By Marc Filippino
Alex Daniels walked out of Suffolk Law School’s Marshall-Brennan High School Moot Court Competition a little wiser on the workings on the law, and lot more confident in his abilities as a person.
“I thought I knew about the law before, but I really understand my rights as an American citizen,” said the 16-year-old student at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. “I used to be kind of a shy kid, but this has developed my ability to speak in public.”
Daniels, along with three others, won Suffolk University’s fourth Marshall-Brennan Moot Court Competition, held on Saturday, Feb. 1 at Sargent Hall.
The competition is the culmination of teaching and coaching efforts by Suffolk Law student volunteers, known as Marshall-Brennan Fellows, who study constitutional law and simultaneously teach it to Boston-area high school students in urban schools of primarily diverse students.
In the competition, students demonstrate what they learned by arguing a hypothetical Miranda case involving a student questioned by police in the principal’s office at a public high school. State and federal judges (mostly Suffolk Law alumni) volunteer as judges.
Twelve students made it to the final round, and four winners advanced to the national Marshall-Brennan competition held at American University in Washington, D.C., in April 2014.
The 2014 winners were Daniels; Ashly Guerrier, 15, of New Mission High School; Rony Alvarez, 18, of Another Course to College; and Omotoyosi Oyedeji of Jeremiah Burke High School.
“These students totally out-did they’re expectations,” said Suffolk Law Professor Robert Smith, who teaches the school’s Constitutional Justice in School course for Marshall-Brennan Fellows and organized the competition. “These judges said they didn’t know if they could what these students are doing while they were in college, never mind high school.”
The Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project at Suffolk Law was founded in 2010 by Professor Michael Avery and Associate Dean Kim McLaurin to empower high school students to be responsible citizens and participants in the democratic process. Suffolk Law's program is a chapter of a national program based at American University Washington College of Law.
McLaurin said the high school students weren’t the only ones to benefit from the competition: the Marshall-Brennan Fellows gained tremendously from the experience.
“When you teach, you learn,” McLaurin said. “[These law students] are learning a huge amount of constitutional law and its application by teaching these kids.”
“Plus they get to feel good about being a law student at school that places such a high value on public service and paying it forward. When the fellows come out of this, they’re like parents in the fact they’re so proud of their students and the hard work they put into it.”