Douglas Mann, a junior at the Bronx School of Law and Finance on the John F. Kennedy campus, nodded at the four Supreme Court justices and introduced himself and his classmate Daija Spaulding as co-council for Manny Slater, a 14-year-old student who was violently bullied after his request to transfer to an all-girls high school was denied.
Douglas straightened his tie, glanced around the Fordham University classroom and launched into his opening argument at the 28th annual Mentor Moot Court competition Monday.
“He saw the school as a way to get his life together and succeed, but the school denied him entrance based on his sex,” Douglas said. “This is a case of government-sanctioned discrimination.”
Douglas and Daija urged the four law students and lawyers in black legal gowns to uphold a court of appeals’ ruling that the school district violated Manny’s constitutional rights.
Law and Finance’s 11-student team began preparing for the annual moot court competition six weeks ago with help from SNR Denton, the law firm they were paired with in Fordham’s National Mentor Program.
Attorneys from SNR Denton came to Law and Finance to speak about their careers, invited students to watch them at work in their midtown office and helped the students prepare for the pseudo-supreme court showdown. The lawyers will also take their mentees on a guided tour of a federal court.
Fordham released a packet detailing Manny’s case and its ascent to the Supreme Court in mid-October. Students then began schlepping to SNR Denton every Monday and Wednesday to research related court cases and decisions.
Attorneys and Scott Pullman, the academy coordinator and programmer at Law and Finance, selected four students to speak at the mock court competition. Douglas and Daija were chosen to argue on behalf of Manny; Clarence Killbrew, a senior, and Samara Pettie, a junior, were selected to represent the school district. The speakers crafted ten-minute arguments and prepared to answer justices’ questions with help from their teammates.