Texting While Driving

From the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

This mock-trial simulation about a car crash that may have been caused by texting while driving is of timely and compelling interest to a high school or college audience. This resources gathers together a list of mock trial materials: documents that can serve as the mock trial transcripts for high school (and college) students. The handouts are in-depth and provide facts, overviews about the role of certain trial elements (e.g. the differences between an opening statement and a closing argument) and other materials, such as jury instructions and recommended scripts for witnesses.

Following the mounting of the trial, a discussion tool offers a way to test the students' knowledge with a True/False quiz.

Mock trials are a compelling teaching tool for high school and college-aged students. Students given speaking parts will take their roles seriously since their peers will see them — and thus they will learn the case and the concepts more thoroughly than if they were just being lectured to. The student audience will be entertained by seeing their peers play different characters.

The scripted mock trial simulation can take place in a classroom, where students play all the parts, or, with the participation of a judge, the case can be moved to a courtroom, where the judge presides and attorneys coach the student lawyers at counsel tables and students play the parts of witnesses or jurors. In either situation, the materials recommend that the trial simulation be followed by a conversation with the judge or with probation officers about situations — such as texting while driving — that may have legal consequences.

Judges will likely want to use these mock trial resources in conjunction with a school that is intending to mount a mock trial. A judge could work with a school to mount the trial in the courtroom, with the judge presiding. Judges could use the materials to help assign students to different roles and oversee their application of the materials.

The actual information for each mock trial can be overwhelming at first glance for high school students. The inclusion of criminal codes and related facts add to each case's complexity because the average student reader may not know how to apply these to the case. Judges could add particular value by explaining the case law to a mock trial team.

These mock trials are geared towards use in high school, but a judge could also work with college students to mount this simulation exercise.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. A Conversation on the Constitution: Jury Service  Videos and lesson plan from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (M, H, A)
  2. Civil Mock Trials  Case study/mock trial from Street Law (H, A)
  3. Considering the Constitution  Document from Scholastic (P, M, H) 
  4. Court Shorts: Jury Service  Video from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (M, H, A)
  5. Criminal Mock Trials  Case study/mock trial from Street Law (H, A)
  6. Deciding by Group: You Are the Jury  Document from Scholastic (P, M, H)  
  7. Juror Selection  Document from Scholastic (M, H) 
  8. Pathways to the Bench  Videos from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H)
  9. Quiz #3: Civil Cases  Lesson Plan from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)
  10. Quiz #4: Criminal Cases  Lesson Plan from the Federal Judicial Center (M, H, A)
  11. Trial Court 'Go Fish'  Game from iCivics (P, M)

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.