Marshall-Brennan competitior argues during the 2015 National Moot Court Competition!

The William H. Karchmer Competitions

The Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project hosts a variety of academic competitions during the school year. Thanks to the generous gift of the family of William H. Karchmer, local high school students who participate may receive cash prizes for winning in several different categories.


Each fall and spring, the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project hosts a program-wide moot court competition for the students in local Marshall-Brennan classes. Students prepare and compete in their classrooms. The winners from each class are invited to compete against each other for a day-long, citywide oral argument contest held either at the Washington College of Law or at the U.S. Courthouse for the District of Columbia. Four winners are chosen in the fall and spring. These winners receive a cash prize and an invitation to compete in the National High School Moot Court Competition.

What is Moot Court?

A moot court competition features an argument before a three-judge panel, much like real lawyers would make in an appeals court or supreme court. Unlike a mock trial, there are no witnesses or jurors. The advocates must learn the skill of weaving together arguments about the law and the facts of a hypothetical case, and be able to handle a series of questions from the judges. The winner is determined based on the effectiveness of the substantive arguments and oral advocacy skills of the high school advocatess. Participants learn not only the law involved in the case but also valuable skills in public speaking, organization and the ability to think on their feet. For a list of past winners, click here.


Each year the Marshall-Brennan Project hosts the annual William H. Karchmer End-of-Year Celebration Arts and Awards Ceremony where the high school students demonstrate their constitutional understanding through artistic expression, sucha as essays, poetry, and t-shirt design. T-shirts with the winning design are distributed to all Marshall-Brennan participants.

The End-of-Year Celebration often features guest speakers and partnerships with other various DC youth and arts organizations. Mrs. Thurgood Marshall is a regular participant. Mary Beth Tinker has also been present to speak and to help present awards each year. Additionally awards area given to organizations and individuals that have shown dedication and support to Marshall-Brennan that year, standout Marshall-Brennan Fellows, and other noteworthy contributors to the Marshall-Brennan program.

Students from Cesar Chavez Capitol Hill High School share highlights from their Marshall-Brennan experience.Marshall-Brennan Teaching Fellow recognizes members of the DC Moot Court Team that represented the District in the national competition.


All of these competitions take place to honor the memory of William H. Karchmer: a brilliant, caring man with a deep-seated commitment to social justice, equality and civil rights for all. Born and raised in Springfield, Missouri, and after being a businessman, in the mid-1960’s, Mr. Karchmer did something rather unusual for the time: he went to law school in his 30’s.

William Karchmer was a natural teacher and loved teaching. Some of his law school classmates say they only graduated because Bill Karchmer taught them so much. Working as a lawyer, he was a teacher for his clients, too, explaining their options and telling them the pros and cons of each one, so that they could make their own, informed choices.

He also served on his city's first Human Rights Commission and was one of the first people to see the dangers of hate groups like neo-Nazi and militia groups. He was an advocate for the rights of all those who had been, or were being oppressed.

Mr. Karchmer also adored, and was a fascinating and hilarious storyteller.

Although he had no children of his own, he loved and respected children, and was the adored and favorite uncle to his niece and nephew.

The William H. Karchmer Competitions combine his love of the law and logic, his enjoyment of the arts, his commitment to young people, and his belief in social justice.