Going up against a judge can be something scary for anyone. Going up against judges from the Court of Appeals can be even more terrifying and some students from Lee Williams High School had the opportunity to argue in front of them.
For it being their first year competing in the 2018 Marshall-Brennan National Moot Court competition in Washington D.C. against 18 other schools that have had this program implemented in its schools for 19 years. Students from LWHS made it far into the competition and brought an award home to Kingman.
River Sutton, a senior at LWHS, made it to the finals and won Best Respondent. Sutton competed against a three-year in a row petitioner and beat out the top respondent from the previous year. Only four competitors advance to this stage of the competition.
“When I was announced for finals I wasn’t expecting to get that far into competition,” Sutton said. “I felt excited, but I’m also like ‘This can’t be real.’”
Sutton went in front of Senior Judge John M. Ferren and Associate Judge Vanessa Ruiz of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and Doug Paul, partner at Hogan Lovells, for the final round to argue against his competitor. Sutton went into the Marshall-Brennan club having a “fancy” for law and wants to go into politics eventually.
With the help of County Attorney Defender Nathan Best, Deputy Public Defender Karolina Czaplinska, retired Judge Steven Conn, and LWHS teacher Cheryl Massey these students made it far into their first year of having this club established.
Chase Walther, a senior at LWHS, made it to the semi-finals of the competition with only 20 competitors advancing to this stage.
Lacy Scott, a junior and Bryn Zacherson, a sophomore at LWHS also competed in Washington D.C. and had a great learning experience throughout competition.
“Once I got up in front of the judges I realized ‘I got this’ I know exactly what I’m doing,” Scott said. “I was very confident during the end.”
During competition professors from Yale Law School were coming up to Zacherson and telling her she did an amazing job after competing against a student that was coached by Yale Law professors, Best said.
Students had less time to prepare than the other students they competed against. Other students started preparing throughout the entire school year but LWHS students have only been preparing since December.
Czaplinska said everyone went in with the expectation that this is going to be a cool trip to Washington D.C.
“We just kept advancing and advancing. I myself was like ‘What is happening,’” Czaplinska said. “But going from the first time we started talking, in our office, chatting over lunch break we have this idea to we’re in D.C. taking top prize.”
Walther said after the first article the Daily Miner published about the club they received a lot of backlash from community members.
“Our boss got a call the morning after the article ran saying that we needed to get fired,” Czaplinska said.
Best said he was very appreciative the support they had from their boss and encouraged them to teach this program.
Walther and all off the other students said they are really thankful for Czaplinska and Best for putting in the time and effort into coaching them.
“It was a really humbling opportunity to see that small town kids can have just as many options as our larger city counterparts,” Walther said. “You have a couple of people that are willing to give time and effort you can really do an amazing thing no matter where you come from.”
The Marshall-Brennan program at LWHS is affiliated with Arizona Summit Law School. Some of the other law schools that participated included: Rutgers Law School, Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law, Yale Law School, Washington University School of Law, and University of New Mexico School of Law.