Over 80 students from five public high schools in the District participated in this year’s Mock Court Program, arguing before 10 judges from the Court of Appeals and the District Court. Each student addressed one of two issues: whether a school official violated the Fourth Amendment rights of three students by affixing a GPS device to their bicycles, or whether a provider of webcasting services to high school students violated a user’s First Amendment rights by cancelling a webcast that included political and profane content.

Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland opened the program by welcoming the students and thanking them for their participation. At the close of the program, Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts commended the students for their hard work and cogent arguments, and the participating judges awarded certificates to each student after naming the most outstanding advocates.

The 26 mentors who helped prepare the students for their day in court and their teachers joined the students for a celebratory pizza lunch. Society Board members Paras N. Shah and Christopher J. Wright co-chaired the program.

10th Annual Mock Court 2015
10th Annual Mock Court 2015

“I had the opportunity to serve as a mentor this year in the Historical Society’s Mock Court Program and worked with a wonderful group of students from H.D. Woodson High School, located in Northeast D.C. It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my professional career.

The students that I mentored were an amazing group of kids. Like most kids their age, they knew little about the law beyond what they saw on television. But they were eager to learn. So we spent multiple sessions over several weeks learning the materials and then preparing for a presentation to the D.C. District Court and Circuit judges.

As the date of the arguments approached, I sensed the students getting anxious. And the morning of arguments, they were very nervous. But when they stood up and gave their presentations, they were fantastic. There were many highlights, but three that I’d like to point out. First, one girl gave an impassioned argument from her wheelchair that brought tears to our eyes.

Second, another, who had been quite shy during class, shined in court and was ultimately picked by our judge as the best advocate. And third, every one of those students did something that, before we started, they were not sure they could do.

I don’t know whether these kids will pursue careers in law. But I do know that they left that competition knowing they could do something they hadn’t done before. And I know for sure that having the chance to see the law through their bright young eyes allowed me to see things anew as well. I look forward to participating in this wonderful program for many years to come.”

-Noel J. Francisco, mentor in the Society’s Mock Court Program, member of the Historical Society Board, Jones Day partner, and appellate advocate

Photographs by Ann Wilkins, Circuit Executive’s Office