Balancing Free Speech & Fair Trial

What is the lesson plan:  'Balancing Free Speech and Fair Trial'?

From the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts 

Cases that balance the First and Sixth Amendment protections of free speech and fair trial issues come to the Supreme Court in many ways. This lesson plan outlines a fictional case that judges and teachers can use to have high school students consider how to balance a criminal defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial against the constitutional rights to free speech of relatives of an alleged victim.

The key question presented by the case is this: If the friends and family of a murder victim sit in the trial of the alleged murderer wearing buttons printed with a picture of the deceased, does that prejudice the jury and risk depriving the defendant of his Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury? 

How do you use it?

This lesson plan focusing on the tension between fair trial and free speech is divided into multiple easy-to-use parts.  The "Facts and Case Summary" section is a succinct summary of the case and the "Talking Points" section sets out a number of issues raised by the case, and arguments "pro" and "con."  A judge or other presenter could lead a fairly short discussion using these sections. 

The lesson plan simply outlines a possible simulation exercise in the "Talking Points" section.  This simulation gets the audience involved, presents relevant historical information, requires critical thinking, helps students better understand court proceedings, and is easy for judges, attorneys and teachers to follow.  

The moderator/leaders/students would need to know some basic rules regarding British style debate, although guidelines for civil discussion (e.g. rules of participation) are provided. 

The program calls for a targeted presentation by speakers on the various sides of the propositions for about 30 minutes, at which point the points being offered by the presenters are then opened up to the floor for input and comment. Specific arguments for and against the propositions are provided, which can stimulate discussion. A suggested timeline is provided for the 6th Amendment exercise (nearly 3 hours, but with plenty of room for compression)

Also on this site under the Sixth Amendment section is an additional resource:  Journalists and Grand Juries, based on the case Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 92 S. Ct. 2646 (1972) that again balances two competing public policies: a free press and public safety (when can a reporter be compelled to reveal confidential information?).

If a judge or teacher decided to take on the full simulation (which would need a nearly 3-hour session), substantial prep time would be needed to become thoroughly familiar with the issues, and to enlist and prepare attorneys and students to play their parts.
The case outlined is based on a Supreme Court case, Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 127 S. Ct. 649 (2006).  Judges who want to present these issues may find it more interesting to deal with the real case rather than this hypothetical.

Who is the audience?

This lesson plan is directed at a rather sophisticated audience, at a high school or college level.  It is not intended for an individual to "read," rather the lesson plan is structured so that the material can be discussed and the arguments acted out.   Students are offered several opportunities to participate, which can get them excited about the issues and make them more attentive to the subject. 

What other resources will complement this?

From the Bill of Rights section:
  1. 9/11 and the Constitution  Lesson plans from the Center for Civic Education (M, H)  
  2. A Day in the Life  Interactive "game" from (M, H)
  3. Courts in the Classroom  Videos from the Judicial Council of California and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (P, M H)
  4. Interpreting the Constitution: What Does That Mean?  Lesson Plan from iCivics (H)
  5. Korematsu and Civil Liberties  Video from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (H, A)
  6. One Person, One Vote  Video and lesson plan from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (H, A)
  7. Perseverance and the Bill of Rights  Lesson plan from the Bill of Rights Institute, via the National Constitution Center (M, H)  
  8. Respecting Freedom of Speech  Lesson Plan from the Bill of Rights Institute, via the National Constitution Center (M, H)  
  9. Supreme Decision  Game from iCivics (M, H) 
  10. The First and Fourteenth Amendments  Lesson Plan from Channel One (M, H)  
  11. The Story of the Bill of Rights  Videos and game from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (M, H)
  12. Yick Wo and the Equal Protection Clause  Video from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (H, A)

From the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth Amendment Rights section:
  1. An Act of Courage: The Arrest Records of Rosa Parks  Lesson Plan from the National Archives (M, H)
  2. Courts in the Classroom  Videos from the Judicial Council of California and the Administrative Office (P, M, H)
  3. Dialogue on Youth and Justice  Lesson Plan from the American Bar Association (H, A)  
  4. Interactive Guide to the Sixth Amendment  Interactive document from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (M, H)
  5. Teen House Party Search  Lesson Plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H, A)

Additional Recommended Resources Off-Site Links

  1. A Constitutional Timeline
    • Multi-aged audience timeline that highlights key dates in history of Constitution, with links to text, audio and video clips. From National Constitution Center's Constitution Day site. 
  2. Interactive Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that enables users to search Constitution by keyword or topic, with access to explanatory materials throughout. From National Constitution Center.   
  3. The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that lists the text of each section of every article in the Constitution, and provides explanation of what the text means in plain language.  From the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics. 
  4. Understanding the Federal Courts
    • Multi-aged online textbook-type document that includes sections on Article III, the Federal Court system and the geographical boundaries of the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts, the code of conduct for judges, juror qualifications, exemptions and terms of service, as well as categories of bankruptcy cases.  From the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.