Lesson Plans - Law

Appealing a lower court opinion:

Update: The Case of:  Running in the Olympics

Lesson Plan:

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

DESCRIPTION: conducting a simplified mock trial in a classroom, based on the quest of Oscar Pistorius to compete in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius has been selected to run in both the individual 400 meters and the 4x400-meter relay at the 2012 London Olympics and is set to become the first amputee track athlete to compete at any games. » The fulll Associate Press article - July 4, 2012.

DURATION: 1 class period

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 the Fact Sheet for Running in the Olympics.
• Copies of the Steps in the Trial for Running in the Olympics. for the judges.
The fact situation given here is based on the following New York Times articles: An Amputee Sprinter: Is He Disabled or Too-Abled? and Effect of Prosthetics Ruling Is Unclear. Additional graphics about the case are here.
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:
Oscar Pistorious petitioned the International Association of Athletics Federations (I.A.A.F), which decides who can compete in the Olympics in Beijing, to allow him to compete.

The I.A.A.F ruled that the double-amputee sprinter, who runs on two carbon-fiber blades, was ineligible to qualify for the Olympics. The ruling stated that Pistorius's J-shaped blades were a "technical aid," and could not be used in an able-bodied competition.

The ruling cited a study supervised by Peter Brueggemann, a scientist from the German Sports University in Cologne, which showed that the blades were more efficient from a mechanical standpoint (citing a 90 percent efficiency against a 60 percent rating for a normal foot.) and that they allowed Pistorius to consume less energy than an able-bodied athlete running at the same speed.

Oscar Pistorius asked the Court of Appeal to examine qualification to compete while using of an assistive device, not only in solely biomechanical terms.
"These have always been my legs. I train harder than other guys, eat better, sleep better and wake up thinking about athletics. I think that's probably why I'm a bit of an exception."
There are many disadvantages to sprinting on carbon-fiber legs, Pistorius and his coach said. After a cumbersome start, he needs about 30 meters to gain his rhythm. His knees do not flex as readily, limiting his power output. His grip can be unsure in the rain. And when he runs into a headwind or grows fatigued, he must fight rotational forces that turn his prosthetic devices sideways, said Ampie Louw, who coaches Pistorius.
My legs allow me to run, but to win I face the same challenges as every other Olympic runner, and I am asking the Court of Appeal to overturn the decision of the I.A.A.F, so I can compete in the 2008 Olympics.
Steps in the Appeal
1. Three judges review the Facts in the Case of Finishing too Late.
2. They weigh those facts.
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.
"Running in the Olympics" Simplified Mock Trial is based on the Canada School Net Simplified Mock Trial Design.

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