Law School’s Constitution Day Features Student Work

OXFORD, Miss.–The University of Mississippi School of Law commemorated Constitution Day on September 17 by celebrating the scholarly success of three of its students.  Michael Shoptaw, Jennie Silk and Marie Wicks presented their recently published or forthcoming articles on cutting edge issues in constitutional law.

“This is the University’s Constitution Day event–commemorating the original signing of the Constitution on September 17th, 1787,” said Jack Nowlin, senior associate dean and organizer, moderator and one of three faculty discussants for the event.

“This is also a Constitution Day ‘special edition’ of the Law School’s Student Legal Scholarship Exposition, an event we have each semester to celebrate our published student authors and the Law School’s strong tradition of student scholarship.”

The students presented the following work to faculty, students and other audience members:

  • Robert Michael Shoptaw (Class of 2016); associate cases editor, Mississippi Law Journal; M’Naghten Is a Fundamental Right: Why Abolishing the Traditional Insanity Defense Violates Due Process.” 84 Mississippi Law Journal 1101 (2015).
  • Jennie Vee Silk (Class of 2016); Mississippi cases editor, Mississippi Law Journal; “Calling out Maryland v. King: DNA, Cell Phones, and the Fourth Amendment,” 52(2) Criminal Law Bulletin (Thomson Reuters/West) (forthcoming in 2016).
  • Marie E. Wicks (Class of 2016); editor-in-chief, Mississippi Law Journal, “Prayer Is Prologue: The Impact of Town of Greece on the Constitutionality of Deliberative Public Body Prayer at the Start of School Board Meetings,” 31 Journal of Law & Politics 1 (2015).

The event is particularly significant due to the focus on student scholarship.  The three student presenters were selected from an academic legal writing class in which they were asked to compose and present their first major work of legal scholarship.

“All three students wrote outstanding articles on cutting-edge issues in constitutional law,” Nowlin said.

“There were many other excellent articles–in constitutional law as well as in other areas–so it was a tough choice to select only three.  Luckily, there will be another student legal scholarship exposition in the spring, and we will have the opportunity to hear more student presentations.”

Students in the class selected a topic and then met regularly with Nowlin and other faculty advisors and presented to a class of their peers.

“Dean Nowlin offered expert guidance and invaluable advice every step of the way,” said Wicks.  “He broke down the writing process into manageable deadlines, and before we knew it, we had drafted an entire comment.”

Shoptaw, a third year student, also had a positive experience  with the class.

“Often, while presenting, you would realize a shortfall or discover a new avenue for discussion within your paper,” he said.  “It was a very good experience and aided in everyone’s attaining a high level of understanding of their own papers as well as the other class members’.”

The legal writing class and Constitution Day program are just a few ways the law school supports student scholarship. According to Nowlin, faculty regularly mentor students in scholarly writing  and there are many opportunities for training in advanced legal writing, research and argument. There are also the fall and spring student scholarship expositions as well as innovative programs like the Mississippi Law Journal’s peer review forum.

All work towards combining teaching and research and scholarship development amongst students.

The law school’s focus on student scholarship has also led to the publication of 75 student-authored articles over the past three years, establishing these students as experts in particular fields.

“I’m thrilled that this year’s Constitution Day commemoration focused on current issues in constitutional law through the lens of student legal scholarship,” Wicks said.   “I know it is an experience that will be a highlight as I look back on my law school years.”