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FantasySCOTUS.org Rules OT 2010

Welcome to FantasySCOTUS, the Internet’s Premier Fantasy Supreme Court League. FantasySCOTUS challenges students to make predictions about pending Supreme Court cases and write analytical blog posts exploring the different constitutional issues in the cases.

Who Can Play?

FantasySCOTUS is designed for high school government, civics, history, political science, social studies, and even writing classes. Advanced middle school students are welcome to play. Teachers should sign up their classes, and add or invite their students to join. Additionally, extra-curricular clubs, such as debate teams, mock trial teams, and other organizations, are able to join. Just ask your faculty advisor sign up your group.

How to Play?

The goal of FantasySCOTUS is simple. It encourages students to learn about cases pending before the Supreme Court. Students will write analytical blog posts exploring the constitutional issues in these cases, and based on this knowledge, make predictions about how each of the nine Justices will vote. Blog posts can be written by individual students, groups of students, or by the entire class. One set of predictions will be submitted based on the class consensus, though individual students can submit predictions that will not be used in the scoring process.

All predictions and blog posts will be due by January 31, 2010. The winner will be announced at the conclusion of the October 2010 Supreme Court term when all of the cases have been decided.

The Cases

The Harlan Institute has selected five cases of interest for students that are currently pending before the United States Supreme Cour, and created lesson plans for each case:

  • Snyder v. Phelps – Does the First Amendment protect the right of protestors to display signs containing offensive messages about gay people near funerals of fallen military service members?
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration v. Nelson – Does the government violate a prospective contract employee’s right to “informational privacy” if they ask whether he or she has had counseling or treatment for illegal drug?
  • Connick v. Thompson – A Defendant, who was convicted of a murder, was later released from prison after his attorneys found exculpatory evidence that the government did not show him. Can the defendant sue the district attorney’s office for failing to properly train prosecutors to properly disclose exculpatory evidence?
  • Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Media Association – Does the First Amendment bar California from restricting the sale of violent video games to children?
  • Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Candelaria – A federal law says that States cannot impose sanctions on employers who hire illegal aliens.  Arizona passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which says that companies that hire illegal aliens can have their business licenses revoked.  Does the federal law trump the state law?

Each plan will provide a plain English explanation of the parties involved, the question presented, the background of the case, the opinion of the lower court, and the competing arguments of the Petitioner and the Respondent. Following this background information, the lesson plan will discuss all relevant constitutional provisions, statutes, precedents, and other relevant information needed to understand the case pending before the Supreme Court.

Predictions and Points

For each case, your class will predict how each of the nine Justices of the Supreme Court will vote.  A Justice can either vote to AFFIRMREVERSE the lower court, or RECUSE from the case and not cast a vote. For each correct guess, you will receive 10 points.If your class correctly guesses the votes all nine Justices, you will receive a 10-point bonus, for a perfect score of 100 points.

For example, in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Media Association, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that statute barring the sale of violent video games to children was unconstitutional. Your class predict that Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito will vote to reverse the Ninth Circuit, and that Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan will vote to affirm, or agree with the Ninth Circuit. Assume your class’ predictions are correct, except for Justice Kennedy, who in fact voted to affirm the lower court.

Roberts Scalia Kennedy Thomas Ginsburg Breyer Alito Sotomayor Kagan
Predicted Vote Reverse Reverse Reverse Reverse Affirm Affirm Reverse Affirm Affirm
Actual Vote Reverse Reverse Affirm Reverse Affirm Affirm Reverse Affirm Affirm
Points 10 10 0 10 10 10 10 10 10

In this case your class will receive a total of 80 points because you correctly predicted 8 out of the 9 Justices (you failed to correctly predict the vote of Justice Kennedy).

If your class correctly predicts all five cases, you will receive a perfect score of 500 points.

Blogs Posts and Badges

In addition to making predictions, each class will write a series of analytical blog posts for each case.  By signing up your class, you will automatically receive a free WordPress blog hosted at the Harlan Institute. Each case will have approximately five blog posts. Here are some possible topics:

  • Write a post summarizing the facts of the case
  • Pretend your class is the Supreme Court and write your own opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions
  • Explain why the First Amendment guarantee of Free Speech should prevent censorship of violent video games, but permit the criminalization of certain types of “hate speech.”

Please visit the sample blog, Harlan High School, for examples of what the blog posts should look like.

For each submitted blog post, your class will be awarded a FantasySCOTUS Badge. Each badge will have a corresponding number of points, based on the level of difficulty of the assignment. The more badges you receive, the more points you score!

View all of the badges available here.

  

The Winners

The winner of FantasySCOTUS will be determined based on the class with the most points.

All classes are placed into leagues based on the geographic location of the Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States.

* While the District of Columbia is in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, for the purposes of this competition, the D.C. will be placed in the 4th Circuit.

The team with the most points in each Circuit will be awarded the “Chief Judge” Prize. There will be one “Chief Judge” per grade for each Circuit. The top class in the United States will be awarded the “Chief Justice” Prize. Awards for the Chief Judge and Chief Justice will be determined later in the year.

Illustrating the Legislative Process

Mike Wirth, “designer, educator, and artist,” created a fantastic graphic illustrating the legislative process. The graphic is much more detailed than typical illustrations found in textbooks. This is a great resource for civics teachers. A section of the graphic is below, but click here for the full graphic.

The Future of Education is Online

Here at the Harlan Institute, we recognize the educational value of the Internet and the potential it has to provide teachers with low-cost, relevant, and effective alternatives to costly traditional programs and textbooks. According to a recent article from TechCruch, it seems Bill Gates shares our enthusiasm for the future of online education.

Five years from now on the web for free you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world,” Gates said at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA today. “It will be better than any single university,” he continued.

He believes that no matter how you came about your knowledge, you should get credit for it. Whether it’s an MIT degree or if you got everything you know from lectures on the web, there needs to be a way to highlight that.

He made sure to say that educational institutions are still vital for children, K-12. He spoke glowingly about charter schools, where kids can spend up to 80% of their time deeply engaged with learning.

But his overall point is that it’s just too expensive and too hard to get these upper-level educations. And soon place-based college educations will be five times less important than they are today.

The Internet is inherently egalitarian. With Internet access and a computer, teachers everywhere have access to the same educational resources and materials. Too often, teachers in struggling school districts are stuck with outdated and worn textbooks. Why do we continue to use these increasingly outdated teaching methods? Gates points out some of the weaknesses with these conventional, costly textbooks:

One particular problem with the education system according to Gates is text books. Even in grade schools, they can be 300 pages for a book about math. “They’re giant, intimidating books,” he said. “I look at them and think: what on Earth is in there?

According to Gates, our text books are three times longer than the equivalents in Asia. And yet they’re beating us in many ways with education. The problem is that these things are built by committee, and more things are simply added on top of what’s already in there.

Gates said that technology is the only way to bring education back under control and expand it.

Technology will significantly decrease the rising costs of education, while also providing students everywhere with the same learning opportunities. If state education boards, school districts, and teachers continue to incorporate online resources into the classroom curriculum, we can simultaneously beat the economic downturn and give our students the education they need to fully take advantage of life’s opportunities.

The Harlan Institute Adds Christopher Landau to our Board of Advisors

The Harlan Institute is excited to announce that Mr. Christopher Landau of Kirkland & Ellis LLP is the newest member of our Board of Advisors!

Mr. Landau is head of his firm’s Appellate Litigation Practice, based in the Washington office. He began his successful career as a law clerk at the United States Supreme Court, first to Justice Antonin Scalia (1990-91) and then to Justice Clarence Thomas (1991-92). In 2006, he won a significant arbitration case, Buckeye Check Cashing v. Cardegna, in the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Landau has been recognized and featured as a leading lawyer in a number of publications, including: Chambers USAThe National Law JournalThe American Lawyer; Washingtonian Magazine; and Chicago Lawyer. He has also commented on the Supreme Court on a variety of media outlets, including CNN, PBS, MSNBC, C-SPAN and radio.

The Harlan Institute is honored to have such an accomplished and talented attorney join our Board of Advisors. We look forward to Mr. Landau’s insight and advice, as well as his promotion of our educational service to the legal community.

Teachers at the Supreme Court, Reference to Harlan’s Partner iCivics

The AP recently reported on teachers vacationing at the Supreme Court this summer:

WASHINGTON — Adele Dalesandro stepped inside the U.S. Supreme Court wide-eyed. She spoke in whispers, trying to absorb everything about the room she had read so much about but had never seen.

Her first impression was that it was much smaller than she expected.

“This is not something you can replicate in the classroom,” said Dalesandro, who has taught high school government and politics classes in St. Charles, Ill., for 14 years.

The teacher had become a student again.

Dalesandro was part of a group of 30 social studies teachers from around the country who got a behind-the scenes look this week at the Supreme Court as part of the Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers. The six-day program that ended Tuesday covered subjects ranging from choosing the court’s docket to nominating a justice, an especially relevant topic this summer with the upcoming confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

The article references Justice O’Connor’s iCivics, which recently entered a partnership with Harlan.


The Harlan Institute

Learn more about the Harlan Institute.