Purpose: To explain judicial decision making and interpretation of the law
Ease of Presentation: Easy. For use with any size of group. After discussing interpretations of the law, read each brief case study, then ask audience members for their interpretation. Take vote and tally. Minimal time, depending on amount of discussion engendered.
The following activity is a classic of law-related education. Judges can use it with groups of almost any age to help the public understand what is involved in interpreting a law.
No Vehicles in the Park
The town of Beautifica has established a lovely park in the city. The city council wished to preserve some elements of nature, undisturbed by city noise, traffic, pollution, and crowding. It is a place where citizens can go and find grass, trees, flowers, and quiet. In addition, there are playground and picnic areas. At all entrances to the park the following sign has been posted: "No Vehicles in the Park."
The law seems clear but some disputes have arisen over the interpretation of the law. Interpret the law in the cases that follow, keeping in mind the letter of the law as well as the intent of the law.
Case 1 Two police cars are chasing a suspected bank robber. If one cuts through the park, he can get in front of the suspect's car and trap him between the patrol cars.
Case 2 An ambulance has a dying car accident victim in it and is racing to the hospital. The shortest route is through the park.
Case 3 Mrs. Thomas wants to take her baby to the park in his baby buggy.
Case 4 A monument to the town's citizens who died in the Vietnam War is being constructed. A tank, donated by the government, is to be placed beside the monument.
Case 5 John Smith lives on one side of the town and works on the other side. He will save 10 minutes if he drives through the park.
Case 6 There are many trash barrels in the park so that people may deposit all litter there, hence keeping the park clean. The sanitation department wants to go in to collect the trash.
Case 7 Some of the children who visit the park want to ride their bicycles there.
Case 8 Several of the town's citizens have made a living for several years by driving people around scenic spots in the city in an old-fashioned horse and buggy. They want to drive people through the park.
Adapted from the ABA publication, Educating the Public About the Courts.