Law Students Guide Local High Schoolers to National Moot Court Victory

  • National Marshall-Brennan High School Competition
    National Marshall-Brennan High School Competition  From left, Allanna Daniels, Hon. Joel Schneider, Hon. Sharon Prost, Dena Shata, Hon. Juan Sanchez, and W&M Adjunct Professor Charles Crimmins '10 at the March 30 competition. Daniels and Shata advanced to the semifinals of the moot court event; Shata ultimately won the competition.  
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On Friday night, March 30, during the opening remarks of the National Marshall-Brennan High School Moot Court Competition, William & Mary was announced as the newest chapter of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project. Sunday afternoon, William & Mary was named champion.

Approximately seventy students from fourteen Marshall-Brennan chapters around the country argued a fictional case concerning whether the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits the sentence of life without parole for a juvenile defendant convicted of felony murder.

To represent William & Mary, Adjunct Professor of Law Charles Crimmins '10 accompanied Allanna Daniels of Jamestown High School and Dena Shata of Lafayette High School to a federal court in Washington D.C.  Numerous federal judges approached Crimmins '10 and remarked that what set Daniels and Shata apart was not only their mastery of the facts and law, but also their remarkable poise, presence, and composure. It was these qualities that enabled Daniels and Shata to advance to the semifinals, and Shata to ultimately win the competition.

As part of an ongoing relationship between Williamsburg-James City County Schools and William & Mary Law School, Daniels and Shata were part of a Constitutional Literacy class that gave them access to law students like Lawton Tufts '12 and Andrea Nixon '12. Daniels noted, "In learning how to read cases, Lawton and Andrea emphasized the importance of focusing on relevant information and throwing out the rest.  This skill allowed me to think on my feet and effectively answer questions during the competition."

Critical also were members of William & Mary's Moot Court Team who, in preparation for the competition, volunteered as judges and offered feedback.  Emily Riggs '12, Amber Shepherd '14, Kate Ward '13, and Jimmy Dougherty '12 spent countless afternoons and early evenings grilling Daniels and Shata with questions, and forcing them to hone their arguments to meet law school standards. Shata recalls, "Before the final rounds, I was really nervous, and Professor Crimmins made it a point to remind me that not even a federal judge could be as tough as Jimmy [Dougherty]. That calmed me down and lightened the mood."

William & Mary law students jumped at the opportunity to help. Dougherty '12 noted, "Watching Allanna's and Dena's progress made it clear that their natural talent was matched by their hard work and the seriousness with which they approached the competition. I was proud and thrilled to have had a part." 

Crimmins '10 reflected on the experience: "William & Mary Law School's mission is to educate the next generation of citizen lawyers. The Law School community rallied around two exceptional students. Each law student taught valuable lessons to and left an impression on Allana and Dena. I couldn't be prouder of Allanna and Dena, and I couldn't be prouder of William & Mary."