Setting Precedent:

Case Day returns to Langley after three-year pandemic hiatus


Sitting and watching the practices of Case Day, government teacher Allison Cohen’s room transforms into the Supreme Court. Legal jargon and precedent is thrown around as students debate and question each other on both sides of the case. These students are preparing for Case Day, a highly esteemed tradition at Langley High School. This year, Case Day occurred on February 27th. 

“At its core, Case Day is a mock oral argument that senior students participate in. The case is always one that is on the current [Supreme Court] docket,” Cohen said. “The rest of the day is filled with presentations about topics and issues raised by the case.”

After an audition process, Cohen and Micah Herzig, another government teacher, select six students to participate in the mock oral argument. Other seniors can propose presentations revolving around the case, including inviting professionals to come speak at Case Day. 

“For the six students selected, two of us will be the petitioners, two of us will be the respondents, and then two of us will be student Supreme Court Justices,” senior Shriya Mani said.

The chosen case this year is Biden v. Nebraska. This case will decide whether Biden’s new student debt-relief program, canceling up to 10,000 dollars of federal student loan debt for borrowers with annual income under 125,000, is constitutional. 

“I found this case extremely interesting. A lot of seniors are about to go to college soon so student loans are something we’re all thinking about,” Mani said. 

Many of the students participating had a variety of reasons to try out. For example, some students want to continue to pursue law and public policy in the future. 

“I’ve always been interested in law. I already participate in debate and mock trial [at school] so this was kind of an easy segue,” Mani said. 

For others, this will be the last time they get to step inside the legal sphere. Senior Sankrith Ramani served as a guest justice for Case Day this year, but will not be pursuing law or policy in college. 

“[Case Day] is something I will probably never do again in my life as in college I will be going down the pre-med path. It’s a unique experience and as someone who does follow politics and government very closely, [it is] an enriching opportunity,” Ramani said. 

Regardless of the reasoning for trying out and participating, being an actual part of Case Day is hard work. While presenters are conducting interviews and preparing 10-15 minute presentations, students participating in the mock oral argument work through convoluted legal documents, along with practicing public speaking. 

“We have to read and comprehend 70-page petitioner and respondents briefs that reference all sorts of prior case precedents, statutes, and laws,” Mani said.

Every Langley Links period, the six students sat in Cohen’s classroom and practiced their arguments in front of their peers along with Herzig and Cohen, the two Case Day sponsors. 

“Each of us go up and litigate either a petitioner or respondent’s argument for a specified amount of time while questioning each other,” senior Sylvia Cheng said. “We’re trying to work our way up to 15 minutes which is the time allotted during Case Day.”

Along with getting to visit the Supreme Court the next day and hear the actual oral argument of Biden v. Nebraska, the students participating have practiced skills involving public speaking and law. 

“I’ve really enjoyed practicing the oral arguments. I think it’s been so meaningful to talk with my fellow council members and these teachers who know so much about this case and the legal field,” Cheng said.

For Cohen this is one of the most exciting days of the school year. She along with Herzig have sponsored the Case Day program at Langley for many years now.  

“Without a doubt, my favorite part is watching how interested second-semester seniors get in taking a deep dive and deep analysis of a Supreme Court case,” Cohen said. 

High-profile members of the court often come to judge, participate, and watch Langley’s Case Day production every year. This year a Case-Day alum even served as a guest justice. 

“In the past, Justice Scalia sponsored the program and we’ve had audiences with Justice Ginsberg, Justice Kagan, and Justice Kennedy,” Cohen said. “We’ve had other guest speakers like former Solicitor Generals [among other important members].”

These visitors often have high praise for the Case Day program at Langley. 

“In the past, we have had the former, now retired, clerk of the Supreme Court serve as our [mock] chief justice,” Cohen said. “He has repeatedly called Langley High School’s Case Day program the finest program of its kind in the country.”

Cohen hopes that students got a lot out of this opportunity even if they aren’t participating directly in the production of Case Day. She hopes to continue doing this program for the foreseeable future. 

“I think the Supreme Court itself is one of the least understood branches of the government,” Cohen said. “I hope that students take away a better appreciation for the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional republic.”