This week, for the 20th year running, students in Groton's Constitutional history class conducted their annual mock court.
It's not unusual for the class, The Court and the Constitution: Individual Liberty and the Law, to tangle with thorny issues during its mock court session. Students in this course usually end the term with a public simulation of timely cases that have reached the U.S. Supreme Court. This winter, however, they simulated a federal Court of Appeals case, hearing a challenge to a 2013 Texas law requiring regulatory changes for abortion providers.
The case, currently before the federal Court of Appeals in New Orleans, "fit neatly into our examination of the 14th Amendment and individual privacy," said teacher John Lyons. By coincidence, Stephen Higginson '79, last year's Prize Day speaker and father of Chris '14, is a judge on the New Orleans court (though not hearing this particular case).
The annual mock court can be an exercise in open-mindedness, sometimes forcing students to represent a side of an issue they might not normally support. Student advocates wrote legal briefs representing each side of the case and then presented oral arguments before a student court. The trial has long been a popular end-of-winter-term event, and this week's Webb-Marshall "courtroom" was packed with spectators.
Evan Haas, Michael Ma, and Liam Tuveson represented the State of Texas, defending a law that placed various restrictions and new requirements on abortion providers. Daraja Foster, Max Gomez, and Charlotte Mellgard represented the appellants, a group of women’s health care providers in Texas. The bench consisted of six judges: Noah Altshuler, Turner Banwell, Frank Bruni, Gates McGavick, Britton Pyne, and Fraser Wright.
In the end, the mock court deadlocked 3-3. The participants, all Sixth Formers, will be watching closely to see the how the New Orleans court, which heard arguments in January, rules in the case.