Xiao Wang sent in the following write-up about the success of local students at the Marshall-Brennan National Moot Court Competition.
On April 5 and 6, four New Haven public high school students traveled to Washington, D.C. to compete in the National Marshall-Brennan Moot Court Competition. This competition brings together the top finishers from a number of regional competitions, held earlier this year. These students represented two local high schools—Hillhouse High School (Xavier Milling) and Co-op High School (Xavier Sottile, Rachel Nolan, and Julia Silverstein). They were coached by a number of Yale Law students, led by Program Director Alex Whatley and teachers Gilad Edelman, Marcus Curtis, and Xiao Wang.
This year’s fictitious case involved whether a student must be read his Miranda rights after tweeting out a bomb threat from his personal Twitter account. To make their case, students drew upon the constitutional principles they learned through their participation in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project. The Project recruits law students from around the country to teach constitutional law classes at public high schools in their local area. Over twenty law schools currently participate in this Project, with this year marking Yale’s fifth year of participation. Approximately 30 Yale Law students have been involved in the Project this past year, working with nearly forty area high school students.
The New Haven students did extraordinarily well at this year’s competition—our best performance in our brief history of participation. Of the 50 students competing, three out of four Yale-coached students made it to the semi-final round: Rachel Nolan, Xavier Sottile, and Julia Silverstein. Xavier ended up winning 1st runner-up, and Julia brought home the national championship. For their final round, Julia and Xavier argued in the D.C. Federal Courthouse before a federal appellate judge, trial judge, and magistrate judge. After their arguments, Federal Circuit Judge Sharon Prost urged the competitors to consider a career in law, and mentioned that their arguments were “better than half the ones that I see in federal court.”
The students’ achievement is testament to the hard work they put in to preparing for the competition and the strong partnership that Yale Law School has forged - and continues to forge - with the New Haven Public Schools system. Indeed, before traveling to Washington, these students had a chance to practice their arguments before three Yale Law professors: Linda Greenhouse, Eugene Fidell, and Steven Duke. We are considering expanding the program into other New Haven Public Schools (currently we only teach and coach at Co-op and Hillhouse High Schools) over the next few years. Being part of this program has been an unforgettable experience for me, and I know the future - for these particular high school students and the Program in general - is bright.
Perhaps most importantly, the students remain interested in debate and constitutional law even after the competition. This week marks the students’ spring break, and I received an email earlier today from one of them. The subject line reads “PLEASE GIVE US WORK” and the body of the email reads, among other things, “We’re pretty much in the middle of a collective existential crisis. We would like to request some extra work over Spring Break so that we won’t wither away ... Like give us books to read!”