One of the most unique aspects of Dr. Kerry Hunter’s Mock Supreme Court class is the role the students play. The students want to someday to go to law school. Hunter doesn’t place them in the role of the attorneys. Rather, they are the nine Supreme Court Justices.
It is a class Hunter offers every other winter term and lasts three weeks. Only the best students who want to attend law school are selected. Over the course of the first week, Hunter teaches about judicial policies and practices in the Supreme Court of the United States. Then, based off his knowledge of these students and their political views, he assigns them a role of a Supreme Court justice. Each student studies their respective justice and learns what kinds of viewpoints they possess. Before the trial, Hunter lets these “justices” decide which cases they would like to hear. These cases are chosen from cases currently being presented to the real Supreme Court. After the students have had time to study their justices and cases, Hunter calls on professionals in law to assist in the public phase: the mock trial.
This year, the attorneys presenting the cases were US District Judge Joseph M. Meir, and clerk JB Evans. Meir has been an attorney for many years and although Evans just recently graduated from law school, both represent the kinds of lawyers who present cases to the Supreme Court. Each had 30 minutes to present their side of the case after which the judges discussed between themselves and came to a decision the following day. Students are assigned to write majority and dissenting opinions stating why they decided to vote a specific way before the final vote. This provides an opportunity for justices to speak with and convince each other to vote one way or another in an attempt to secure a majority.
According to Hunter, students learn from a variety of experiences. Not only do they practice hearing and delivering oral arguments as they try to understand each side of the case and convince other justices of their viewpoints, but practice arguing against real lawyers. “[This] gives them self-confidence for future endeavors such as law school,” Hunter says.
Senior Sejko Muradbegović, who took on the role of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, plans on attending law school and sees this class as an opportunity to learn much more about how the judicial process from the viewpoints of someone else. Hunter made it a goal to understand of each students’ political views and assigned them justices that would differ from their personal values. In doing this, he pushed students out of their comfort zones and helped them understand a situation the way another person who has differing opinions understands it.
Blake Cowman, who represented Chief Justice John Roberts appreciated the idea of getting to develop his arguments while writing his majority opinion for one of the cases heard because it provided an opportunity to reflect upon the case and make the most informed decision possible. Hunter says that although the oral arguments are the most visible part of the class, his overall goal is for “students to develop greater skills in research, writing, arguing, and critical thinking about [the Supreme Court] and the political role it plays in our society.”
The College of Idaho has a 128-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.
Story submitted by Noah Barsanti, C of I Marketing and Communications Intern