People in the Court

Lesson Duration

Authors: JoEllen Ambrose, Jennifer Bloom

This lesson introduces students to the various people who appear in courtrooms including parties to the court action, court employees, and the public. In small groups, students analyze the interests and concerns of each person using a worksheet. Students are also introduced to the right to a fair trial guaranteed by the 6th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 6 of the Minnesota Constitution.


1.  Students will understand the role of the persons who participate in the judicial system.

2.   Students will understand the factors that might affect justice.

3.   Students will understand the limitations of formal legal processes in settling disputes.


Materials needed:

Student Handouts:

Time needed: 1 class period

Grade level: Grades 7-12


1.       Discuss the introductory information with the students. Ask the students to skim the newspaper, circle stories about trials, and underline the people involved in the trial. Discuss the interests of these people. The interests will range from legal interest (wanting to win the case) to concerns about reputation, time, etc.

2.       Have each student complete the Student Handout: PEOPLE IN THE COURT. This activity can also be a small group activity, either asking each group to consider all individuals or assigning one individual to each group.

3.        Discuss the various and sometimes conflicting interests.

4.        Optional activity: Ask the students to interview people who have been in the position of a person in the activity. Using the Student Handout: PEOPLE IN THE COURT, have the students add concerns they did not previously consider. Discuss the new concerns.

5.        Complete this lesson by discussing the complex and often difficult role of the courts as it tries to help all people in the courtroom and protect the defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial.


from "Fairness and Freedom: Courts as a Forum for Justice" from Learning Law and Democracy Foundation. This curriculum is designed to give students in grades 5 through 12 information about the court system. Rather than an introduction to all law, the document is limited to the function and operation of the courts.


Types of especially helpful comments: How you modified this for your class, How you would improve this lesson.

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