BHS seniors Paul Conceison, Patrick Duffy, Caroline Sullivan, and Cassandra Papas attended the inaugural James Otis Lecture this past Wednesday. The Massachusetts Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates produced its inaugural Otis Lecture in the Chamber of the House of Representatives in Boston. More than 200 top high school students from all across the Commonwealth crammed the House Chamber, and the gallery was filled with parents, teachers and school administrators, for the presentation. The students were chosen by their teachers and school administrators for their achievements in, and passion for, American History.
"In such a cause as this, I despise all fees."
James Otis in the Writs of Assistance Case February 27, 1761
The students were seated on the House floor behind desks once occupied by Daniel Webster, Charles Sumner and Lemuel Shaw, among others. They were treated to lectures from Robert J. Cordy, Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and Professor Daniel Coquillette, the J. Donald Monan University Professor at Boston College, who spoke of the separation of powers in our constitutional system of government, the vital importance of an independent judiciary in preserving our freedoms, and the courage of people like James Otis, Jr., Josiah Quincy, Jr., and John Adams who, through their representation of unpopular people or causes, established the principle that law must be fairly equally applied to all.
Each student received a commendation recognizing him or her as a “James Otis Scholar”. They were all invited to participate in an essay contest focusing on Robert Morris, one of the first black lawyers in American history, who was instrumental in the movement that lead to Massachusetts banning legalized segregation in public schools in 1855, the first state in the Union to do so. The author of the best essay, as judged by an independent panel of educators and lawyers, will receive a $5,000 college scholarship, and two $2,500 scholarships will also be awarded for the next best essays.
The scholarships were funded by the Foundation of the American Board of Trial Advocates, the charitable arm of ABOTA, which supports educational programs for students across the country. The Foundation is dedicated to simple principle of justice for all that, in many ways, was born with James Otis’s argument in the Writs of Assistance Case in 1761, in a small Massachusetts courthouse.
September 17th is Constitution Day, when the United States Constitution was signed in Philadelphia in 1787. Mass ABOTA chose this date for its annual Otis Lecture to help commemorate the beginning of our national Constitution.