- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

Former special prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr gave some Virginia students an up-close look yesterday at the judicial system when he debated the morality of California executing gang founder Stanely “Tookie” Williams.

“It’s an opportunity for students to focus on public policy and engage in reasoned debate,” said Mr. Starr during Langley High School’s 14th annual Case Day.

He has participated four times in the program, which many students consider a highlight of their academic year.

The program was created by Langley government teacher Jim Catlette to give students a better understanding of the U.S. Supreme Court and federal judicial system.

Mr. Starr, who served as independent counsel during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations in the early 1990s, said the program helps students “understand a very important institution of government.”

U.S. Supreme Court clerk William Suter called Case Day the “finest educational program of its kind.”

Langley students and parents, along with community leaders and teachers, attended the six-hour program, which was organized largely by government students in the school’s advanced-placement program.

In addition to Mr. Starr’s debate over the Williams execution with Mr. Catlette, the students debated each other and participated in panel discussions about legal issues.

The day centered on the students’ argument of an actual Supreme Court case.

“It teaches you that you’re really not as smart as you think you are,” said Will Smith, 17, a senior who served as counsel in the mock case. “It brings you down a few notches, but it’s a good thing.”

The students argued Hudson v. Michigan before a Supreme Court that included classmates, a judge and a practicing lawyer.

The case — which deals with whether evidence seized during a police search should be suppressed because officers violated the constitutional knock-and-announce requirement — is scheduled to be argued Monday in front of the real Supreme Court.

Students had to win an audition to argue the case.

They also had to conduct extensive research and face real lawyers who peppered them with questions they would likely face in front of the Supreme Court.

“I’ve learned just how much work is required to be a lawyer, and I’m a bit more sure in my civil liberties,” said Jeff Martin, 18, a senior who argued to the court that the evidence should be suppressed. “I’ve just gained a good [understanding] of where I want to go in life and what I want to do.”

The justices decided 6 to 3 in favor of Mr. Martin’s side.

Mr. Catlette said the real Supreme Court’s decision has coincided with the Langley mock court decision 11 out of 13 times.

He hopes to expand the program by adding to it a nationwide essay contest next year.

“To watch what the students do is really exciting,” Mr. Catlette said. “That’s when the hair stands up.”

Justice Antonin Scalia will give awards for the best arguments Monday, when the students attend the argument of the real case.

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