Education

High School Students, in Moot Competition, Argue a Supreme Court Case

By Mark Walsh — May 19, 2017 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The U.S. Supreme Court is still weighing an important First Amendment case about whether a church was wrongly denied a playground improvement grant under a Missouri program using recycled tires.

But in the finals of a national moot court competition for high school students, there was a winner on Thursday: two students from Connecticut who argued in support of the church in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer.

Arjun Ahuja and Lucy Mini of Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Conn., won the National Virtual Supreme Court Competition after arguments at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. The runners-up were Jacklin Chang and Emma Austin of Lake Oswego High School in Lake Oswego, Ore., who argued on behalf of the state of Missouri.

The competition is sponsored by two organizations that, among other things, teach high school students about the Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution: the Harlan Institute and ConSource, both based in the nation’s capital.

In the Virtual Supreme Court competition, teams of two students study the case, write briefs, and then go up against other teams via video in two early rounds. For the finals, the teams from Greenwich High and Lake Oswego High came to Washington to argue in the moot courtroom at Georgetown Law Center, which is outfitted to resemble the Supreme Court.

The students faced an impressive, and demanding, panel of nine “justices” that included Julie Silverbrook, the executive director of ConSource; Josh Blackman, the president of the Harlan Institute; Judge Andre M. Davis of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va.; Judge Meg Ryan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, in Washington; and U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth of Washington.

The two teams confidently made their arguments in the Trinity Lutheran case, which involves whether the state infringed the church’s federal constitutional rights by denying a playground improvement grant based on a state constitutional provision that bars direct state aid to churches.

After the moot court arguments, the “justices” said they were impressed by the students’ preparations and performance.

“When I think back to my high school days, if someone has asked me to read a Supreme Court case, and make a presentation about it, I could not have done it,” said Davis.

They also offered pointers. The students often answered questions from the bench by quoting some of the Supreme Court’s church-state rulings, but the students could have been more clear about where the Trinity Lutheran case fits among the court’s precedents, several “justices” said.

Blackman lauded the teams’ teachers and said, “It gives me faith in our republic that we have young people who can do this.”

Silverbrook said, “There are few moments in American history when we need to be more inspired by young people than now.”

The real Supreme Court heard arguments in the Trinity Lutheran case on April 19, with many observers perceiving support for the church’s position among a majority of justices. A decision is pending.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. f we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)