Supreme Court

Penn Model Congress is proud to announce the return of the Supreme Court program for its seventh year. The program provides the opportunity to participate in a model of oral arguments of the U.S. Supreme Court. Supreme Court sessions will take place during the legislative Full Session timeslots, and will not conflict with committee meetings. Supreme Court delegates, like all other delegates, are required to submit mock legislation, and will be able to participate fully in their legislative committees.

Preparation

Please bear in mind that pre-conference preparation for the Supreme Court is significant. Prior to the conference, Supreme Court delegates will receive packets containing relevant material to the three cases that will be argued in the mock sessions. These materials will be identical to those required for submission in response to a U.S. Supreme Court writ of certiorari. In other words, those materials will include briefs from the petitioner and respondent, those from their respective amici curiae (briefs advising the Court submitted by parties not directly involved in the case), along with any prior state court of lower federal court decisions.

Don't worry, we don't expect you to be an expert on legal concepts and reasoning. All case materials will be tailored for readers without any legal background. However, we do advise that Supreme Court delegates be willing and capable to perform high-level analysis and arguments during these sessions.

The cases for the 2017 conference can be found here

Logistics

We invite each delegation to nominate two delegates for this special program.

Delegates will work in pairs, as petitioners, respondents, and justices on a rotating basis in the three different cases. Teams will alternate courtrooms after the first session, allowing delegates to participate with different sets of teams. Each courtroom will contain four teams of Supreme Court delegates and one PENNMC staff member who will act as Chief Justice. PENNMC staff will participate as little as possible, allowing the delegates acting as justices to direct most of the examination.

Supreme Court Session Format:

  • Session is 3-hours in length.
  • Petitioner and respondent each allotted 30 minutes to present.
  • Questioning from justices takes place during those 30-minute segments.
  • Upon completion of oral arguments, the petitioner, the respondent, and the PENNMC staff member will leave the courtroom for 10 to allow the justices to conduct preliminary deliberations.
  • PENNMC staff member will enter the courtroom for no more than 10 minutes to discuss the outcome of deliberations, to cast his or her vote, and to ensure the opinions of the Court are prepared (briefs in length).
  • Petitioner and respondent reenter courtroom, at which time the opinions will be read and discussed for no more than 10 minutes.
  • Court will take a 5-minute recess, and reconvene to begin the next case with new delegate roles.
Expectations

Oral Argument: We aim to simulate actual U.S. Supreme Court proceedings closely as possible. As such, we will look for delegates to articulate argument based upon the elements of law examined in the case materials, not upon the factual circumstances of the cases. We will not expect, however, that the delegates go into excruciating detail of the evolution of Court doctrine surrounding the constitutional provisions referenced in the case materials. Supplemental materials provided to the delegates will clearly outline the appropriate legal issues and precedents to consider in preparation for the program.

While we recognize the challenge of conveying legal arguments without any legal background, adhering strictly to actual U.S. Supreme Court procedures will offer delegates a unique and more representative Supreme Court experience.

Operating Rules: Parliamentary procedure will not be applied in the Supreme Court because oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court operate in its unique way. Delegates acting as petitioners and as respondents will be required to begin their arguments in the customary manner, "Mr./Madame Chief Justice, and may it please the Court." It is recommended that the petition reserve 3 to 5 minutes for a rebuttal and/or conclusion following the respondent's argument.

During oral arguments, justices may interrupt the petitioner or respondent at any time with questions. Counsel is required to suspend his/her argument to address the justice's questions. In the U.S. Supreme Court, justices often question counsel to facilitate his/her argumentation, rather than simply to ascertain facts. We encourage such constructive questioning by delegate justices.

The PENNMC staff member acting as Chief Justice will ensure delegate justices maintain respect for petitioners and respondents at all times, and that they refrain from pejorative questioning.

Teamwork: The Supreme Court program is especially valuable for delegates as a collaborative exercise to work in delegate pairs. In addition to giving delegates an enlightening and informative taste of U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments, this program allows delegates to develop and showcase their abilities to work effectively in teams.

Final Thoughts

We advise delegations to nominate their most analytically capable, self-motivated, and team-oriented students for the Supreme Court program. Each participating school must designate two delegates for the Supreme Court program. We are confident that the Supreme Court program will be a success at the PENNMC 2017 Conference as it has been for the past six years.

You can visit the United States Supreme Court website at http://www.supremecourt.gov.