CU law professor leading high school students on Washington, D.C., trip

By Staff

Some 10 high school students from Denver, Thornton and Lyons are likely in for an experience of a lifetime when a University of Colorado Boulder law professor takes them to Washington, D.C., for a moot court competition today through Sunday.

While there, they also will meet with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and tour the Supreme Court, meet with U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado and tour the Capitol, in addition to visiting several national monuments and museums.

Associate Professor Melissa Hart, director of the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law at the CU Law School, will lead the students on the trip to participate in the National Marshall-Brennan Moot Court Competition. Some 18 of Hart’s law students have worked with 250 students at seven high schools since last September as part of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project.

The group going to Washington consists of three students from Lyons High School (Sean Flynn, Isabella Solman and Marcos Rodriguez); three from Bruce Randolph High School in Denver (Cierra Conner, Alfonso Espino and Rene Garcia); two from Mapleton Early College in Thornton (Loren Tenorio and Cipriano Marrujo); and two from York International in Thornton (Navil Perez and Viviana Andazola). They were selected after a regional competition at the CU Law School.

The literacy project, part of a national program, leads high school students through highlights of 39 of the most important Supreme Court cases affecting the rights and responsibilities of students. The second- and third-year law students also coached the students as they prepared for a moot court competition.

The moot court will consider the question of whether the sentence of life without the possibility of parole for juveniles under the age of 18 who commit felony murder violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“It is a really interesting question, very similar to two cases the Supreme Court actually heard arguments on last week,” Hart said.

Isabella Solman, a senior at Lyons High School, said she has met with CU law students every Friday since September as part of her Advanced Placement government class. “They went through the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and different court cases that apply to students, that apply to our lives,” she said.

The moot court case involves a hypothetical situation in which a student brings a gun to school, where it accidentally goes off and kills another student.

“You have to be ready to argue either side,” Solman said. “You get really into your side, so either one is interesting, after you study the facts enough.”

Solmon said the competition has improved her public speaking and that she also has visited with law students on the CU-Boulder campus in order to practice. And while she has long been interested in going to graduate school, “I’d definitely consider going to law school now,” she added.

Of the 10 students, six will compete in the national moot court competition and the other four are alternates. Funding for the trip came from private fundraising. Six CU law students also will be in Washington for the competition, some of whom paid their own way because they wanted to be there to support the students.

Next year’s Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project and moot court program will expand into more high schools, Hart said.

For more information on the National Marshall-Brennan Moot Court Competition visit For more information on the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law visit

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