Mock Trial Constitution Day Event brings Supreme Court issues to campus

Dorian Uson, Staff Writer

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This year, San Diego Mesa College had a busy week full of events for students to participate in for Constitution Day. On Sept. 18, Jefferson School of Law, located in Downtown San Diego, partnered with Mesa College  to celebrate Constitution Day. A Mock Trial was held in a large conference room in the new Mesa Commons building.

      The mock trial has been taking place at Mesa for years. Each year it’s a discussion involving a case in regards to the Constitution. This year, the chosen case was Gill v. Whitford, a recent case that was argued on Oct. 3 in regards to partisan gerrymandering. The question presented at the beginning of the mock trial by Jefferson School of Law Professor Steve Semeraro were as followed: “does redistricting (1) that is designed to provide a substantial advantage to one political party and (2) that enables that party to dominate the legislature with a minority of the statewide vote violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?”

        According to Professor Semeraro, partisan gerrymandering is  “drawing district lines so that a party obtains a higher percentage of the legislative seat than that party’s percentage statewide vote totals.” This can be done in one of two ways. One, by “packing” which is when the disfavored party’s voters are placed together so they win overwhelmingly in a few districts or by “cracking”, which is dividing up the disfavored party’s voters so they can’t get enough votes to win in any other district.

Gerrymandering has been around since the 1920s. Congress did not redistrict after the 1920 census. There was a large influx of immigrants that favored urban areas over rural areas. The primary intent behind redistricting and elimination gerrymandering is to prevent racial discrimination.

The trial brought to light the situation happening in Wisconsin when the 2012 election was the first election after redistricting. Democratic Party candidates won 52 percent of the statewide vote. Republicans, however, won 60% of the seats in the state legislature, giving them a lot of power in jurisdiction of Wisconsin.

        The event consisted of the actual mock trial, a discussion afterwards, and Semeraro giving a brief background before the trial started. The Supreme Court Justices were made up of professors from Mesa College, and one law student. The two lawyers and the solicitor general discussed opposing sides of why gerrymandering is good and why gerrymandering is bad.  The United State Supreme Court held a trial earlier this month although a vote is still being determined.

 

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Mock Trial Constitution Day Event brings Supreme Court issues to campus