Marshall Brennan High School students

High school students take on free speech in Marshall-Brennan moot court at William Mitchell, set sights on D.C.

The problem: A high school student is suspended for posting a message critical of the principal on the school’s on-line message board. The solution? That’s up to the two dozen high school students taking part in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project Moot Court Competition held this fall at William Mitchell.

As part of the Marshall-Brennan project, Mitchell students teach a class on constitutional law for nine weeks at local high schools. The high school students are invited to the fall moot court competition with the two winners—this year’s are from Central High School and Avalon School—getting a chance to go to Washington, D.C. in the spring for the national finals.

The tricky free speech question posed in the moot court competition didn’t faze the high school students. They dove right in.

“The students were amazing,” says Associate Dean Mary Pat Byrn, who brought Marshall-Brennan to Mitchell. “Most of them have never done anything like this before. They participated in three rounds of arguments and their improvement over the course of the day was remarkable.”

The competition was judged by Mitchell faculty, alumni, and local lawyers. The law firm of Nilan Johnson Lewis sponsors the program and pays for the moot court and the travel to Washington.

The competition not only provides a great experience for the students, it gives them a taste of what could turn into a lifelong passion.

“This program is inspiring on so many levels,” says Byrn. “The law students inspire the high school students to participate in the moot court and consider going to law school. At the same time the high school students inspire the law students to be great lawyers and share their knowledge and passion for the law. The relationships they all experience together change lives.”

Mitchell is the only Minnesota law school selected to participate in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project and one of only 19 in the country. This is the fourth year Mitchell has been part of the project and its third year involved with the national competition.