Historic court cases can provide a window into the past of interest not only to attorneys but to all students of history, politics, and human nature. Issues that have generated past disputes decided in the courts of our nation quite often arise again decades later. As a result review of court transcripts can lead not only to a deeper understanding of our court system, but to new insights into important issues that are still relevant today.

Reenactments of historic court proceedings are an effective and popular teaching tool. This section of the Second Circuit’s Justice for All website provides access to scripts of reenactments, based on actual court transcripts. These scripts have been successfully performed before broad audiences. This is courtroom theater, with participants repeating words first spoken long ago. Our materials also include slides of historic photographs, drawings, and documents to be projected as the script is performed.

From this “Reenactments Home Page,” summaries and other important information about the currently available scripts can be accessed. On the “Instructions Page,” we provide answers to frequently asked questions about performance of the reenactments. The “Links Page” provides links to reenactments available from other sources and finally, by using the “Contact Page,” you can request a copy of the script and accompanying slides for your own performance.

This site will be updated periodically to add new scripts and additional teaching materials, so please come again.

The Amistad – The 42 Africans on board the Amistad had been kidnapped in Africa and sold in the slave market in Havana. Were they “property” — part of the Amistad’s cargo? Or were they free human beings?

The Heart Mountain Draft Resisters – They and their families were locked up in concentration camps because of their Japanese ancestry. Yet, they were drafted to fight for the United States. When they refused to report, they were prosecuted for draft evasion.

The Trial of Wyatt Earp – In 1881, legendary frontier lawman Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and “Doc” Holliday shot and killed three outlaws at the O.K. Corral. Did the Earps and Holliday commit an act of murder or did they act in self-defense?

The Trial of Ethel Rosenberg – In 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union, and they were sentenced to death. How well did our system of justice handle this politically-charged case?

The Trial of Susan B. Anthony – In 1872 — nearly 50 years before the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote — Susan B. Anthony was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for voting. Did she violate voting laws? Did the judge conduct a fair trial? Was justice for women denied?

22 Lewd Chinese Women: Chy Lung v. Freeman – In 1874, a steamship from China arrived in the port of San Francisco. State immigration officials detained 22 Chinese women, concluding that they were prostitutes because they were Chinese and traveling alone. Legal proceedings followed, including a four-day trial and appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, raising issues of due process, human and civil rights, and the power of states to regulate immigration.

Constance Baker Motley, James Meredith, and The University of Mississippi – In 1961, James Meredith applied for admission to the University of Mississippi. Although he was qualified, he was rejected — Meredith was black, and the University had never admitted a black student. He sued in federal court to end segregation at Ole Miss.

When Silence Speaks: Russo v. Central School District No. 1 – In 1969, long before NFL football players refused to stand for the National Anthem, a 21-year old art teacher in upstate New York refused to lead her homeroom in the Pledge of Allegiance. The school district fired her. She sued under the First Amendment.