- Why is the appeals process important to the protection of individual rights?
The due process clause requires states to follow fair procedures before depriving individuals of “life, liberty or property.” For example, when someone is imprisoned, his individual right of liberty is taken away. The more important the individual right in question, the more important due process is. For example, no one can receive the death penalty without the rigorous protections and procedures of a criminal trial. These protections include the right of the individual to appeal the court’s decision if he or she is found guilty.
Graphic Organizers: Flow Chart
Use the following chart to explain the appeals process to students. As you explain, have students fill-in-the blanks on the blank chart.
After that, if a person still isn’t satisfied with the verdict, a case would go to the U.S. Supreme Court which has the final say or judgment.
If a person who loses a case in a trial court wants to appeal a judgment, he or she can take the case to a court with appellate jurisdiction for judicial review. In the federal court system, the U.S. Court of Appeals is the first court of appellate jurisdiction.
There are no jury trials in appellate courts. Rather, they are courts of review which determine whether or not the rulings and judgment of the lower court are correct. The party who brings the suit to the reviewing court is referred to as the petitioner or appellant. The petitioner argues that the lower court erred in its judgment and seeks a reversal of the lower court’s decision. The party who won at the lower court must now argue against the setting aside of the judgment. This party, the respondent or appellee, wants the appellate court to affirm or agree with the lower court’s decision.
A case begins in a trial or district court. It is here where witnesses testify, lawyers ask questions, and judges or juries make decisions or judgments. A trial court is said to have original jurisdiction because it hears a case for the first time.
Use the case of Gideon vs. Wainwright to illustrate how important the appeals process is to protecting due process and the rights of individuals. Give students a copy of the text below that provides a brief description of the case.
The Appeals Process: Gideon v. Wainwright
Clarence E. Gideon was a poor man who lived in Florida in 1960. He was arrested and charged with breaking and entering a pool hall. He could not afford a lawyer. Breaking and entering was a felony offense and being found guilty would mean years in prison. He requested a lawyer, but the judge told him that a lawyer could only be provided to him if he was charged with murder.
Gideon had a trial in the Circuit Court of Florida without a defense lawyer, was found guilty, and sentenced to five years in prison. After Gideon was convicted, he took his case to the Supreme Court of Florida and claimed that the lower court’s refusal to appoint a public defender for him was a denial of his due process rights.
He applied to the Supreme Court of Florida for a writ of habeas corpus, an order that asked he be released because he was illegally imprisoned. The Supreme Court of Florida denied his request.
Gideon next asked the Supreme Court of the United States to review his case. The Court agreed to hear Gideon’s case and appointed a lawyer to represent him. The Court unanimously ruled that in state criminal trials, a poor person has the right to a lawyer in all felony cases.
Lead a class discussion about the case using the following questions as a guide:
- Do you think that Right to Counsel means that everyone should be provided with a lawyer whether they can afford or not? Explain your answer.
- Who is the appellant in this case?
- Which court had original jurisdiction?
- Why do you think this is considered to be an historical case?
Additional information concerning this case:
Divide students into eight groups. Prepare duplicate chart paper sets with the following scenarios written at the top:
- The police suspect you of a crime. They speak English but you do not and can’t understand what they are saying to you. You are taken to jail and asked to sign a sheet of paper that later turns out to be a confession. You have not been told you can ask for a lawyer before you sign the confession. You go to trial and are found guilty and sentenced to prison for a period of 10 years.
- You have been sentenced to 30 years in prison each for kidnapping. You are now 20 years old. By the time you may gain your freedom, you could be 60 years old. You are innocent.
- The police have mistaken your home for the home of a dangerous drug dealer and gang member. One night, as you are watching television, they suddenly break down your door. Five policemen enter your living room with guns drawn. You try to resist, but they throw you to the floor, put your hands behind your back, handcuff and arrest you. Later you are charged with resisting arrest and found guilty.
- You are a high school student. Your country is involved in a war that you wish to protest. You decide you will do this by wearing a black armband to school. However, school officials feel that the armband is disruptive and unpatriotic. The principal tells you that you will be suspended from school until you decide that you will no longer wear the armband. There has not been any kind of rule about wearing arm-bands or anything else that represented a political protest, but after you wear the armband to school, the board of education creates a rule against any type of political protest at school – including wearing armbands.
Hand out the chart paper to each of the groups. Give four of the groups black markers and four of the groups red markers. Explain to the students that those who have the black markers have due process rights and those with the red markers do not. Tell them to write what their group thinks will happen next in each of the scenarios – keeping in mind whether or not they have or do not have due process rights. Ask them to also write whether or not they think they would be treated fairly.
When the students have had adequate time to create a possible conclusion to the scenarios they have been given, ask each group to report out what they have concluded will be the outcome of each of the scenarios according to whether or not they have or do not have due process rights.
Check for Understanding
- In one sentence explain what you think life might be like in countries where individual rights are not protected as they are through the due process clause of the United States Constitution?
Thinking Skills: Think/Pair/Share
Graphic Organizer: Map of the Event
Ask students to Think/Pair/Share about the following statement:
The rights of individuals must be balanced with the rights of society. An orderly society should not be jeopardized by over-zealous protection of dangerous or disruptive individuals.
Ask students if they can finish the following sentence:
- Tell students to keep a two-column journal in which they fold sheets of notebook paper in half vertically and record in the left half the facts they discover about the case. On the right half, tell them to write down their own thoughts and feelings about the case.
- After they have done some research on this site, ask them to tell in their own words the origin of this warning. (Miranda v. Arizona)
Have students work in pairs or individually to complete a Map of the Events in the Miranda case.
Check for Understanding
Describe a situation in which you would be very glad to have the Miranda warning read to you? How would you react?