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HomeNewsLocal newsSt. Croix High School Students Argue Marriage Rights in Moot Court

St. Croix High School Students Argue Marriage Rights in Moot Court

St. Croix high school students took their turns presenting arguments for and against gay marriage rights at the annual moot court competition in District Court on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, students from St. Thomas’s Seventh Day Adventist School, Charlotte Amalie High School and Ivanna Eudora Kean High School argued a hypothetical case about same-sex marriage in the Virgin Islands. (See Related Links below) The two districts will square off against each other Thursday to compete for scholarships.

Teams from St. Croix’s Good Hope Country Day School, the Seventh Day Adventist School, St. Croix Central High School, the St. Croix Educational Complex and St. Joseph High School stated their cases for and against the rights of members of the gay community to get married in the Virgin Islands.

The fictional case – Arroyo and Buchanan versus the V.I. Government – involved characters Audrey Arroyo and Brittany Buchanan who were denied a marriage license in the territory and took their case to court, lost and appealed to the V.I. Supreme Court.

According to the scenario, the moot court represented the Supreme Court.

The “appellate” teams in favor of reversing the court’s decision and conferring a marriage license to Arroyo and Buchanan argued that the matter was “judicial” and up to the courts to decide.

Alliya Allick of Good Hope Country Day School won first place for her oral presentation, arguing marriage is a right protected by the 14th Amendment and that Virgin Islanders are ruled by the U.S. Constitution.

“Marriage is so fundamental to the liberty of a person,” she said.

The “appellee” teams argued to uphold the court’s decision and find that same sex marriage is against V.I. law. They judged the issue to be “political” and only to be determined by the U.S. Congress or the V.I. Legislature. Proponents said that Arroyo and Buchanan should have taken their case to the public and the V.I. Legislature to gain approval.

Aaron Nickie of the Educational Complex, who was recognized as the second best oralist, said human rights are legislated by law and same sex marriage is not included in the V.I. Code. Because the Virgin Islands is a territory, it does not have the same rights as residents living in a state, appellee team members agreed.

The teams for each school consisted of two “attorneys” and one alternate. As they argued in favor or against the issue, the students were judged on their treatment of the legal issue, creativity, organization, persuasiveness, clarity, demeanor and overall presentation, according to Ernest Morris, event organizer for the V.I. Bar Association.

Each team was guided by legal and school advisors. Students met and practiced several hours a day, including weekends, over the last few months, according to Joann Edney, mother of St. Joseph student Jeanna Edney, who has participated for the last two years. After the moot court experience, Jeanna still wants to be a lawyer.

“It will give me the opportunity to have an impactful change on someone’s life,” she said.

However, her partner in the proceedings, Estelle Jules, the 2016 valedictorian for St. Joseph’s, while presenting her case professionally, said she doesn’t want to be an attorney, but an air traffic controller. She said the experience with moot court gives her public speaking experience.

Erica Hansen, CHS teacher coach and social studies department head, said the school has had about eight scholarship winners since she has been involved in the event. Only one student ended up attending law school.

Students are chosen to participate – often through the AP English program – and devote a lot of time to preparing for the event, she said.

“It is wonderful to get the analytical ability, learn to argue, and analyze cases, the law and conduct research,” Hansen said about the moot court experience.

After Wednesday’s session, attorneys Nathania Bates, Venetia Velazquez and Everard Potter, who served as moot court “justices,” determined that the Educational Complex and Good Hope Country Day School will battle Charlotte Amalie and Kean High Schools Thursday.

The winners will receive scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,000 from the V.I. Bar Association and sponsor Innovative Companies. 

St. Croix students who participated in Wednesday’s moot court competition were:

St. Croix Seventh-day Adventist

Tara Serrant

Maya Samuel

Ashaira Andrew

Jean-Neal Lima

Roosevelt Sylvester Joseph

Danyel Boyd

Central High School

Zion James

McCathie Eugene

Shelia Fabio

Good Hope Country Day School

Yurissa Lewis

Aliya Allick

Parisa Bradshaw

St. Croix Educational Complex High School

Aaron Nickie

Shideya Parilla

Amani Christopher

Habeeba O’Neill

Iris Battiste

St. Joseph High School

Djenne Green

Euripide Carpio

Xia Xiang Washington

Jeanna Edney

Estelle E. Jules

Xarquisha Somme

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