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COM101: Basic Speech Communication: Supreme Court Cases

Pick a Supreme Court Case

UD Supreme Court Case Database

  • Use the database to pick a case. To use the pull down menu version, click on the link above and then select LIST from the VIEW pulldown menu.
  • All cases link out to SCOTUSblog for case descriptions, analysis, and court documentation.

"I Got Arrested" Prezi

Legal Glossary

  • Appeal--the legal process of requesting your case is heard by a higher court in the legal system on the basis of some error made at the lower court
  • "The court"--typically, the Supreme Court of the United States. The term is used to refer to the entire court as a whole.
  • Per Curiam--“by the court.” A Per Curiam opinion is written for the court as a whole by an unidentified justice.
  • Justices--the name used for the judges who are part of the Supreme Court. Also used as a title, as in Justice Scalia.
  • Justice system--the entire legal system including law enforcement (police/detectives) and the court system (lawyers/judges).
  • Amendment--typically one of the 27 additions to the U.S. Constitution made by the states since the Constitution was ratified. They are usually referenced by their number, i.e. First Amendment.
  • Brief--a legal document written by a lawyer, produced for the justices in a court case.
  • Holding--a statement summarizing what the court decided; the answer to the question presented; what is true about the final decision on the case.
  • Remanded--“sent back.” The Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court for further action. When it remands a case, the court generally includes instructions for the lower court, telling it to start an entirely new trial or directing it, for example, to look at the dispute in the context of laws or theories it might not have considered the first time around.
  • Vacated--When the Supreme Court vacates a lower court ruling, it strips that ruling of effect, often in order to send the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

Which Amendment is Which??

  • ž1st- freedom of religion, speech, press, assemble, and petition
  • ž2nd- own guns
  • ž4th- establishes search and seizure laws
  • ž5th- self-incrimination, double-jeopardy, due process
  • ž6th- right to fair trial and counsel
  • ž8th- prohibits excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment
  • ž10th- involves federal v. state rights
  • 14th- equal protection under the law

Introduction to the Supreme Court

A little more about values...

So you've picked a what?

On SCOTUSblog: (all case names in the database link to SCOTUSblog)

  • Read the "In Plain English" articles--FIRST
  • Read Argument or Opinion recaps/previews. Basically read whatever combination of those is available
  • Your documents will all be in "chronological" order similar to the "I got arrested" story. 
  • Briefs look scary when you open them. It's ok. Find the Table of Contents first. The statements in that weird ALL CAPS are basically the argument topic statements. Start there.
  • Make sure you know which side the amicus (amici curiae) brief is supporting.   

Which colors mean what?

Many of the documents on SCOTUSblog are color-coded. Here's a key to help you find what you're looking for.

Petitioner's Merit Brief

Respondent's Merit Brief

Petitioner's Reply Brief

Amicus Brief for the Petitioner

Amicus Brief for the Respondent

Landmark Cases

Other Supreme Court Websites

Finding other resources

This time try using the name of your court case as your search terms. You can also search for information about the general topics your case covers.


Academic Search Premier

Enter term(s)

Search for newspaper articles in the Lexis-Nexis database

Search the New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal in the National Newspapers database

Assessment and Evaluation

Citation examples