Lesson Plan: 2019-2020 Supreme Court Oral Arguments

Supreme Court Oral Arguments

The justices of the Supreme Court discuss the process and importance of the oral arguments during a Supreme Court case.

Description

The Supreme Court has the power to interpret the Constitution. Its rulings on cases determine the meaning of laws and acts of Congress and the president. During oral arguments, attorneys for each side of a case present their positions to the Court and respond to questions from the Justices. Prior to the oral arguments, each side submits a legal brief which are reviewed by the Justices so they have complete understanding of the facts of the case and the positions of each party. In this lesson students will examine both sides of a 2019-2020 Supreme Court case and determine its significance to the U.S. Culminating activities may include a mock trial or moot court.

Procedures

  • STEP 1.

    As a class, view the videos below to learn about the process and importance of oral arguments during a Supreme Court case.

    Video Clip: Supreme Court Oral Arguments (7:42)

    • How long are the oral arguments for most cases in the Supreme Court? Why are they limited to this time?

    • What is most time during an oral argument spent on? Why do you think this is the case?

    • Explain at least three key points that the justices or attorneys shared about the questioning period. What similarities and differences do you notice from these views?

    • Do you think the oral argument process is effective? Explain why it is or how it could be more effective.
  • Video Clip: How the Teleconference Supreme Court Oral Arguments will Work

    • How will teleconferencing oral arguments work?

    • Describe how these new procedures differ from traditional oral arguments.
  • STEP 2.

    Select a Supreme Court case from below and complete the chart as you listen to the oral arguments. The list of oral arguments will be updated as the Supreme Court term continues.

  • RESOURCES

  • VIDEO

    October 7, 2019 Ramos v. Louisiana (35:57)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does the Fourteenth Amendment fully incorporate the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict against the states?
  • VIDEO

    October 7, 2019 Kahler v. Kansas (1:02:29)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • May a state abolish the insanity defense without violating the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments?
  • VIDEO

    October 8, 2019 R.G.& G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC (57:49)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit discrimination against transgender employees based on (1) their status as transgender or (2) sex stereotyping under Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989)?
  • VIDEO

    October 8, 2019 Sexual Orientation Consolidated (1:02:12)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits against employment discrimination “because of . . . sex” encompass discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation?
  • VIDEO

    October 16, 2019 Mathena v. Malvo (1:03:24)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does the decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana modify a “substantive rule of constitutional law” such that it must be given retroactive effect, requiring the respondent’s sentences of life without the possibility of parole to be vacated?
  • VIDEO

    November 4, 2019 Kansas v. Glover (1:01:40)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • For purposes of an investigative stop under the Fourth Amendment, is it reasonable for an officer to suspect that the registered owner of a vehicle is the one driving the vehicle absent any information to the contrary?
  • VIDEO

    November 12, 2019 Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California (1:23:48)

    Key Questions in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Is the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy judicially reviewable?
    • Is DHS’s decision to wind down the DACA policy lawful?
  • VIDEO

    November 12, 2019 Hernandez v. Mesa (1:02:20)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Should federal courts recognize a damages claim under Bivens if plaintiffs plausibly allege that a rogue federal law enforcement officer violated clearly established Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights for which there is no alternative legal remedy?
  • VIDEO

    November 12, 2019 Comcast Corporation v. National Association of African-American Owned Media (59:30)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does a claim of race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 require that the plaintiff show but-for causation, or only that race is a motivating factor?
  • VIDEO

    December 2, 2019 New York State Rifle and Pistol v. City of New York (1:03:13)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does a New York City rule banning the transportation a licensed, locked, and unloaded handgun to a home or shooting range outside city limits violate the Second Amendment, the Commerce Clause, or the constitutional right to travel?
  • VIDEO

    January 14, 2020 Kelly v. United States (1:01:12)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does a public official “defraud” the government of its property by advancing a “public policy reason” for an official decision that is not her subjective “real reason” for making the decision?
  • VIDEO

    January 22, 2020 Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (1:02:53)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does a state law that allows for funding for education generally while prohibiting funding for religious schools violate the Religion Clauses or the Equal Protection Clause of the federal Constitution?
  • VIDEO

    February 25, 2020 United States v. Sineneng-Smith (59:54)

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Is a federal law criminalizing the act of encouraging or inducing illegal immigration for commercial advantage or private financial gain unconstitutional on its face?
  • VIDEO

    March 4, 2020 Louisiana Department of Health Consolidated 1:00:01

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, below, upholding Louisiana’s law requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital conflict with the Court’s binding precedent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt?
  • VIDEO

    May 4, 2020 Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V. Oral Argument

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does the addition by an online business of a generic top-level domain (“.com”) to an otherwise generic term can create a protectable trademark, notwithstanding the Lanham Act’s prohibition on generic terms as trademarks?
  • VIDEO

    May 5, 2020 USAID v. Alliance For Open Society International, Inc

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does a requirement that non-governmental organizations institute an explicit anti-prostitution policy in order to receive federal funding violate the First Amendment?
  • VIDEO

    May 6, 2020 Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania(1:40:03)

    Key Questions in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does the petitioner in this case have judicial standing?

    • Did the federal government lawfully exempt religious objectors from the regulatory requirement to provide health plans that include contraceptive coverage?
  • VIDEO

    May 11, 2020 McGirt v. Oklahoma

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Can a state prosecute an enrolled member of the Creek Tribe for crimes committed within the historical Creek boundaries?
  • VIDEO

    May 11, 2020 Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Agnes Morrissey-Berru

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Do the First Amendment’s religion clauses prevent civil courts from adjudicating employment-discrimination claims brought by an employee against her religious employer, when the employee carried out important religious functions but was not otherwise a “minister”?
  • VIDEO

    May 12, 2020 Trump v. Mazars USA/Trump v. Deutsche Bank

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does the Constitution prohibit subpoenas issued to Donald Trump’s accounting firm requiring it to provide non-privileged financial records relating to Trump (as a private citizen) and some of his businesses?
  • VIDEO

    May 12, 2020 Trump v. Vance

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does the Constitution permit a county prosecutor to subpoena a third-party custodian for the financial and tax records of a sitting president, over which the president has no claim of executive privilege?
  • VIDEO

    May 13, 2020 Chiafalo v. Washington

    Key Question in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Does a state law requiring presidential electors to vote the way state law directs or else be subject to a fine violate the electors’ First Amendment rights?
  • VIDEO

    May 13, 2020 Colorado Department of State v. Baca

    Key Questions in Case (as listed on Oyez.org):

    • Do the petitioners in this case, the presidential electors, have judicial standing to sue the state of Colorado over a law requiring them to vote in the Electoral College for the winner of the popular vote in that state?

    • Is that Colorado law unconstitutional?
  • STEP 3.

    As a class, discuss the main arguments on both sides in the case, and explain its significance to the U.S.

  • STEP 4.

    Choose an activity from C-SPAN Classroom's Deliberations site to engage in a structured student-centered analysis of the case.

Additional Resources

Vocabulary

  • Cases
  • Judicial Branch
  • Justices
  • Oral Argument

Topics

Judicial BranchSupreme Court Cases

Grades

Middle SchoolHigh SchoolUniversity