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Kerry’s Court: How a unique concept helps C of I students learn Law

January 25, 2019

The Supreme Court of The College of Idaho has spoken.

As winter term wraps up at the C of I, Dr. Kerry Hunter’s Mock Supreme Court class handed down its decisions for the two cases it heard earlier this month.

Blake Cowman, a junior majoring in Political Economy, played the of Chief Justice John Roberts, wrote an opinion reversing the 10th Circuit ruling and argued that Congress had given the state of Oklahoma full authority to hear cases connected to major crimes in Carpenter v. Murphy. The final vote in that case was 6-3.

Then junior Sara Shockley, dual majoring in International Political Economy and Business, wrote an opinion in the role of Justice Samuel Alito affirming the 6th Circuit ruling by a vote of 7-2 that Tennessee’s residency requirement for sellers of alcoholic beverages violates the spirit of the Commerce Clause and is therefore unconstitutional in Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Clayton Byrd.

With that, the nine students selected for the class conclude their experience and begin to get ready for spring term at The College of Idaho.

“This is pretty good preparation for law school; they’re (the students) not bashful at all about going after lawyers,” Hunter observed. “So, when they go to law school, they are not intimidated by a professor who is going to ask them tough questions. They’ve already got enough of that here.”

Previous Mock Supreme Court class participants at the College include a Marshall Scholar, a Rhodes Scholar and a Truman Scholar.

“These are some of the best kids not only in Idaho, not only in America, but in the world,” Hunter pointed out. Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships are highly-competitive and highly-respected international awards.

The Mock Supreme Court class is extremely unique – Hunter has been doing it every other winter term for about 25 years – and it has led to questions from peers around the country. Once, Hunter was invited to speak at an annual political science association event about the class and how it benefitted students.

“Somebody raised their hand, a professor from another university, and says, ‘wait a minute, let me make sure I understand this, the students are playing the role of justices?’”  Hunter recalled. “I said yes, that’s what I’m telling you.”

Other colleges and universities have similar classes but the roles are reversed. The students play the role of lawyers while lawyers or other law professionals fill the role of the justices. The College’s format of students acting as justices in front of actual lawyers is rare.

“He said, ‘I don’t think our students could do that,’” Hunter continued. “I said, well, ours can.”

It’s a big part of why Hunter believes The College of Idaho does such a good job preparing students for law school, going back to his early days on campus, three decades ago.

“I was having students doing things that I didn’t do until I was in grad school,” Hunter said. “We have really small classes, you can give them (students) a lot of attention, you can push them and give them a lot of feedback on their work and you can really see that growth.”

Hunter is quick to point out that students can major in just about anything at The College of Idaho and still pursue law school. Within the school’s unique PEAK curriculum, students can minor in Pre-Law to fulfill their Professional Studies & Enhancement (PSE) PEAK requirement.

The College has a strong regional reputation among law schools, too. Students from The College of Idaho have gone on to attend law school at, among others, Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago, Cal-Berkeley, Nevada-Las Vegas, the University of Washington and the University of Idaho. Hunter has even received feedback that C of I students are the most-prepared of any students.

“That’s a pretty good unsolicited endorsement,” Hunter said with a smile.

The College of Idaho has earned a good reputation for sending students on to medical school. While that reputation is certainly well-earned, Hunter believes the school is just as solid when it comes to preparing undergraduates for law school.

“I’m convinced you can’t get a better preparation for law than what we offer here in this department,” Hunter concluded. “I’m quite proud of what we do. People in our department are very committed to helping students; we work closely with them and give them a lot of feedback. We’re very available and those who come here and work hard will do well.”

The College of Idaho has a 128-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.