A school principal's hypothetical search of a student's cell phone engaged high school students from Hartford Public High School’s Law and Government Academy at the first High School Invitational Moot Court Exhibition at UConn School of Law.
Dean Timothy Fisher encouraged the collaboration between the Connecticut Moot Court Board and the academy, telling students it was a “training ground for improving yourself” through the development of analytical and communication skills. He added that he hopes to see the students at UConn Law in the future.
The high school juniors were involved in a two-week summer program and had one month of preparation with the Connecticut Moot Court Board on the problem. They engaged in the process enthusiastically and many peers of those competing in the final argument came to support friends who had worked hard to learn the skills of oral advocacy.
While the problem, Drake v. City of Husky, was based on New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985), the facts were arranged for the benefit, ease and fun of the high school students. The two issues were whether the principal’s search of a student cell phone was justified at its inception and whether it was reasonable in scope. Justin Freeman argued issue one for the petitioner and Sonyre Ward argued issue one for the respondent. Rebecca Duncan argued issue two for the petition, and Jordan Freeman argued issue two for the respondent.
Not only did the students get to work with the Connecticut Moot Court Board to develop their skills, but they had the opportunity to present their arguments in front of members of the Connecticut Judiciary. The Honorable Richard A. Robinson of the Connecticut Supreme Court served as Chief Justice for the evening, with the Honorable Hope C. Seeley ’89 and the Honorable Jose A. Suarez ’93, both of the Connecticut Superior Court, rounding out the panel.
The students argued with poise, had thoughtful and creative responses, and used the proper terminology throughout their arguments. After both sides finished, the judges took five minutes to deliberate while the students eagerly discussed the case with their peers. The room buzzed with energy throughout the arguments and in anticipation of the panel’s decision. The judges ultimately decided the search was justified but not reasonable in its scope, leaving the petitioner victorious because the respondent would have had to convince the judges on both issues to win.
The judges commented on the professional and respectful presentations of the arguments and thoughtful responses. They said the students were well-prepared and dedicated, going above and beyond the requirements of the competition. The judges also thanked the Connecticut Moot Court Board for its wonderful preparation and the guidance provided to the students.
Lage said the students gained a sense of pride and accomplishment and that Moot Court Board members, with the aid and support of the Law School, really made a difference to those students. "I never want these kids to feel like they can't play at this level, because they certainly can, and they showed it on Thursday," he said.