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The 2020 Harlan Institute-Ashbrook Virtual Supreme Court

The Harlan Institute and Ashbrook announce the Eighth 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 Torres v. Madrid.

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:  

Is an unsuccessful attempt to detain a suspect by use of physical force a “seizure” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment or must physical force be successful in detaining a suspect to constitute a “seizure”?

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, as well as completing an oral argument video. The brief and video will be due by February 22, 2021.You can see the winning briefs from 2012201320142015201620172018, and 2019.


Stage Two: The Tournament

The Harlan Institute and Ashbrook will select the top sixteen teams supporting the Petitioner and Respondent, and seed them for the oral argument semifinals in April 2021. All teams will compete in a virtual oral argument session over Zoom judged by the Harlan Institute and Ashbrook. Only teams that submit briefs that fully comply with all of the rules will be considered for oral argument. You can see the videos from the 20122013201420152016 20172018, and 2019 competitions.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMIM2V8Vm4YojBA5qjBm2abYDd_w8rHrJ

Historically, the final round of the Virtual Supreme Court Competition has been held at the Georgetown Supreme Court Institute in Washington, D.C. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot plan an in-person gathering. As a result, we will host the championship round over Zoom in May 2021. The competition will be judged by 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 top Petitioner and Respondent teams will be invited to attend the Ashbrook Academy on the Supreme Court and the Constitution in June 2021. Ashbrook will cover reasonable travel costs to the academy. Members of the winning team will each receive a $500 Amazon gift card. Members of the runner-up team will each receive a $250 Amazon.com gift card.

Semifinalists

Members of the sixteen semifinalist teams will each receive a $25 Amazon.com gift card.

Instructions

Coaches can register their teams at the Institute of Competition Sciences. Read the problem, and get started! Good luck.

Please send any questions to info@harlaninstitute.org.

The Championship Round of the OT 2019 Harlan Institute-ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition

On the first Monday in October, the Harlan Institute and The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) announce the Seventh Annual Virtual Supreme Court Competition. This year, the tournament focused on Espinoza v. Montana v. Department of Revenue. Twenty-one high school teams advanced to the semifinal rounds. They prepared briefs, and presented live oral arguments via Zoom. These students are very impressive. Here are their entries, with links to their briefs.

In April we hosted the Semifinal Round and the “Elite Eight” Round. And on May 15, we hosted the Championship Round. The finalists were Curtis Herbert & Hayat Muse of Minnesota, who represented the Petitioners, and David Katz & Seldon Salaj of Connecticut, who represented the Respondents.

We were honored to have an august, all-Texas bench: Justice Eva Guzman of the Texas Supreme Court, and Judges Gregg Costa and Don Willett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. After a competitive and lively argument, Curtis and Hayat were declared the winners. Congratulations to them! These students truly are remarkable. They could compete in any Law School moot court competition. We are so proud of them.

Here is the video of the competition:

And here are photos from the competition.

The “Elite Eight” Round of the 2019 Harlan Institute-ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition

On the first Monday in October, the Harlan Institute and The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) announce the Seventh Annual Virtual Supreme Court Competition. This year, the tournament focused on Espinoza v. Montana v. Department of Revenue. Twenty-one high school teams advanced to the semifinal rounds. They prepared briefs, and presented live oral arguments via Zoom. These students are very impressive. Here are their entries, with links to their briefs.

Earlier in April, we hosted the semifinal rounds. The top eight teams advanced to our “Elite Eight” round. Here are the new videos.

Match #1

Match #2

Match #3

Match #4

The Semifinal Round of the 2019 Harlan Institute-ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition

On the first Monday in October, the Harlan Institute and The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) announce the Seventh Annual Virtual Supreme Court Competition. This year, the tournament focused on Espinoza v. Montana v. Department of Revenue. Twenty-one high school teams advanced to the semifinal rounds. They prepared briefs, and presented live oral arguments via Zoom. These students are very impressive.

Here are their entries, with links to their briefs:

Match #1

Match #2

(more…)

Congratulations to the Winners of the Harlan Institute – ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition

On May 13, 2019, 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. This year’s competition focused on Timbs v. State of Indiana, where students explored whether the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause should be incorporated through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Curtis Herbert, a junior at Spring Lake Park Lighthouse School in Minnesota, and Anna Salvatore, a junior at Hopewell Central Valley High School in New Jersey, argued on behalf of the petitioners. Salvatore, the founder of the popular blog, High School SCOTUS, stepped in to participate in the championship round for Herbert’s classmate and partner Sana Wazwaz. You can download their brief here. Declan Davis and William Foster, juniors from Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Illinois, argued on behalf of the respondents. You can download their brief here.

Salvatore, Herbert, and Foster all write for the High School SCOTUS blog. We encourage you to check out the blog. You’ll be amazed and inspired by the sophisticated Supreme Court analysis produced by these talented high school students.

To reach the championship round, these outstanding students had to compete against dozens of teams from all corners of the continental United States. Our top two teams 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 judges, the students had to respond to rapid fire and complex legal questions. The competition was judged by Honorable Neomi Rao, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Honorable Royce Lamberth, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and Mr. Ilya Shapiro, director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute.

The competition was fierce, but Davis and Foster prevailed in the end, and were named the champions of the 2018-19 Virtual Supreme Court Competition. Herbert and Salvatore placed second in the overall competition.

Judge Lambert, who has judged the Virtual Supreme Court Competition for several years, shared after this year’s competition:

“I have found that this competition gets better each year, and this year was the best yet. Both teams were superb advocates, and it was hard to believe that these were not law students they were so outstanding. Our future is in good hands if this is what we have to look forward to. I would love to have attorneys appear before me every day who are as bright, well prepared, articulate, and knowledgeable as these four.”

Ilya Shapiro said of the students, “[they] were extremely well prepared and displayed poise far beyond their years. And it’s exciting to see them so passionate about the Constitution. They might as well skip senior year (and college) and go straight to law school.”

Of their experience with the competition, the students said –

“I didn’t know before this that there was an entire community of high schoolers who were as passionate about the law as I was. This organization has introduced me to a network of people across several states that I feel I might be able to draw upon for advice in college, law school, and beyond.” – Declan Davis

“To work with Declan on the brief and preliminary arguments, and finally to argue in front of federal judges, was a terrific experience, one which I will remember for a long time to come. I am thankful to the Harlan Institute and ConSource for sponsoring this amazing competition.” – William Foster

“The experience was a wonderful chance to delve into complex legal questions and hone my skills.” – Curtis Herbert

“It was surreal to learn the ins and outs of a real case and argue before federal judges. I highly recommend this competition for other high school students who are considering a career in law.” – Anna Salvatore

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 civic education of our young people! The sky is the limit for these talented high school students.”

Harlan Institute President Josh Blackman, shared: “I am so proud of all the students that participated in our competition this year. They give me hope for the future of our constitutional order.”


The Harlan Institute

Learn more about the Harlan Institute.