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SCIE | Mock Supreme Court Trial
2018-04-12

 [SCIE web news, April 12th, 2018] Anyone who had visited the capital of the United States could attest that the Supreme Court is among one of the most identifiable pillar that made up the modern democracy that we know today. Standing in Washington D.C., its vast symbolic value encompasses the nation’s judicial prowess and a worldwide beacon for the rule of law. 

 

To forward the Humanities spirit of SCIE, the Politics Club organized a mock Supreme Court Trial and brought the magnificence of law to everyone in the Garden Room-made interim courtroom. I had the pleasure of joining a team of fellow enthusiasts in organizing and overseeing the mock trial from the beginning. 

 


Although the idea to organize such a trial was not mine in the first place, I was immediately enthralled by it — a vibrant new take on traditional debating that changes the dynamic of the conversation and giving the participants insights of relevant legal procedures.

 

Starting from scratch, the aim of our team was to develop a fictional civil lawsuit surrounding one of the most controversial topic of late. A topic that the participants would have adequate knowledge of while still maintaining a level of academic challenge. The idea was that the participants of the mock trial can use this as a prompt combined with applicable laws to make their case in front of the Supreme Court Justices — played by us. With the help from our teachers the members finally set the topic on the contemporary debate of whether burka (a type of traditional Muslim attire worn by female) should be sanctioned in the United States, in light of its suppressive undertones and apparent fallout with contemporary moral values.

 


The Supreme Court is known for its various landmark rulings that shaped the American way of life as we know it. Many cases are well-known on a global scale and therefore their established case backstory under keen scrutiny of enthusiasts around the world. As the author of the case material, I decided to use this to our advantage as it provides valuable precedent of rulings and moderates the court case, so it would be balanced. I drew from two preceding cases, both contemporary but under very different social contexts — Roe v. Wade (1973) and Washington v. Trump (2017). The two cases were both about social justice concerning the Due Process Clause, as outlined under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. As the case would inevitably be argued in the direction of religious freedom, the First Amendment would also be utilized to strengthen arguments. Sufficient evidence was thus available to the participants and it would give them the freedom to draw from pre-established to defend their story.

 


The backstory was a hypothetical reality in which President Trump signed an executive order that made wearing burka in companies ground for dismissal, before a burka-wearing employee in a private sector firm filed a class action in concert with other similar victims against the Trump Administration. The court case, Anahita v. Trump, was past the state appellate courts and taken before the Supreme Court for a Temporary Restraining Order that would halt the 
enforcement of the Executive Order. Similarly, Washington v. Trump was raised after Trump signed the Executive Order to ban muslim visa holders from certain countries from entering the the United States, an act which the court later found to be unconstitutional. The class-action and the original complaint was drawn from Roe v. Wade, when first petitioner was herself a victim of anti-abortion laws in Texas at that time.

 


Each house appointed one student to represent their respective houses on February 7, 2018, when the case was heard. Student delegates from Metal and Fire represented the petitioners, Bahar Anahita et al., and student delegates from Wood and Water represented the respondents, the Trump Administration. The petitioners were asked to deliver an opening statement followed by one made by the respondents. After making their cases, the justices would then arrange for rebuttals. As the procedural rules were relatively short and forthcoming, we allowed plenty of time for each speech delivered. During the course of the speeches it is pleasurable to see how the participants had proper preparations beforehand. The most challenging part of the mock trial, however, would have to be when the justices inquired on the 
participants on their respective speeches after the delivery. It was certainly no effortless feat to respond with ease, especially if the participant themselves were not personally supportive of the view they had been representing. 

 

Finally, the turnout was that petitioners from Metal and Fire had the justices in their favor by a close margin (5 to 4), but what I thought immediately was that

congratulations were in order to all participants, for there were many clarifying and illuminating arguments put forward by both sides, arguing even beyond the scope of what we had originally anticipated. The sheer level of thought engagement made this event enjoyable.

 

Setting precedent for future mock trials, I am confident that this marks the first of many to come, a platform where our fellow students who are interested in law and politics could find as their very own stage to excel.

 

(Report/Walter Xu | co-organizer)

 

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