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C of I Mock Supreme Court class is one of a kind

In black robes, flowing with authority, the nine justices walked into the room—Sotomayor, Breyer, Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Alito and Kagan.

Before the justices: the case of Love v. Beshear.

“I urge the court that now is the time for finality on this issue,” attorney Jim Dale said.

On Monday, the highest court on The College of Idaho campus—the Mock Supreme Court—heard arguments for and against same-sex marriage.

The hearing featured C of I alumna and Chief Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ’79, who struck down Idaho’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage last spring. But she had to argue opposite her ruling this time while squaring off against her husband Jim, a partner at Stoel Rives in Boise.

While most mock court classes have students play the attorneys, the C of I class challenges and pushes students to play the role of Supreme Court Justices.

“I want the students to experience the intensity of the level of work involved by the court,” said Dr. Kerry Hunter, the longtime political economy professor who teaches the class. “I want them to learn the political importance of the court’s work, and the politics behind its decision making.”

The tall task requires the students to research their respective justice and read more than 600 pages in the week leading up to the mock cases. 

“It’s amazing how much personal buy-in you get, and because of that, the students become much more engaged,” Hunter said. “It brings in a level of work that I don’t think I could get by having a typical lecture class.”

After the hearings, the students meet in a conference to vote and decide who writes which opinion for each case. They also get to politic each other in order to get a majority opinion, Hunter said.

For student Matt Vraspir, it was difficult to adapt to the role of Justice Clarence Thomas, who is usually silent during court hearings.

“Being a debater, it’s kind of difficult because I like to be outspoken on these issues,” Vraspir said.

Classmate Marabie Barck, president of the Pre-Law Club, said she was equally challenged by her role as Chief Justice John Roberts. 

“The most unique part of this course was how hard it actually was to predict how I could vote on issues,” Barck said.

For each student, the class was unlike any other in their educational career. And for some, like pre-law major John Fronk, it was a taste of what the future could hold. 

“As soon as the robes came on, it was a new, eye-opening experience,” Fronk said. 

But oral argument couldn’t happen without lawyers and judges volunteering their time to make the mock court sessions a reality—and most of them are C of I alumni.                                                                                                                                              

“It’s interesting how willing C of I alumni are to come out and help us,” Barck said. “It’s going to push us to come back and help out in the same way we were helped.”

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. The C of I has a legacy of academic excellence, a winning athletics tradition and a history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars and 14 Marshall, Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.