• Deborah Morris Burton

Choosing My Case Summary: How Do I Decide Between a Trial and an Appeal?

You've decided to hold a mock trial class and you've decided to use the Homeschool Court curriculum. You know that you need a Student Worktext and a Teacher Edition. You know you also need a Student Case Summary and a Teacher Case Summary.

First, understand the difference between these two types of cases. A trial involves witnesses and evidence. There will be cross-examination of the other side's witnesses. There will be a judge and a jury that will listen to the evidence presented.

An appeal is the stage after a trial has occurred. Someone has won and someone has lost at the trial level. The "loser" may appeal -- attempt to get the lower court ruling overturned. There is no new evidence presented. Rather, the lawyers argue higher-level issues, such as the ruling being unconstitutional or there was serious error at the trial level.

But how do you choose the one that is best for your class? Here are some things to consider:

1. What is the age group of your class? Older students are better able to handle appeal cases, because they involve more complex legal issues.

2. How many students are there? Trial cases require more participants -- lawyers on both sides, witnesses on both sides, a judge and a jury. An appellate case requires lawyers on both sides and an odd number of justices to render a decision. If you have a large enough group, you may choose to put on both a trial and an appellate case.

3. What are the personalities of the class members? Are your students gung-ho, possibly future attorneys? They may enjoy the extra challenge of learning about constitutional issues and prior case law that are found in the appeal cases. Are many of them shy and reticent? Perhaps they would be better suited as witnesses in a trial, or justices in an appeal.