majority Opinion (Summarize opinion. List Justice who authored it. List all justices who
agreed with this decision).
Concurring Opinion (Summarize opinion of justices who agreed with majority but for different
reasons. List author and all who joined concurring opinion).
Dissenting Opinion (Summarize opinion of those disagreeing with the majority. List author and
all who joined in dissenting opinion).
Analysis (About 1-1.5 pages)
What was the final outcome of the case? How did the justices decide (7-2, 9-0)?
What was the immediate response to the court’s decision? How did people react? Were there
any groups/people angry or please with the decision?
Did you case change/reverse any previous decisions made by the Supreme Court? Has there been
a lasting impact on American citizens and the legal system? Did the decision in your case change
any laws? Are there any laws today that are questioned because of the decision?
Does the decision in your case still stand or has it been changed by subsequent cases? Are there
any related cases decided by the Supreme Court?
What is your opinion regarding this case and its impact on American society? Is it important or
not, explain? Do you agree with the decision of the court, explain your reasoning citing the law
to support your position.
How does this case affect your life? What freedoms do you have or not have due to the Court’s