Dallas District Attorney (Petitioner)
The 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.

Since you are the petitioner, you will be first to make a presentation.

To 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.

To 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.

You 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?

You should also think about how to refute the arguments of the other side.

  • What will be their most cogent arguments?
  • What is your rebuttal?

You 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 research.

When 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.

Remember, the justices can interrupt at any time — even before you have made all your points.

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