On Monday, May 20th, Mr. Lyons led his Court and the Constitution class to St. Marks for a mock trial between the two schools. The issue up for debate was concerning affirmative action, based on a recent case where Abigail Fisher accused the University of Texas for denying her admission due to her race. Groton had five lawyers and four justices while St. Mark’s had four lawyers and five justices. The trial was organized by Mr. Lyons and his brother, a former lawyer who now teaches at St. Mark’s. They had the honor of inviting Professor Klarman, who had taught Mr. Lyons’ brother at law school, as the chief justice.
Groton’s Court and the Constitution class is an elective offered in the winter and spring to fifth and sixth formers who have taken American History. The winter term is on individual liberty and the law, while the spring term focuses on equal protection and the law. Students learn the kinds of underlying discrimination in laws and what doctrines have been made so that the law can treat people equally. Mr. Lyons said that he started teaching this course after being inspired by a seminar he attended at Georgetown around twenty years ago. He thinks that the American History curriculum does not touch upon the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court in depth, despite the fact that it is a very important aspect in our government. Mr.Lyons said, “The Supreme Court is a fascinating entity where everything comes from. Congress passes law but it is the court that really defines it.”
Instead of having textbooks, the class studies through actual Supreme Court cases and reading briefs that are exchanged between the lawyers and justices. Applying this knowledge, students who participated in the mock court trial at St. Mark’s as lawyers were expected to write briefs and present a case just as it would be done in the Supreme Court. This intellectual competition between the rival schools began quite a while ago, although it was halted for the past few years. Mr. Lyons and his brother intend to revive the tradition once again. The justices have the responsibility to vote after hearing the lawyers’ speeches. They have the power to ask questions at any time during the trial. “Therefore, it is an intellectually exciting and hard thing to do. It’s hard in an exciting way.” said Mr. Lyons. He added, “The students should always be in disagreement because there are so many good arguments on both sides.”
The justices settled on the final result of a tie. Pranay Sharma, who was one of the justices, said, “The Court and Constitution is definitely one of my favorite classes. These days, the court is making big moves so the class is very relevant.”