District Attorney (Petitioner)
first thing to remember is this: Even though you are re-enacting
a 1989 Supreme Court case, this is not the court of 1989.
You must make your own arguments and build your own case.
you are the petitioner, you will be first to make a presentation.
prepare your remarks before the Supreme Court, you should carefully
prepare a brief statement of your position. Be sure the statement
includes facts that support your position. It should also mention
any earlier cases that support your position.
get you started, here are some points made by the Dallas district
attorney in the actual Supreme Court hearing:
- Johnson was charged because of his action
— burning the flag — not because of the ideas he was expressing.
- The state did not need to show that the
action was dangerous because it has a special interest in preserving
the flag as a symbol of the nation.
- Johnson’s burning of the flag was likely
to cause violence.
should understand the First Amendment concept: “Congress shall make
no law … abridging the freedom of speech … .”
- What speech
does the First Amendment protect?
- Is this
case an example of protected or unprotected speech?
- Does the
concept of “fighting
words” apply in this case?
should also think about how to refute the arguments of the other
- What will
be their most cogent arguments?
- What is
may use cases after 1989 to argue your position as well as those
that were precedents for this case when it was first argued. See
Resources to begin your
you have outlined and written your statement, pick one student to
present it. At least two other group members should be prepared
to answer questions from the justices.
the justices can interrupt at any time — even before you have made
all your points.