Announcing the 2017 Harlan Institute-ConSource Virtual Supreme Court Competition

October 3rd, 2016

The Harlan Institute and The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) announce their Fifth Annual Virtual Supreme Court Competition. This competition offers teams of two high school students the opportunity to research cutting-edge constitutional law, write persuasive appellate briefs, argue against other students through video chats, and try to persuade a panel of esteemed attorneys during oral argument that their side is correct. This year the competition focuses on Trinity Lutheran Church v. Sarah Parker Pauley.

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

“The Center for Civic Education is excited to endorse the Virtual Supreme Court Competition. The Competition is relevant for high school students studying the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

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

The Question

Resolved:  Does funding a playground associated with a Church violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?

The Rules

This competition has two stages, which mirror the process by which attorneys litigate cases. 

Stage One: The Briefing and Oral Arguments

A team of two students will be responsible for writing an appellate brief arguing for either the petitioner or the respondent. This brief and video will be posted on their class’s FantasySCOTUS.  Blog posts and videos will be due by February 27, 2017. Completed briefs will be awarded the ConSource Badge. You can see the winning briefs from 201320142015, and 2016.

Stage Two: The Tournamnet

The Harlan Institute and ConSource will select the top teams supporting the Petitioner and Respondent, and seed them for the oral argument semifinals on March 11, 2017. All teams will compete in a virtual oral argument session over Google+ Hangout judged by staff members at the Harlan Institute and ConSource. Only teams that submit briefs that fully comply with all of the rules will be considered for oral argument. You can see the video from the 201320142015, and 2016 competitions.

The final round of the Virtual Supreme Court Competition will be held in Philadelphia on April 13, 2017. The Harlan Institute and ConSource will sponsor the top two teams, and their teachers, for a trip to Philadelphia to debate in front of a panel of expert judges, including lawyers, university level debate champions, and legal scholars.

The Prizes

Grand Prize – The Solicitors General of FantasySCOTUS

The members of grand-prize winning team, the Solicitors General of FantasySCOTUS, and their teacher, will receive a free trip, including airfare and one night of hotel accommodations, to Washington, D.C. to attend the ConSource Constitution Day celebration in September 2017. This offer is open to U.S. residents only.

Second Prize

Members of the runner-up team will each receive an iPad Mini.

Third Prize

Members of the third and fourth place teams will each receive a $100 Giftcard.


Ask your teacher to sign up your class on FantasySCOTUS (all High School students can participate), add an account, read the problem, and get started! Good luck.

Please send any questions to [email protected] or [email protected].