Barlow Speakers Place at State Finals, Advance to Semis in Virtual Supreme Court

Several Joel Barlow High School debaters earned distinction in two March competitions. While debating immigration policy at State Finals in the Connecticut Debate Association, three Barlow speakers opened the golden door to victory on March 27.

At this invitation-only event for trophy winners from the regular season, juniors Graham Litz and Ben Fligelman earned the fourth-place varsity team award by going undefeated against pairs from Amity, Loomis-Chaffee, and Immaculate on their way to victory.

Junior Ian O’Reilly was the fourth-place speaker overall, earning a commanding 83 points across three rounds of competition. He and junior Ali Siddiqi turned in a high-scoring 2-1 record. Seniors Claudia Meyer and Kyle Murray along with sophomores Catie Gutowski and Quinn Siddiqi both had a win for the day in the varsity division, too. Alums Evan Streams ’09 and Greg Coleman ’20 came back to coach the team in the morning.

Also in March, Barlow junior Leighton Schur and sophomore Catherine Gutowski advanced to the semi-finals of the Virtual Supreme Court. This competition, one sponsored by the Harlan Institute, asks pairs of students to prepare a written brief and a video of oral argument on a case currently on the docket of the Supreme Court of the United States.

This is Barlow’s first foray into this national competition. Schur prepared for the competition as part of an independent study on the Legal History of the United States. He drafted Gutowski as his partner on the strength of her work writing about the same case in the context of Barlow’s sophomore debate elective.

This year, the competition concerned Torres v. Madrid, a case testing whether or not being shot by police constitutes a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment. The dispute arises from an incident in New Mexico, where police fired on an intoxicated motorist who nearly hit the officer with her car, and the suspect seeks to sue them for a violation of her Fourth Amendment right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Schur and Gutowski took the side of the respondents, arguing that a bullet is not a seizure, and even if it were, qualified immunity and the reasonability of police action should insulate the officers from civil liability. Barlow alums and attorneys Cary Glynn ’09 and Cooper D’Agostino ’13, who studied law at Harvard and Stanford respectively, gave feedback on their team’s draft brief. Their next stage of competition will be in mid April.

Randall W. Smith is a social studies teacher, debate coach, peer practice coach, and director of independent study, online learning, & dual enrollment at Joel Barlow High School. He is a 2009 Presidential Scholar Teacher.