Yale Law’s Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project Goes to Nationals

<p>New Haven high school students in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project at Yale Law School at the National Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C.</p>

Eight New Haven high school students coached by Yale Law students competed at the National Marshall-Brennan Moot Court Competition at American University’s Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. from April 5 to 7, 2019.

The high school students, all participants in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project at Yale Law School, represented Hillhouse High School and Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School at the national tournament.

Pablo Sanchez-Levalois, a senior at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, qualified for the semi-final round out of over 100 competitors.

“I liked being at the nationals and meeting so many people from outside of Connecticut,” Sanchez-Levalois said. “The coaching from the law students was really helpful, and I don’t think I would have done as well as I did if it weren’t for all the support.”

The program places Yale Law School students in New Haven high schools, where they teach courses in constitutional law and oral argument. These courses cover a wide range of issues, from free speech and privacy to due process and equal protection. In addition, law students train participants in appellate advocacy and prepare them for moot court competitions with other schools.

“Through our work, we hope to help students develop a deeper understanding of their constitutional rights as well as the advocacy skills necessary to ensure that those rights are respected,” said Sesenu Woldemariam ’19, director of the Marshall-Brennan Project at YLS for the past two years.

Law students run all aspects of the program, including curriculum design, lesson planning, classroom teaching, fundraising, and tournament organization. They also organize interscholastic moot court competitions each semester that determine which students qualify for nationals. Each competition involves over 40 law school students volunteering as judges, with Yale Law faculty panels judging the final rounds.

“What I really liked most about the class is that the YLS teachers were really nice and understanding,” said Zintia Rodriguez, a junior at Hillhouse High School and winner of the Yale spring moot court competition. “I learned a lot, and this class really helped me with my confidence and becoming less shy.”

“Teaching this class has been my favorite part of law school,” said John Gonzalez ’20, who teaches at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. “Seeing the law through a fresh pair of eyes helps ground my legal education. High school students are skilled at cutting right to the core of issues and provide great commentary on our legal system, and I learn from them every day. The future of our country is bright.”

The Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project is led by John Gonzalez ’20, Illyana Green ’19,  Becca Steinberg ’20, and Sesenu Woldemariam ’19.