The 2020 Harlan Institute-Ashbrook Digital Supreme Courtroom –


Last fall, the Harlan Institute and Ashbrook announced the eighth annual Virtual Supreme Court competition. This competition offers teams of two students the opportunity to research current constitutional law, write compelling appeals, argue against other students through video chats, and try to convince a group of respected lawyers during an oral hearing that their side is correct is. This year the competition is focused on Torres versus Madrid.

The competition is approved by the Center for Civic Education’s We The People competition:

“The Civic Education Center is pleased to sponsor the Virtual Supreme Court competition. The competition is relevant to students studying the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

-Robert Leming, Director, We the People Programs, Civic Education Center

The question


Is an unsuccessful attempt to detain a suspect with physical violence a “seizure” as defined in the Fourth Amendment, or does physical violence have to be successful to detain a suspect to constitute a “seizure”?

The rules

This competition consists of two phases that reflect the process that lawyers use to litigate cases.

Stage one: the briefing and the oral arguments

A team of two students is responsible for drafting an appeal letter arguing for either the petitioner or the respondent and completing an oral argumentation video. The letter and video are due from February 22, 2021You can see the winner reports for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Stage two: the tournament

The Harlan Institute and Ashbrook will select the best 16 teams to support the petitioner and respondent and use them for the semifinals of the hearing in April 2021. All teams will compete in a virtual hearing on Zoom, which will be assessed by the Harlan Institute and Ashbrook. Only teams that submit pleadings that fully comply with all rules will be considered for an oral hearing. You can see the videos of the competitions 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

In the past, the final round of the Virtual Supreme Court competition was held at the Georgetown Supreme Court Institute in Washington, DC. However, given the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot schedule a face-to-face meeting. As a result, we will host the championship round via Zoom in May 2021. The competition is judged by a jury of experts including lawyers, university-level debaters and legal scholars.

The prices

Grand Prize – The Advocates General of FantasySCOTUS

The members of the best petitioner and respondent teams will be invited to attend the Ashbrook Academy of the Supreme Court and the Constitution in June 2021. Ashbrook will cover reasonable travel expenses for the Academy. Members of the winning team will each receive a $ 500 Amazon Gift Card. Runner-up team members will each receive a $ 250 gift card.


Members of the 16 semi-finalist teams will each receive an gift card worth $ 25.


Trainers can register their teams at the Institute for Competitive Science. Read the problem and get started! Good luck.

Please send questions to [email protected]