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Texas High School Students Win 2013 ConSource-Harlan Institute Virtual Supreme Court Competition

On Monday, October 1, 2012, The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) and The Harlan Institute kicked off their inaugural Virtual Supreme Court Competition. The competition offered participating high school students the opportunity to research a contemporary constitutional issue – this year, affirmative action, craft appellate briefs, and present convincing legal arguments in our virtual courtroom using Google+ Video Hangouts.

Students from around the country submitted appellate briefs aimed at addressing the constitutional question – Is the Fourteenth Amendment color-blind? From the impressive briefs submitted as blog posts on the Harlan Institute’s FantasySCOTUS page (http://harlaninstitute.org/scoreboard/), legal experts at ConSource and the Harlan Institute selected the top brief-writing teams to participate in the oral argument round of the competition.

On Monday, April 22, 2013, students from the Frisco Career and Technical Education Center in Frisco, Texas competed in the championship oral argument round in front of a virtual bench of esteemed legal professionals. The judges included: Julie Silverbrook, Executive Director of ConSource; Josh Blackman, Harlan Institute President and South Texas College of Law professor; Tom Krattenmaker, former William & Mary Law School dean and clerk to Justice Harlan; and Matthew Fitzgerald, associate at McGuireWoods LLP and clerk to Justice Thomas.

The competing Frisco teams included seniors DJ Anderson and Jason Parson, as well as Derani Wiggins and Sarah Sietmann. Although the scores were incredibly close, the grand prize winners of the championship round were DJ Anderson and Jason Parson. Anderson and Parson will be flown to Washington, D.C. to participate in ConSource’s Fifth Annual Capital City Constitution Day program.

A video of the championship round is available here: http://youtu.be/rZl4yQ-2zlQ. Both teams of students should be commended for their excellent historical and legal research, writing, and oral argument skills.

Later in the day, another team of students from Frisco, as well as a team of students from Sioux Central High School in Sioux, Iowa competed in a non-advancing runner-up round. Again, the competition was very close, but the students from Frisco, Texas were able to prevail over their colleagues from Sioux Central High in Iowa.

All of the students and teachers who participated in the program should be applauded for their hard work and dedication. Mr. Benjamin Ewald of the Frisco CTE Center and Ms. Erin Olson of Sioux Central High School should be saluted for going above and beyond to prepare their students for the competition. Please join us in congratulating the participants and their wonderful teachers.

Information about the Inaugural Virtual Supreme Court Competition is available at: http://harlaninstitute.org/contests/virtual-supreme-court/,


Interested in coaching a team of students for the 2014 Virtual Supreme Court Competition? Email ConSource Executive Director Julie Silverbrook at

Julie.Silverbrook@consource.org or Harlan Institute President Josh Blackman atJBlackman@harlaninstitute.org.

Live: The 2013 Harlan Institute – ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition: Fisher v. University of Texas, Austin

The Harlan Institute-ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition

The Harlan Institute has partnered with The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) to host the inaugural Virtual Supreme Court competition. This competition offers teams of two high school students the opportunity to research cutting-edge constitutional law, write persuasive appellate briefs, argue against other students through video chats, and try to persuade a panel of esteemed attorneys during oral argument that their side is correct. This year the competition focuses on Fisher v. University of Texas.

Resolved: Is the Fourteenth Amendment Color-Blind?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Introduction: 10:15-11:20 EDT

Josh Blackman, The Harlan Institute

Championship Round: 10:20-1045

Team 1 (Petitioner – Fisher) v. Team 2 (Respondent – Texas)

Team 1 (Petitioner): DJ Anderson & Jason Parson (Frisco CTE Center, Frisco, Texas)

Team 2 (Respondent): Sarah Sietmann, Konnor Rodriguez (Frisco CTE Center, Frisco, Texas)


  • Petitioner-Anderson (5 minutes)

  • Respondent-Sietmann (5 minutes)

  • Petitioner-Parson, Rebuttal (3 minutes)

  • Respondent- Rodriguez, Rebuttal (3 minutes)

Runner-Up Round:10:45-11:10

Team 1 (Petitioner – Fisher) v. Team 2 (Respondent – Texas)

Team 1 (Petitioner): Katie Gibson, Amber Decker (Sioux Central High School, Sioux Rapids, Iowa)

Team 2 (Respondent): Baylee Hammonds and D. Wiggins (Frisco CTE Center, Frisco, Texas)



  • Petitioner 1 (5 minutes)

  • Respondent-Hammonds (5 minutes)

  • Petitioner 2 (3 minutes)

  • Respondent-Wiggins (3 minutes)


Concluding Remarks: 11:10-11:15

Julie Silverbrook, ConSource

Should courts give Congress the benefit of the doubt about the constitutionality of a statute that includes a provision for expedited judicial review?

Justice Scalia seems to doubt that benefit of the doubt. If Congress includes various provisions to allow courts to quickly assess whether a law is constitutional, it does raise doubts about whether Congress actually thought it was constitutional.

LAMB: All right. Let me read this to you, ”The modern congress sails close to the wind all the time. Federal statutes today often all but acknowledge their questionable constitutionality with provisions for accelerated judicial review for standing on the part of the members of congress, and even for fallback disposition, should the primary disposition be held unconstitutional.”

SCALIA: Right.

LAMB: I want to go back to that original thing, statement, ”The modern congress sails close to the wind all the time.”

SCALIA: Yes. That followed upon our statement that, traditionally, Congress is – you assume the constitutionality of any statute that Congress enacts because it is assumed that Congress would not – indeed if there is even constitutional doubt, you give the Congress the benefit of the doubt.

In recent years however, it’s more questionable whether Congress really is even thinking about the constitutionality and that passage recites the fact that this evident from the content of their statutes. I mean, who would have ever thought, in the 19th century for example, that congress would pass a statute that says, ”In the event the stuff we’re just said is unconstitutional, we have this other provision instead,” which is what congress has done.

I mean, that makes you wonder, are they really sure this stuff is constitutional? Have they really thought about it? And I think that comment was also made in response to the charge of ”judicial activism” which is a word that doesn’t mean anything really.

It just means that the person who uses it doesn’t agree with the decision. I mean, what is judicial activism? It is certainly not doing actively what judges ought to do. Is that judicial activism? I think not. And if a statute ought to be held unconstitutional it’s not judicial activism to call it unconstitutional.

It is interesting that the Affordable Care Act, which most knew from its outset was on a collision course with the Supreme Court, did not contain any expedited provisions (like the McCain Feingold BCRA had). David Bernstein blogged that an original version of HillaryCare included just such a provision. Alas, it seems the authors of the ACA did not take such concerns seriously.


Support the Harlan Institute’s Virtual Supreme Court

Dear Friends,

By donating $12 before the end of 2012, you can help send the winners of our inaugural Virtual Supreme Court competition to Washington, D.C. to celebrate Constitution Day 2013.

Over the last four years, through our innovative approach to online legal education with FantasySCOTUS, the Harlan Institute has taught thousands of high school students about our Constitution and the Supreme Court.

This year, students can compete in three great contests–Fantasy PredictionsFantasy Blog Posts and Badges, and our all new Virtual Supreme Court.

The Virtual Supreme Court, a collaboration with ConSource, asks students to consider whether the Fourteenth Amendment is color-blind in the context of Fisher v. University of Texas.

Teams of two students choose one side of the issue, write appellate briefs, and engage in oral arguments against other students using Google+ Hangouts. During the moot court sessions, Harlan and ConSource judges ask the students questions, and challenge them on their briefs.

This virtual competition allows students across the country to engage in cutting-edge constitutional issues

The grand prize for the top two students is a trip to Washington, D.C. to celebrate ConSource’s Constitution Day 2013. Members of the runner-up team will each receive an iPad.

I ask your help to support the prizes for these amazing students.

100% of your tax-deductible donation will be used to cover the costs of bringing the students to our nation’s capital.  The Harlan Institute has no salaried employees, and all of our overhead costs are covered by sponsorships.

I thank you for your support.


Josh Blackman
President, The Harlan Institute

The October 2012 Season of FantasySCOTUS Starts Today – Grand Prize: All-Expenses Paid Trip to Washington, D.C. for Constitution Day 2013

In honor of the start of the Supreme Court’s term today (the First Monday in October!), the Harlan Institute’s OT 2012 season begins today. We are offering offering three contests this season: Fantasy Predictions, Fantasy Blogs & Badges, and our Virtual Supreme Court–the grand prize is an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. for Constitution Day 2013 for the winning team. Teachers–sign up today for our free programs.

Fantasy Predictions

FantasySCOTUS Predictions challenges students to make predictions about pending Supreme Court cases and write analytical blog posts exploring the different constitutional issues in the cases.

After studying cases currently pending before the Court with these lesson plans, students will make predictions about how each of the nine Justices will vote. Based on the individual student predictions, each class will submit a set of group predictions for each case. All predictions will be due by March, 31, 2012.



Fantasy Blogs & Badges

In addition to making predictions, each class will write a series of analytical blog posts for each case.  By signing up your class for FantasySCOTUS, you will automatically receive a free WordPress blog hosted at the Harlan Institute. All Blog posts will be due by March 31, 2013.

The winner of the FantasySCOTUS Blogs & Badges Contest will be determined based on the class with the most points from badges on May 15, 2015.

The top class in the United States will be awarded the “Chief Justice” Prize, an iPad.


Virtual Supreme Court

The Harlan Institute has partnered with The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) to host the inaugural Virtual Supreme Court competition. This competition offers teams of two high school students the opportunity to research cutting-edge constitutional law, write persuasive appellate briefs, argue against other students through video chats, and try to persuade a panel of esteemed attorneys during oral argument that their side is correct.

This year the competition focuses on Fisher v. University of Texas.

ResolvedIs the Fourteenth Amendment Color-Blind?

The members of grand-prize winning team, the Solicitors General of FantasySCOTUS, will receive a free trip, including airfare and one night of hotel accommodations, to Washington, D.C. to attend the ConSource Constitution Day celebration on September 17, 2013.


Play FantasySCOTUS

Your students can play like the 10th Justice

FantasySCOTUS Scoreboard

The Harlan Institute

Learn more about the Harlan Institute.