Three high-school students from the Boston area made arguments before judges at the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse on Sunday, the final day of a national moot court competition that drew contestants from as far away as Arizona.
Aijai Alberts, 18, of Boston Latin Academy; Juliette Low Fleury, 17, of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School; and Edweyza Rodriguez, 17, of City on a Hill Dudley Square had reached the semifinals after months of mentoring by Suffolk University Law School students.
Though all three bowed out in the morning, before the final round, their mentors said the students had gained greatly from the opportunity to craft and present their arguments in a setting that many actual lawyers never experience.
Low Fleury plans to keep in touch with Tara Higgins and Jacqueline Sparaco, the second-year Suffolk Law students who helped her prepare.
“They’ve made clear that they’ll be here throughout our high school careers, and further, if we need them,” said Low Fleury. “It’s really necessary to have mentorship like that at this point in our lives.”
The competition was part of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, a year-long program in which law students simultaneously study constitutional law and teach it in urban high schools. The first day of the competition’s national round was held Saturday at Suffolk Law.
Students made appellate-style arguments in a fictional court case that involved a star athlete whose high school expelled him for alleged bullying after searching his phone.
Alberts’s mentors said they were impressed by her development from a quiet introvert into a confident courtroom speaker.
“I don’t think I’ll necessarily be as shy anymore,” said Alberts.
Alberts said Sunday that she liked turning around after finishing arguments and seeing Derick Stoker and Elma Delic sitting in the gallery. The law students supported her through the national rounds this weekend, as they did through every step of the process, she said.
The finals were judged by Justice Kimberly S. Budd of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Judge Frank J. Bailey of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts, according to Kim McLaurin, a Suffolk University Law School associate dean.
The award for top petitioner went to Badia Weeks of the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law chapter in Philadelphia, while the top respondent was Ashley Ceravone of the Yale Law School chapter in New Haven, Conn., said McLaurin.
The Marshall-Brennan program is intended to expose young people to constitutional law and help diversify the legal profession, according to McLaurin. Many of the students in the program are from minority backgrounds, and most had never been to a law school or set foot in a courthouse. Some had never met an attorney.
“There are some communities that are almost cut off from civics and constitutional literacy,” said McLaurin.
The associate dean is already looking forward to next year. The selection process at Suffolk Law for next year’s class of Marshall-Brennan Fellows starts Monday, and she anticipates more applicants than slots — “a good problem to have,” she said.
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