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Announcing the 2017 Harlan Institute-ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition

The Harlan Institute and The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) announce their Fifth Annual 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 Trinity Lutheran Church v. Sarah Parker Pauley.

The competition is endorsed by the Center for Civic Education’s We The People Competition:

“The Center for Civic Education is excited to endorse the Virtual Supreme Court Competition. The Competition is relevant for high school students studying the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

-Robert Leming, Director, We the People Programs, Center for Civic Education

The Question

Resolved:  Does funding a playground associated with a Church violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?

The Rules

This competition has two stages, which mirror the process by which attorneys litigate cases. 

Stage One: The Briefing and Oral Arguments

A team of two students will be responsible for writing an appellate brief arguing for either the petitioner or the respondent. This brief and video will be posted on their class’s FantasySCOTUS.  Blog posts and videos will be due by February 27, 2017. Completed briefs will be awarded the ConSource Badge. You can see the winning briefs from 201320142015, and 2016.


Stage Two: The Tournamnet

The Harlan Institute and ConSource will select the top teams supporting the Petitioner and Respondent, and seed them for the oral argument semifinals on March 11, 2017. All teams will compete in a virtual oral argument session over Google+ Hangout judged by staff members at the Harlan Institute and ConSource. Only teams that submit briefs that fully comply with all of the rules will be considered for oral argument. You can see the video from the 201320142015, and 2016 competitions.

The final round of the Virtual Supreme Court Competition will be held in Philadelphia on April 13, 2017. The Harlan Institute and ConSource will sponsor the top two teams, and their teachers, for a trip to Philadelphia to debate in front of a panel of expert judges, including lawyers, university level debate champions, and legal scholars.

The Prizes

Grand Prize – The Solicitors General of FantasySCOTUS

The members of grand-prize winning team, the Solicitors General of FantasySCOTUS, and their teacher, will receive a free trip, including airfare and one night of hotel accommodations, to Washington, D.C. to attend the ConSource Constitution Day celebration in September 2017. This offer is open to U.S. residents only.

Second Prize

Members of the runner-up team will each receive an iPad Mini.

Third Prize

Members of the third and fourth place teams will each receive a $100 Amazon.com Giftcard.

Instructions

Ask your teacher to sign up your class on FantasySCOTUS (all High School students can participate), add an account, read the problem, and get started! Good luck.

Please send any questions to info@harlaninstitute.org or info@consource.org.

 

ConSource-Harlan Institute Virtual Supreme Court Tournament Featured in Washington Times

My colleague Julie Silverbrook of ConSource featured the ConSource-Harlan Institute Virtual Supreme Court Competition in her Washington Times article on civic education. Here is a snippet:

National Constitutional Literacy Campaign partners host several of these annual competitions, including the ConSource-Harlan Institute Virtual Supreme Court Competition, the Center for Civic Education’s We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Competition, the Constitution Bee, the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project’s Annual Moot Court Competition, the Nethercutt Foundation Citizenship Tournament, and One Generation Away’s Roots of Liberty national essay contest.

Despite expressing deep concerns about where the country is headed, most of the students expressed positive views about the future. They draw this optimism, in part, from their experiences with student competitions, which showed these young citizens how to effect positive change at the local, state and national level.

Tanya Reyna, a winner of the ConSource-Harlan Institute Virtual Supreme Court Competition, noted that while her local community in Texas suffers from “an influx of drugs and criminals” and has dampened her views about the future of her community and the nation, her experience with the Virtual Supreme Court Competition “eased [her] apprehension” about the future. She said that meeting students, lawyers, professors and judges willing to take time out of their busy schedules “to inform younger generations of citizens about our legal system,” demonstrated to her that “as long as there are citizens like them, America will continue to hold a bright future.”

This picture was taken at the National Constitution Center for the final round of our tournament. I am joined by Howard Bashman, Kim Roosevelt, Julie Silverbrook, and Chief Judge McKee (CA3).

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Texas Students Win the National Harlan Institute – ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition; Oregon Team Places Second.

On April 13, 2016, The Harlan Institute and The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) held the championship round of the Fourth Annual Harlan Institute – ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition as part of the National Constitution Center’s annual Freedom Day Celebration. The video is available here. The Virtual Supreme Court 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’s competition focused on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (II), exploring whether race conscious affirmative action is consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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Kelsey Talbot and Lauren Anderson from Lake Oswego High School in Lake Oswego, Oregon, represented the petitioner, Abigail Fisher.

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Michael Mireles and Tanya Reyna from IDEA Quest College Preparatory in Edinburg, Texas, represented the respondent, the University of Texas at Austin.

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To reach the championship round at the National Constitution Center, these outstanding students had to compete against dozens of teams from all corners of the continental United States. Talbot and Anderson and Mireles and Reyna 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 live panel of distinguished judges, they students had to respond to rapid fire and complex legal questions. The competition was judged by The Honorable Theodore McKee, Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; Professor Kermit Roosevelt, University of Pennsylvania School of Law; Mr. Howard Bashman, Appellate Attorney and Founder of the How Appealing Blog; Julie Silverbrook, Executive Director, ConSource; Josh Blackman, President, Harlan Institute; Matthew Rohn, Franklin and Marshall College debate champion; and, Miriam Pierson, Swarthmore College debate champion.

The competition was fierce, but Mireles and Reyna prevailed in the end and were named the champions of the Virtual Supreme Court Competition.

University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Kermit Roosevelt, who served on the distinguished panel of judges for this year’s competition, said of the student competitors, “I was enormously impressed with the passion and knowledge the students demonstrated. Opportunities like this one—and students who take advantage of them—make me more optimistic about the future of our republic.”

Julie Silverbrook, Executive Director of ConSource, said the students “represent the very best of America.  They are informed, engaged and passionate. I have no doubt that all four of our finalists will go on to achieve great things.”

The national finalists, Michael Mireles and Tanya Reyna, both juniors at IDEA Quest College Preparatory in Texas, are shining stars in their community. Mireles is the president for the Junior Statesmen of America chapter, the vice president of the Future Business Leaders of America, and a member of the Bezos Scholar Program. Reyna is the president of the Student Council, director of debate for Junior Statesmen of America, point guard for her school’s basketball team, and a regional qualify for track and cross country.

Gerrit Koepping said of his students, who placed second in this year’s national competition, “even though this is the second semester of their senior year, my students were enthusiastic to participate in the competition. They were drawn to the challenge of arguing one of the most controversial cases before the Supreme Court this year. As a teacher, I always embrace any opportunity to have my students engage in legal and philosophical issues with the outside community. This competition allows the students to contribute their own thoughts to the larger national debate.”

Kelsey Talbot said of the competition, and her impressive second place finish, “it was an amazing experience and we are beyond grateful for the chance to compete at this level.” Tanya Reyna shared a heartfelt message after being named national champion, along with her partner Michael Mireles, “This was certainly the experience of a lifetime, one that I will never forget. Being able to meet individuals … so tenacious in the subject of legal matters is an attribution my community is relatively deprived of, making presenting in front of a panel of judges as shrewd as those chosen evermore heartfelt.”

Reyna and Mireles, along with their coaches Marcos Silva and Molly Lane, will receive a free trip, including airfare and one night of hotel accommodations, to Washington, D.C. to attend the ConSource Constitution Day celebration in September 2016. Kelsey Talbot and Lauren Anderson will each receive iPad Minis.

Josh Blackman, reflecting on this year’s competition said, “The Virtual Supreme Court Competition is the crowning achievement of a four-year project started by the Harlan Institute and ConSource. We are so proud to have partnered with the National Constitution Center to host our competition on Freedom Day, and hope to make this an annual tradition.”

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.

Finalists Selected for Championship Round of the Harlan Institute and The Constitutional Sources Project’s Virtual Supreme Court Competition

The National Constitution Center, The Harlan Institute, and The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) will host the championship round of the Fourth Annual Harlan Institute-ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition as part of the Center’s Freedom Day Celebration on April 13, 2016 at 2 p.m.. We are pleased to announce that the finalist teams have been selected, and include:

For the petitioners: Kelsey Talbot and Lauren Talbot from Lake Oswego High School in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

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Here is the video from their championship round.

For the respondents: Michael Mireles and Tanya Reyna from IDEA Quest College Preparatory in Edinburg, Texas.

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Here is their video:

These finalists will travel, along with their teacher and parents, to Philadelphia on April 13th to debate in front of a panel of expert judges, including lawyers, university level debate champions, and legal scholars. Confirmed judges include: The Honorable Theodore McKee, Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; Professor Kermit Roosevelt, University of Pennsylvania School of Law; Mr. Howard Bashman, Appellate Attorney and Founder of the How Appealing Blog; Julie Silverbrook, Executive Director, ConSource; Josh Blackman, President, Harlan Institute.

Freedom Day is an opportunity to encourage people of all ages to appreciate their unique freedoms as Americans, to understand the relationship between the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution, and to encourage dialogue on the meaning of freedom. In addition to the debate, the Center will produce Freedom Day programming and activities for visitors of all ages, including educational games and museum experiences for students, and an evening program for an invitation-only audience featuring high level speakers, moderators, and media discussing current issues surrounding the First Amendment.

The Harlan Institute and ConSource are thrilled that the final round of the Virtual Supreme Court Competition will be part of the National Constitution Center’s Freedom Day celebration. The aim of the Virtual Supreme Court Competition complements that of Freedom Day – to encourage dialogue on the meaning of the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the 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’s competition focuses on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (II), exploring whether race conscious affirmative action is consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.The members of the 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 in September 2016. Members of the runner-up team will each receive an iPad Mini. Members of the third and fourth place teams will each receive a $100 Amazon.com Gift card.

The Harlan Institute $15 for 2015 Campaign – Support the Virtual Supreme Court

Dear Friends,

By donating $15 before the end of 2015, you can help send the winners of our Virtual Supreme Court competition to Washington, D.C. to celebrate Constitution Day in September 2016.


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Since 2010, 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 in the Fourth Annual Virtual Supreme Court.

The Virtual Supreme Court, a collaboration with ConSource, asks students to consider whether race-conscious affirmative action is consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment in the context of Fisher v. University of Texas. You can see the winning briefs from 2013 (Fisher I), 2014 (Noel Canning), and 2015 (Zivotofsky).

Teams of two students choose one side of the issue, write appellate briefs, submit YouTube presentations, 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.


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Sincerely,

Josh Blackman
President, The Harlan Institute


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