Lesson Plans - Law

The Case of: Finishing Too Late

Lesson Plan:

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

DESCRIPTION: conducting a simplified mock trial in a classroom, based on living and business life in Thailand. "The Case of Finishing too Late."
A Contract Dispute - Simplified Mock Trail Image credit State of Minnesota
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 settling a legal dispute (how are the facts of the case presented; how is the dispute resolved)
• identify key players in a legal dispute (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 three groups for mock trial; groups of three, one each acting as judge, accused and accuser, for review discussion.

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 a trial:
• Beginning with a cast of three 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 a trial is to settle a dispute between two people, the two parties are given an opportunity to present their side of the story to a judge.
• With the final authority resting with him/her, the judge takes some time to clarify issues with each party and then makes a decision that is seen to be fair to each party.
Without distinguishing between civil and criminal issues, this lesson illustrates the essentials of our adversary system: that each party is allowed to tell his/her side of the story, that the judge is the person with the authority to settle the dispute, that a fair decision is presented with reasons supporting that decision. See also mock trial cases: Apealing a Lower Court Opinion.
RECOMMENDED STUDENT MATERIALS: Copies of facts for accused and accuser; copies of Steps in the Trial for the judges.

Terms: "Contract is a written or spoken agreement especially one that is intended to be enforceable by law." This definition from the American Heritage Dictionary was used for the lesson.
The fact situation given here is based on an imaginary experience of living or doing business in Thailand. There may have been a real incident that would be a good substitute. Develop roles that are gender-free and easily used by males or females.
Prepare fact sheets for the accused and accuser groups to read before beginning their trial. Make copies of the Steps in the Trial for distribution to the judges group.
• Divide the class into three groups; each group represents the judge, the accuser, or the accused.
• Give fact sheets to the accused and the accuser groups, but not to the judge group. Give a copy of the Steps in the Trial to the judge group.
• Allow time for the groups to discuss their strategy: who will present their case, and how they will present their side of the story. Each group should choose a spokesperson to represent them in the trial.
• Follow the Steps in the Trial described below.
• Time permitting, repeat the trial with a different set of students representing each side of the story and the judge.
• Talk as a class about the trial(s) and the results. Ask for reactions to each role: how did it feel to be the judge, the accused, the accuser?
• Review the objectives for other teaching points.
Fact Situation:
A Thai Road Building Company (The Road Builder) had a Thai contract to build a road which included toll booths to collect fares from drivers using the new road.

The road and toll booths had to be completed within 1 year or The Road Builder would pay a fine for the delay.
The Road Builder chose a British toll booth model offered in a sales catalogue from a Thai supplier (The Sales Company) and signed an order form for the purchase.
The order form was sent to the British manufacturer (The Manufacturer) which sent back a contract in English describing the toll booths, the cost, the terms of payment, and the guaranteed delivery date.
(The Contract)) terms included a non refundable deposit and payment in full within 60 days.
The Road Builder signed The Contract and sent the deposit to the The Manufacturer.

The Manufacturer did not receive full payment within the 60 days and notified The Road Builder by e-mail with a copy to The Sales Company that the toll booths order would be cancelled unless full payment was received within 15 days.

The Sales Company sent an e-mail in Thai to The Road Builder warning them that if payment was not made within the 15 days The Manufacturer could cancel the order and the deposit would not be returned. The e-mail added that the guaranteed delivery date could also be delayed.
The Road Builder did not make the deadline of 15 days but did make the full payment to The Manufacturer 30 days later or 45 days later than The Contract deadline for payment.

The Manufacturer confirmed, by e-mail, the receipt of the payment to both The Road Builder and The Sales Company.
The e-mail included a new guaranteed delivery date for the toll booths that was later than the deadline The Road Builder needed to complete the road with the Toll Booths installed.
The Road Builder did not raise that fact to either The Sales Company or The Manufacture.

The Road Builder completed the road on time, but was 15 days late installing the toll booths.

The Road Builder was fined for being late and sued The Sales Company.
The Road Builder claimed:

•   The Sales Company was responsbile for getting the toll booths to Thailand on time, because they sold them.
•   The delay in completing the road was caused by the late arrival of the toll booths so it wasn’t their fault.
•   The Contract with The Manufacturer was in English and The Road Builder did not understand it.

The Sales Company answered:

•   The role of The Sales Company was to process the sales order not to manufacture the toll booths and deliver them to Thailand.
•   The Contract was a standard form in English, which The Road Builder had the time, resources and incentive to translate or question.
•   The delivery date was written in The Contract not in the sales order.
•   Payment in full was not made to The Manufacturer by The Road Builder as required in The Contract.
•   The Sales Company had warned The Road Builder in an e-mail written in Thai that if full payment was not made within 15 days the order would be cancelled and they would loose the deposit.
•   The Road Builder still delayed making full payment for another 30 days.
•   The decision to change the delivery date was made by The Manufacturer according to The Contract and not by The Sales Company.
•   Therefore, the failure of The Road Builder to pay on time caused the delay, not The Sales Company.

Steps in the Trial:
1.Let The Road Builder (the accuser) tell her/his side of the story.

2. Let The Sales Company (the accused) tell her/his side of the story.

3. Let the judge ask The Road Builder and The Sales Company questions.

4. Give the judge a few minutes to think.

5. Let the judge make a decision that is fair.

6. Let the judge explain his or her reasons.

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.
"Finishing Too Late" - A Simplified Mock Trial based on the Canada School Net Simplified Mock Trial Design.

2004 - 2007 The Learning Foundation - LFS Program in Asia