CAMDEN – When most high school students talk about what’s posted online, the U.S. Constitution isn’t typically part of the conversation.
Sixteen area high school students, mentored by second- and third-year law students at Rutgers School of Law–Camden, argued their positions on a First Amendment blogging case during a moot court competition earlier this month. Based on real challenges arising in courts all over the country, the fictional case of Julie Turner v. Jefferson High School addressed the plaintiff’s posting nasty comments about her principal on a school-sponsored blog and whether the school district had the right to suspend her for disrupting the learning environment.
The Rutgers Law event served as qualifying competition for the suit-clad 9th through 12th graders to represent Camden at the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project National Moot Court Competition in Washington, DC, during April 5-7.
Six high school students and two alternates from LEAP Academy University Charter School, Brimm Medical Arts High School, and Camden Catholic High School’s Community Scholars scholarship program will represent Rutgers–Camden at the national competition.
National competitors and alternates include: Cielymar Almonte (Camden Catholic), Jasmine Burgos (LEAP), Aja Feliciano (LEAP), Elisabel Laluz (LEAP), Christina Roman (LEAP), Bryan Sorto (Brimm Medical Arts), William Walker (Camden Catholic), and Indonesia Young (Camden Catholic).
Last year, Rutgers competitor Byron Guevara, then a senior in the Community Scholars Program at Camden Catholic, was awarded top honors as the nation’s “best petitioner”; Camden’s MetEast student Jose Tavarez reached the quarterfinals in national competition in 2009.
The Rutgers–Camden Moot Court Program is part of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, founded and based at the American University Washington College of Law. At law school chapters all over the country, the project trains law students to teach constitutional law in high schools in urban and deprived communities.
Over 45 high school students have participated in the Marshall-Brennan Moot Court Program at Rutgers since September, learning oral advocacy techniques and communication skills in weekly after-school classes at the law school. Participating students in this year’s program attend Brimm, Community Scholars Program at Camden Catholic, LEAP, LEAP STEM, and Urban Promise Academy.
Third-year law student Amanda Dalton, who taught constitutional law at Camden High School last year, now serves as a teaching assistant and director of the moot court program. “It has been exciting to help the students not only learn about their constitutional rights, but also to teach them to argue intelligently in support of those rights,” says Dalton.
The Rutgers Law qualifying competition, held on Feb. 16, was judged by current and former Marshall-Brennan Fellows, including Romil Amin, Cosmas Diamantis, Austin Edwards, Carrie Ford, Conrad Haber, Andrew Keith, Leslie Teris, and Kathrin Weigel. Best Petitioner Bryan Sorto and Best Respondent Christina Roman argued in a final exhibition round in the law school’s Archer Greiner Moot Courtroom, before an audience of students, parents and guardians, and Marshall-Brennan Fellows.
“This year we’ve had great synergies between Marshall-Brennan and other organs of the law school and university,” notes Jill Friedman, director of pro bono and public interest programs, of collaborations with the school’s Lawyering Program; Black Law Students Association; ALIANZA chapter; and Office of Civic Engagement.
Friedman with William McLaughlin, managing attorney of the law school’s Federal Prisoner Reentry Project and teaching fellow alumnus, teaches the yearlong seminar about the Bill of Rights for law students and directs the Marshall-Brennan Project.
The Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project is one of several pipeline diversity/community legal education projects at the law school, including the New Jersey State Bar Foundation-funded Street Law Pro Bono Project; the Financial Literacy Pro Bono Project; the Summer Law Institute; and the Law School Admission Council-funded Discoverlaw.org Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars Program, a highly competitive residential immersion program in law for undergraduate students from all over the United States.
For more information about Rutgers–Camden news stories, visit us at news.rutgers.edu/medrel
Media Contact: Cathy K. Donovan