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Texas Students Win the National Harlan Institute – ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition for High School Students

On April 26, 2018, ConSource and the Harlan Institute hosted the championship round of the sixth annual National Virtual Supreme Court Competition for high school students. The competition was hosted in the Supreme Court Institute Moot Court Room at Georgetown University Law Center, where two teams of talented high school students argued the case of Carpenter v. United States in front of a panel of three federal judges in a small-scale replica of the courtroom at the United States Supreme Court.

Zack Lori and Chris McDonnell, two juniors from Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Connecticut, argued on behalf of the petitioners, and Joanna Boyer, a junior, and Makaylia Askew, a freshman, from Creekview High School in Carrolton, Texas, argued on behalf of the respondents.

To reach the championship round, these outstanding students had to compete against dozens of teams from all corners of the continental United States. Lori and McDonnell and Boyer and Askew not only submitted the best-written appellate briefs, but also proved to be the most able oral advocates in the preliminary oral argument rounds.

Their skills were put to the test during the championship round where, during oral argument in front of a lively panel of three distinguished judges, the students had to respond to rapid fire and complex legal questions. The competition was judged by Honorable Brett Kavanaugh, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Honorable Meg Ryan, United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and Honorable Royce Lamberth, United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

The competition was fierce, but Joanna Boyer and Makaylia Askew from Creekview High School prevailed in the end and were named the champions of the Virtual Supreme Court Competition. All three judges found the students to be “knowledgeable, well prepared, and extremely poised.” “We were very impressed.”

Of their experience with the competition, the students shared –

“This competition is unlike any other I have participated in.  I particularly liked the judges, who asked the most probing questions I have ever received and gave me the most insight into how appellate courts actually work.” – Joanna Boyer

“I am so thankful to be able to travel to Washington D.C. and have the opportunity to compete in this tournament.  I can’t wait to compete again next year!” – Mikaylia Askew

Both Creekview students have previous moot court experience. Joanna Boyer, a junior, is active on color guard and the Moot Court Team.  She has won the University of Texas at El Paso’s Moot Court tournament (where she was also awarded Best Attorney), won the State Championship at YMCA’s Youth and Government competition and qualified for the National Tournament two years in a row, and competed at Moot Court tournaments at both Duke and Princeton.  She is also involved in her church youth group and Police Explorers outside of school.  After high school, Joanna plans on attending the Coast Guard Academy. Makaylia Askew is a freshman at Creekview High School where, in addition to Moot Court, she is active in both Orchestra and Volleyball.  This is only her second Moot Court tournament, having previously qualified for and advanced to states in the YMCA’s Youth and Government competition earlier this year.  Outside of school, Makaylia is a self-taught artist.

Of our second place finalists, their coach Aaron Hull shared: ”Chris and Zack showed phenomenal skill and effort this spring getting to the National Championship.  They met with me multiple times and met in the mornings with our We The People coaches in the mornings and on a Sunday before the competition. Most impressively, they engaged their peers, three other pairs that made the live rounds (Alexander Bound and Matthew Weindling, James Heavey and Nick Liu, and Jovita Li and Catherine Yang), in preparations and arguments for Nationals to sharpen their understanding and focus on the Carpenter case. The teamwork, collaboration, and dedication of the entire squad propelled Zack and Chris forward to a marvelous nationals performance. I’m incredibly proud of them!”

Julie Silverbrook, Executive Director of ConSource, said of the student competitors: “These students represent the very best of America. They are a testament to what can be achieved when thought leaders, public officials, schools, teachers, and parents invest in the civics education of our young people!”


Reflecting on how the competition has grown over the last six years, Harlan Institute President, Josh Blackman, shared: “The top two teams were absolutely amazing. They fielded difficult and probing questions from a panel of nine judges with poise and sophistication. these students’ impressive performance gives me faith for the future of the Republic. In less than five years, the Harlan Institute-ConSource Virtual Supreme Court grew from an idea Julie and I hatched to, what I hope, will remain as a venerable institution for many years to come. I am grateful for everyone involved, and can’t wait to see how the tournament flourishes next year.”

If you are interested in registering your students for next year’s competition, please email info@harlaninstitute.org or info@consource.org to get on the mailing list for next year’s competition, which will be announced in the fall.


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