Lesson Plan: 2020-2021 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.


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 2020-2021 Supreme Court case and determine its significance to the U.S. Culminating activities may include a mock trial or moot court.


  • 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.



    October 5, 2020 Texas v. New Mexico (1:15:06)

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

    • Whether the River Master correctly allocated evaporation losses under the Pecos River Compact.

    October 5, 2020 Carney v. Adams ( 1:05:24)

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

    • Does a state law that effectively limits judicial service to members of the Democratic and Republican parties violate the First Amendment?

    October 6, 2020 Rutledge, Attorney General of Arkansas v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (1:12:12)

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

    • Does ERISA preempt an Arkansas law regulating pharmacy benefit managers’ drug-reimbursement rates?

    October 6, 2020 Tanzin v. Tanvir (1:01:06)

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

    • Does the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb, permit lawsuits seeking money damages against individual federal employees?

    October 7, 2020 Google v. Oracle America

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

    • Does copyright protection extend to a software interface?
    • If so, does the petitioner’s use of a software interface in the context of creating a new computer program constitute fair use?

    October 7, 2020 Ford Motor Company Consolidated (1:04:30)

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

    • May a state court, consistent with the Due Process Clause, exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant when none of the defendant’s contacts with that state caused the plaintiff’s claims?
  • 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


  • Cases
  • Judicial Branch
  • Justices
  • Oral Argument


Judicial BranchSupreme Court Cases


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