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Podcast: Interview with Professor Tom Donnelly on Schwarzenneger v. EMA

February 8, 2011
Josh Blackman of the Harlan Institute interviewed Professor Tom Donnelly, a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law at the Harvard Law School, about Schwarzenneger v. EMA. This case looks at whether the First Amendment of the Constitution bars California from restricting the sale of violent video games to children. Listen to the podcast here.
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Original audio source (SchwarzennegerVEma.mp3)

The first article in the February 2011 ABA Journal is about FantasySCOTUS and the Harlan Institute

January 28, 2011
Turn to page 10, or you can read the article online here

Harlan Institute profiled in February 2011 Issue of the ABA Journal

January 24, 2011
The American Bar Association Journal profiled the Harlan Institute in its February 2011 issue. Pending High Court Decisions Fan Interest in Fantasy League:
The words fantasy player and U.S. Supreme Court have never had a reason to be heard in the same breath, but for any law geek who’s ever dreamed of serving as the 10th justice, your fancy now can be fulfilled. The year-old website FantasySCOTUS lets aspiring Supreme Court justices, legal pundits and those of you with a tad too much time on your hands predict the outcome in pending U.S. Supreme Court cases. An aspiring academic, Blackman also has developed a version of the website for high school students atfantasySCOTUS.org. The offshoot was unplanned, but Blackman says he developed it after teachers began asking for it. So far an estimated 200 teachers and 1,000 students play. To support that offshoot, Blackman founded the Harlan Institute and spent his summer developing lesson plans. The Harlan Institute also places volunteer attorneys into classrooms using FantasySCOTUS. “We’ve created a savvy way for attorneys to do pro bono,” Blackman says. “They can even use Skype and volunteer right from their desks.”

Introducing HARLANconnect – Virtual Mentoring Program from the Harlan Institute

January 14, 2011
The Harlan Institute is proud to announce the launch of HARLANconnect.
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HARLANconnect revolutionizes the way attorneys and students interact.

  • Classes sign up to learn from a virtual mentor about the Constitution and the Supreme Court
  • Attorneys volunteer to mentor classes
  • HARLANconnect facilitates Skype Video Calls and other virtual exchanges between classrooms and attorney mentors

Sioux Rapids, IowaWhat is HARLANconnect?

HARLANconnect is the Harlan Institute’s innovative platform to help connect attorneys, law professors, and law students with high school classes. Through the use of Skype Video calls, classrooms can connect with attorneys anywhere in the world, and learn more about the Constitution and the Supreme Court.

How does HARLANconnect work?

HARLANconnect provides a simple and easy way for classes to be mentored and learn from attorneys, law professors, and law students. First, interested classes request a mentor. Second, the Harlan Institute contacts one of the attorneys in our vast network, and attempts to locate a suitable mentor for the classroom. This mentor will be an attorney, law professor, or law student with a passion for the Constitution, and an interest in sharing his or her knowledge with tomorrow’s leaders and decision-makers. Third, after a mentor is paired with a class, the Harlan Institute will schedule an initial Skype video call. During this 45-minute call, the mentor will introduce the students to one of the cases pending before the Supreme Court this term, and highlight the constitutional issues in the case. Following the initial Skype Call, if both the class and the mentor concur, the Harlan Institute will schedule additional Skype calls and other forms of electronic exchange.

How do I get involved?

The goal of HARLANconnect is to make the mentoring process as easy and effective as possible. While the time commitment for all parties is rather small, we find that the virtual visits to classrooms are the next-best-thing to in-person visits. If you are an attorney, law student, or law professor, and are interested in mentoring a class, please fill out this form. If you are interested in signing your class up for a mentor, please select a lesson, and sign up for a time slot on this calendar.

Interview with Zachary Parker, Author of Snyder v. Phelps Influenced Respect for Fallen Heroes and Citizens Act of 2010

January 9, 2011
Inspired by a history class project and the events leading Snyder v. Phelps to the Supreme Court, high school senior Zach Parker is using the legislative process to ban protests from military funerals. Zak proposed the  “Respect for Fallen Heroes and Citizens Act of 2010” to prevent groups like the Westboro Baptists from protesting at military funerals. Josh Blackman, President of the Harlan Institute, chatted with Zak about protests at funeral, Snyder v. Phelps, and the First Amendment. Popout Download the podcast here.
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Original audio source (Parker.mp3)

Snyder v. Phelps Inspires HS Senior to Take Action

January 7, 2011
Inspired by a history class project and the events leading Snyder v. Phelps to the Supreme Court, high school senior Zach Parker is using the legislative process to ban protests from military funerals.
BELFAST, Maine – It started out as a class history project for 17-year-old Searsport Regional High School student Zach Parker, but the more he learned, the more infuriated he became. How could a church picket funerals of dead soldiers? Parker said he has an uncle in the National Guard who might be deployed next year. “I can’t even think about if I had to lay him to rest for the last time and I’d have to deal with these people,” he said. The people are the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas congregation that has made a name for itself by protesting at soldiers’ funerals across the country. Parker wants to stop them. The student is working on a plan to propose federal legislation to ban all protests at military funerals. Three federal laws and laws in at least 40 states, including Maine, limit protests near military funerals, but they do not prevent them. The U.S. Supreme Court has heard arguments against the church’s actions and is expected to rule on it next year.
Parker’s legislation, entitled “Respect for Fallen Heroes and Citizens Act of 2010,” reads: “No person shall protest including taunting, or showing any public display of disapproval one clock hour from the beginning and end of a funeral, burial or memorial service, and may not enter within three-hundred feet of the grounds.” On Wednesday, Parker presented his history project to the public:
The Searsport event began a little like a patriotic pep rally and included a prayer to honor all veterans, a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a video featuring footage of dusty Middle East war zones. Many of the people in attendance said that Parker’s goal of keeping funerals free of people who would taunt, insult or annoy mourning family and friends sounded just about right to them. “The First Amendment is not an absolute,” said Charliy Michaud of Searsport. “There’s a certain level of common sense. I think it’s a wonderful idea, and I hope it works.” Danny Bowden of Bangor came down with several other members of The Exiles, a Maine-based motorcycle group. “I wanted to support this kid and this bill, because it’s not right to protest at any funeral, really, and especially our military funerals,” he said.
Although only 17, Parker’s legislation is receiving national attention, from U.S. Senators and Representatives toFox News. When asked by Fox & Friends co-host Dave Briggs on the message sent by his actions, Parkerresponded:
“I can tell you not to underestimate any project you’re given,” he said. “I certainly never expected to be on national news for this. This was just a small-town project and has turned out to be a national phenomenon.”
On that note, Parker’s history teacher is beaming with pride:
“I asked them to find something they’re interested in and become active. What would you do? Some take it to the extreme, which Zach did — it’s his personality,” said Parker’s history teacher, Gail Anthonis. “I think it’s a great way for kids to learn to be politically involved. They may be 17 or 18 years old, but they can do something. They can be heard.”
Harlan’s FantasySCOTUS asks students to examine Snyder v. Phelps, and think about these same issues. The Supreme Court is faced with a very real, relevant, and personal question – does the First Amendment protect the right of protesters to display signs containing offensive messages near funerals of fallen military service members? Please visit our site to sign up your classroom and download the lesson plan for your class on this issue. Parker’s interview on the Fox News morning show, Fox & Friends: Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Harlan Institute’s Snyder v. Phelps Game Launches on Justice O’Connor’s iCivics.org

December 30, 2010
In partnership with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s iCivics.org, the Harlan Institute is proud to announce the launch of “Argument Wars: Snyder v. Phelps.” This interactive game exposes students to the competing sides in Snyder v. Phelps, and helps them build compelling, persuasive constitutional arguments. This game will be an innovative way to teach students about one of the top Supreme Court cases of the term.

Teens don’t know Marx from Madison

December 20, 2010
A recent poll from the Bill of Rights Institute and Harris Interactive provides some alarming statistics about the state of civic education in America. Here are some of the findings.
  • 42 percent of American adults incorrectly chose one of America’s Founding documents as the source of Karl Marx’s exposition of Communism, ʺfrom each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.ʺ Of these incorrect answers, the most commonly chosen was the Bill of Rights.
  • 60 percent of American adults did not correctly identify the principle that our government’s powers are derived from the people as an attribute that makes America unique.
  • 55 percent of American adults did not recognize that “education” is not a First Amendment right.
  • Nearly 1 in 10 American adults do not realize that the right to petition our government is a freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment.
  • Only 20 percent of American adults correctly selected the Tenth Amendment as the Amendment that reserves powers to the states and the people.
This is tragic, and disappointing. At the Harlan Institute, we want to help fix this situation. As I wrote recently in the Roanoke Times, “The more our society knows about the Supreme Court and our Constitution, the stronger our republic will be. Through programs like FantasySCOTUS and HARLANconnect, the Harlan Institute aims to help America reach that goal.”

The Harlan Institute is Now Exempt Under Section 501(c)(3). Make Your Tax-Exempt Donation Today!

December 20, 2010
The Internal Revenue Service has designated the Harlan Institute as a public charity, and all donations will be exempt from Federal Income Tax. You can view our exemption letter here. There’s still time to give to our $10 for 2010 Campaign. Now all donations will be tax exempt. Give today!

Josh Blackman Authors Op-Ed in Roanoke Times about The Harlan Institute, FantasySCOTUS, and HARLANconnect

December 19, 2010
Josh Blackman, the Co-Founder and President of the Harlan Institute, authored an opinion piece in the Sunday Roanoke Times on The Harlan Institute. The piece, titled Gaming the Supreme Court, introduces readers to FantasySCOTUS.org, the fastest growing constitutional literacy program on the Internet. Here is a snippet:
Building on the immense popularity of fantasy football and baseball, the Harlan Institute launched FantasySCOTUS.net, the Internet’s first Supreme Court Fantasy League. The rules are simple: Try to predict how each of the nine justices will vote on all cases that come before the Supreme Court. The league went viral and exploded in popularity, with more than a thousand members joining in the first 24 hours after the site launched. Today, nearly 6,000 members read the cases, learn about the justices’ voting histories and try to predict how the court will resolve cases. At the end of the term, the winner will be crowned the Chief Justice of FantasySCOTUS. While FantasySCOTUS.net is a great success, this is only the start for the Harlan Institute. With a focus on teaching tomorrow’s leaders about our Constitution, the Harlan Institute recently launched FantasySCOTUS.org, a Supreme Court Fantasy League for high school students. More than 200 teachers and nearly 1,000 students nationwide are already playing FantasySCOTUS. FantasySCOTUS is currently the fastest growing constitutional literacy program on the Internet. Our goal is to educate students about our Constitution through discussing current cases. Rather than reading about old cases in history books, students are intrigued to learn about the most pressing constitutional issues that are currently in the news. … Beyond FantasySCOTUS, the Harlan Institute has developed HARLANconnect, an innovative platform to help connect attorneys, law professors and law students with high school classes. Through the use of Skype video calls, classrooms can connect with attorneys anywhere in the world and learn more about the Constitution and the Supreme Court. This unique, one-of-a-kind mentoring program will revolutionize the way students learn about the Supreme Court. Further, HARLANconnect will provide an easy and meaningful way for attorneys to give back to their communities. Classes across the country have already been paired and have chatted with their virtual attorney mentors through HARLANconnect. The more our society knows about the Supreme Court and our Constitution, the stronger our republic will be. Through programs like FantasySCOTUS and HARLANconnect, the Harlan Institute aims to help America reach that goal.