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Lakers advance to finals of Virtual Supreme Court Competition, which for first time will be in-person

Lakers advance to finals of Virtual Supreme Court Competition, which for first time will be in-person

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lauren Anderson (left) and Kelsey Talbot stand at a lectern to argue their position during a recent competition. The two have advanced to nationals in the Virtual Supreme Court Competition. Seated near Talbot and Anderson are Sophie Croome (left) and Mckenna Murray, who were honored as semifinalists in the competition.Two Lake Oswego High School seniors earned a place in the finals of the fourth-annual Harlan Institute-ConScource Virtual Supreme Court Competition.

Lauren Anderson and Kelsey Talbot are heading to Philadelphia in April to vie for the national title. To compete, students drafted legal briefs and submitted YouTube videos in which they defended their positions on a real case.

The case in question is Fisher v. Texas, which focuses on the constitutionality of affirmative action in college admissions and is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Anderson and Talbot will be arguing for the petitioner and against affirmative action in college admissions.

“To get this far, the students had to compete against teams across the country,” said Gerrit Koepping, a teacher at LOHS.

The students first drafted a legal brief and then submitted a YouTube video to enter the competition. Anderson and Talbot also competed against the other LOHS semifinalists, Mckenna Murray and Sophie Croome, on March 15 in order to advance to the national event. The four students are all in Koepping’s A.P. U.S. Government class.

For their achievement, Murray and Croome each received a $100 gift card for Amazon.com, and the event organizers will fly Anderson and Talbot, their parents and Koepping to Philadelphia for the competition on April 13.

“We’re just really excited and blessed to have this opportunity, and we hope we can make Lake Oswego proud and win the competition,” Talbot said.

The Laker students will be facing off against two teens from IDEA Quest College Preparatory, a charter school in Texas, during the big contest.

“We’re a little nervous because we don’t really know what to expect from them, and we’ve heard they have a debate background,” Anderson said. “But we also feel really confident because we really believe in our side of the argument and we have the evidence and the law on our side.”

It’s not the first time Anderson and Talbot will have teamed up at a competition; they are part of the reason LOHS placed third in the statewide We The People competition earlier this year. The Classroom Law Project organizes We The People, which is a simulation of a Congressional hearing.

Held at the National Constitution Center, their debate during the Virtual Supreme Court Competition finals will be one of the attractions during the Freedom Day celebrations at the center, Koepping said.

The teams will be judged by a panel of lawyers, legal scholars and university-level debate champions. Judges include Theodore McKee, the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

“Doing something in a more professional environment with these judges, who are in the tops of their profession, is really exciting, and to just be able to meet them and just experience this,” Talbot says.

This is the second year LOHS students have participated in the Institute’s Virtual Supreme Court Competition, with teams of seniors last year placing second, third and fourth. But this is the first time the final competition will be face to face, rather than via video chat.

The name of the event comes from the nonprofit organizations that run it — the Harlan Institute and The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource). The institute offers legal educational opportunities; ConSource helps researchers get their hands on first-hand records.

“The competition requires a serious commitment in terms of time and energy to do the necessary research, critical thinking and construction of credible written and verbal arguments,” Koepping said. “The competition attempts to recreate the experience of arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

By Jillian Daley
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See the debate between the two LOHS teams at: youtube.com/watch?v=7AYWJJiiFHk.