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Yale Law School Hosts Area High School Students at Second Annual Marshall-Brennan Moot Court Competition

On Saturday, March 5, 2011, Yale Law School hosted its second annual Marshall-Brennan Moot Court Competition for New Haven area high school students. Ten students from Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School and ten students from New Haven Academy participated. Each of them argued one side of a fictitious case dealing with high school dress codes and students’ First Amendment rights.

The competition showcased the legal knowledge the high school students gained after a year of participating in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project. The Marshall-Brennan Project organizes law students around the country to teach courses on constitutional law at public high schools in their local communities. Last year, Andres Idarraga ’11 and Zach Jones ’11 founded the Yale chapter. Chapters currently exist at ten other law schools. Sabria McElroy ’10 and Alexander Schwab ’11—two Teach For America alums—helped develop the curriculum and implement the project. This year, Forrest Dunbar ’12, Christopher Hollins ’12, Nicolas Riley ’11, David Simons ’12, Seth Wayne ’11, and Caroline Van Zile ’12 served as the primary classroom teachers at each school, teaching students legal doctrine and training them in oral advocacy for the moot court competition.

2011 finalists Robert Durant and Tatiana Fountain (winner of best oralist prize) with Moot Court judges (L-R) Joshua Geltzer ’11, Zach Jones ’11, and Eugene Sokoloff ’12

Van Zile ’12, also a Teach For America alum, spoke about her teaching experience, noting that “the students are passionate about the First Amendment and what’s at stake. It makes us feel that we’re making a real impact. We are teaching about the legal and democratic process at a time in our country when there’s lots of apathy. I have always been inspired by kids, as a former classroom teacher, and we really enjoy seeing these students and future leaders through this process.”

The championship round took place at Yale Law School in front of a large crowd of classmates, parents, teachers, and law students. The finalists responded with calm and thoughtfulness to the probing questions of the judges: “Isn’t clothing always expressive? Is all clothing every day a form of speech?”

“I enjoyed this competition because students have the idea that we do not have rights when we walk into a school building, but I’ve learned that we do,” said Marc Lewis, a senior at Cooperative who won the “Best Oralist” prize at last year’s competition and was on hand this year to observe. “I will be the first to go to college in my family, and I am glad Yale is in my community sharing its knowledge.”

The competition featured four rounds of arguments before panels of mock judges who challenged the students with legal and factual questions about the case as the students delivered their arguments. The judges—law student volunteers—evaluated the competitors based on the clarity, organization, and presentation of their arguments. The finalists will represent New Haven in the national competition at Drexel University in Philadelphia on April 2 and 3, where they will argue before panels of law students, law professors, and state and federal judges. They will be joined by the next four leading scorers in the competition, Carlee Carvalko, Josh Danz, Nicole Morales, and DT Van.

This year’s moot court coaches were Kristin Burgess ’11, Brendan Cottington ’13, Alidad Damooei ’13, Michael Drezner ’12, Nina Foucher ’13, Andres Idarraga ’11, Jamil Jivani ’13, and Joshua McClaurin ’13.

The opening rounds of the 2011 competition were judged by Cheryl-Lyn Bentley ’11, Raj Borsellino ’13, Christian Burset ’13, Emma Grunberg ’11, Rebecca Kraus ’13, Matthew Lee ’13, Isabella More ’13, Naveed Rashid ’11, Clare Ryan ’13, Alexander Schwab ’11, Sophia Shin ’13, Travis Silva ’13, Dima Slavin ’12, Renata Strause ’13, Lauren Thomas ’13, Arthur Wen ’13, and Jim Williamson ’13. The championship round was judged by Joshua Geltzer ’11, Zach Jones ’11, and Eugene Sokoloff ’12.

For more information on the Marshall-Brennan Project at Yale, please contact Nicolas Riley at nicolas.riley@yale.edu or Forrest Dunbar at forrest.dunbar@yale.edu.

Marshall-Brennan Sponsors
The Community Foundation of Greater New Haven
Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C.
The Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association
The Yale Black Law Students Association
Yale Law School