18th Annual Mock Court Outstanding Advocate Jason Lu; photo by Ann Wilkins

Magistrate Judge Harvey with Outstanding Advocate Jason Lu (photo by Ann Wilkins)

Fifteen Judges, nine local D.C. high schools, 190 students, 40+ mentors – these are just the bare statistics for the Eighteenth Annual Mock Court Program hosted by the Historical Society. Far more important, 190 high school students enjoyed the remarkable opportunity to learn from their mentors and teachers about First and Fourth Amendment issues in the school setting, and then formulate arguments based on those issues to present to U.S. Court of Appeals, District Court, and Superior Court judges in our nation’s capital. As Chief Judge Howell remarked at the closing session, the students learned about the importance of civility in discourse, the power of well-constructed and persuasive arguments, and the orderly process for dispute resolution in the courts of the United States.

The March 2, 2023 program marked a welcome return to the courthouse. The 2021 and 2022 programs had been held virtually because of covid-related restrictions. Even during those programs, the students experienced what attorneys throughout the country had to learn – the ability to present their arguments in a virtual setting. With the arrival of 2023, however, the program was able to return to the courthouse, allowing the judges and students to interact in a much more direct and personal way. Chief Judge Srinivasan welcomed everyone back to the courthouse with opening remarks, after which the students went to their assigned courtrooms to present their arguments to the participating judges, followed by the opportunity to discuss the law and the legal profession with the judges.

The 2023 program also had a number of firsts. Because of the extraordinary impact on the federal court docket from the “January 6th cases”, the Society reached out to judges from the Federal Circuit (Judge William C. Bryson), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Judge Patricia Giles), and the District of Columbia Superior Court (Judges Hiram Puig-Lugo, Yvonne Williams, Robert Okun and Andrea Hertzfeld), to fill the gap. They joined Chief Judge Srinivasan, Judges Millett, Rao and Pan of the Court of Appeals, and Judges Lamberth, Cobb, Harvey, Faruqui, and Meriweather of the District Court in providing an outstanding experience for the students. And because of the number of students and judges, four of the fifteen courtrooms were located in the H. Carl Moultrie Superior Courthouse.  Finally, an unprecedented number of volunteer attorney mentors – over 40 – assisted the students in small groups to prepare for presentation of their arguments.

At the end of the program, 15 Outstanding Advocates were selected, one by each of the fifteen participating judges. And as tradition dictated, everyone enthusiastically joined together in the courthouse Atrium for a pizza lunch!

Judge Royce Lamberth listens intently to the argument from one of the students from School Without Walls (photo by Ann Wilkins)

Judge Royce Lamberth listens intently to the argument from one of the students from School Without Walls (photo by Ann Wilkins)