Lesson Plans - Law

Appealling a lower court opinion:

The Case of  "Nong's motorcycle accident"

Lesson Plan:

GRADE(S): 9 - 12 (or older grades inexperienced with mock trials)

DESCRIPTION: conducting a simplified mock trial in a classroom, based on a Thai student life experience "Nong's motorcycle accident."

Motorcycle accident/Mock Trial Image credit Label source online

DURATION: 2 class periods (45 minutes each)

LANGUAGE: English (can easily be adapted to the language of the classroom)

AUTHOR: Keerock Rook, The Learning Foundation

At the end of this lesson, students should be able to...
• identify the process for appealing a lower court opinion (how are the facts of the case presented; how is the dispute resolved.)
• identify key players in the Appeal (who presents the facts; who makes the final decision.)
• determine what makes a decision fair.
Small group deliberation in simplified mock-trial format; class is divided into four groups (two groups to compare the facts of the trial and those in the appeal and two groups comparing laws and rules involved in the traila dn those rasied in the appeal. Groups of three students, each acting as appeal court judges.
A full-scale mock trial can be an intimidating prospect for an elementary classroom-both for teacher and students. This lesson plan for a simplified mock-trial provides an opportunity to experience the fundamentals of an appeal.
Beginning with a cast of two characters, students will develop skills that will lead them safely into more complicated cases.
The basic tenets of the lesson include those items covered in the learning objectives.
Understanding that the purpose of an appeal is to settle a dispute between two people, the two people were given an opportunity to present their side of the story to a judge. The judge made his or her decision, and one of the people didn't agree with that opinion and wishes to appeal to a higher court.
Without distinguishing between civil and criminal issues, this lesson illustrates the essentials of our adversary system: that each party can challenge a lower court opinion and is allowed to present their reasons in writing to be considered by an independent group of judges.

• Copies of facts of the original trial Nong's motorcycle accident.
• Copies of the Lower Court Ruling and the Appeal.
• The Steps in the Appeal for the judges.
The fact situation given here is based on an imaginary student life situation. There may have been a real incident in your classroom that would be a good substitute. Develop roles that are gender-free and easily used by males or females.
Prepare fact sheets for all the Appeals Court Judges to read before beginning their discussion.
• Make copies of the Steps in the Appeal for distribution to the judges groups.
• Divide the class into four groups: two groups to exmine and compare the facts in the case to what the Judge ruled and what the Accused (Mr. Gordon) argued was wrong. Two groups examineand compare the laws and rules in the case to what the Judge ruled and what the Accused (Mr. Gordon) argued was wrong.
• Give fact sheets to each group.
• Allow time for the groups to discuss their strategy: who will present arguements adn reasons the facts support the Lower Court's ruling and those who are against the ruling. Each group should choose a spokesperson to represent them in the Appeal.
• Follow the Steps in the Trial described below.
• Time permitting, repeat the trial with a different set of students representing for and against the Lower Court's ruling.
• Talk as a class about the Appeal (s) and the results. Ask for reactions to each role: how did it feel to argue agaisnt the Judges ruling, how did it feel to support it?
• Review the objectives for other teaching points.
Fact Situation:
The Lower Court Judge wrote this opinion:

• Mr Gordon should be more careful when preparing to enter a highway, since there are other people using the highways and his car is bigger and can cause them a lot of damage.
• The Judge ruled that Mr Gordon had not been careful enough and a young boy was hurt.
• He ordered Mr. Gordon to pay for Nong’s medical costs as well as the court and legal expenses his family spent bringing the case to court.
Mr. Gordon did not agree and presented these facts and reasons to the Court of Appeal.
Mr. Gordon asked the Court of Appeal to consider that:
• Nong was an inexperienced driver who had never taken a driving test or obtained a license to drive.
• He was 13 years old, and was driving with an injured foot, which limited his ability to control his motorcycle.
• Because there were trees and bushes growing up to the edge of the road, it was harder to see his motorcycle when it approached from the wrong direction.
• Whereas, Mr Gordon was focusing his attention on the cars coming in the proper direction so he could safely enter the flow of traffic.
Mr. Gordon asked the Court of Appeals to re- examine the evidence presented in the primary court and consider that:
• Mr Gordon had over 20 years experience driving.
• He had no previous accidents.
• He had held an International Driving License all that time.
• He had not broken any traffic law.
• No evidence had been presented in the Lower Court to show how he could have been any more careful than he had been.
• Mr Gordon claimed that the law requiring drivers to drive in the same direction as the traffic and on the correct side of the road was a good law and resulted in safer driving for everyone.
• He argued that the Lower Court ruling could encourage the general public to ignore laws that protected everyone.
• Mr Gordon asked the Court of Appeals to overturn the Lower Court's Opinion and find for the Defendant.
Steps in the Appeal
1. Three judges review the Facts of Nong's accident.
2. They weigh those facts against: the Opinion of the Lower Court Judge and Mr. Gordon's answer to that Opinion.
3. Each Judge gives their opinion and reasons to either: let the Lower Court Opinion stand or to reject it.
4. A majority vote (two or more of the judges) decides the outcome of the case.
Lead whole-class summation discussion based on the objectives stated earlier. Older students might be given a written assignment. In groups of three, one representing each role, prepare a one page summary of the Appeal, that presents each side of the story and the judge's decision, with reasons.
Try another of the mock-trial lesson plans, or develop your own based on a situation from current events in the community or the classroom.
Write your own fact situation and adapt the Steps in the Trial accordingly. Some other lessons continue with three roles in each trial; some more complicated situations, for trials of six characters, add clerk and two lawyers.
Refer to the Canada School Net Bibliography on Mock Trial Materials for reference or LFS Law and Society Lesson Plans
"Appealing a Lower Court Opinion" Simplified Mock Trial is based on the Canada School Net Simplified Mock Trial Design.

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