Category: News

Annual Gala Brings Together the Discovering Justice Community

Celebrating the inspirational role that mentors play in its program, Discovering Justice’s Annual Gala Mentoring the Next Generation: Pathways to Civic Engagement brought together more than 225 to raise vital funds for the organization’s programs.

 Highlighting the night was Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey receiving Discovering Justice’s 2021 Champion of Justice. Healey talked about the importance of civic engagement and the importance of getting students involved in our democracy.

The Gala, the largest fundraising event for the organization, raised more than $440,000, exceeding its goal by 10%, through sponsorships, ticket sales, donations, and a silent auction. Thanks to the 55 sponsors including our Presenting sponsor Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Champions of Democracy WilmerHale, Goodwin, and Ropes & Gray.

At the event, Executive Director Matt Wilson previewed Discovering Justice’s strategic plan and the organization’s priorities over the next three years. The Plan will be published and released to supporters this summer.

At the Gala, current and past Discovering Justice mentors and mentees shared their stories on how mentoring provides the confidence, vision, and wisdom needed for success.

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Mock Appeal Program Fields Record Number of Teams

Over the course of three days in the last week of May, 190 students from 22 schools presented their mock appeal cases to sets of judicial panelists before family members, friends, school administrators, and teachers. 

The Mock Appeal was a culmination of an 11 week program in which students wrestled with the intricacies and challenges of the first amendment rights, diving into cases concerning the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.

“The Mock Appeal program goes to the core of the Discovering Justice mission providing students the opportunities to examine the workings of the justice system, examine the ideals of justice, and prepare them to engage in our democracy,” said Mock Appeal Coordinator Luke Matys. 

This spring’s program was the largest ever, drawing students from Boston, Lawrence, Danvers, Rehoboth, Somerville, Lowell, Worcester, Framingham, Brookline, and Waltham.

The students delivered convincing, detailed arguments that often left the judicial panels impressed and, in many cases, divided on whether to side with the petitioner or the respondent,” said Matt Wilson, Discovering Justice’s Executive Director. “That is a telling sign that both sides delivered impressive presentations and demonstrated excellent knowledge of the theory underlying the case. 

129 legal mentors from various law firms and organizations across the Commonwealth made the Mock Appeal program possible this semester. Many of these mentors are new to the program this year, including teams from the Worcester Bar Association; Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C.; Pyle Rome Ehrenberg PC; and Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP. 


The staff will be working over the summer to develop new cases for Discovering Justice’s Mock Trial Program in the Fall. With the addition of new schools this spring from Rehoboth, Framingham, and Danvers, the organization is looking to expand the number of teams participating in the fall.

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Discovering Justice to Host Conversation and Q+A with Student Free Speech Advocate Mary Beth Tinker

In 1965, thirteen-year-old Mary Beth Tinker sued her school for allegedly infringing upon her right to free speech after she was suspended for protesting the Vietnam War. In 2021, students continue to stage protests and host walkouts to advocate for their rights, some facing disciplinary consequences for doing so. How do these historical moments connect, and what can we learn from examining them together?

In Discovering Justice’s Mock Appeal program this spring, middle school students growing up in a time of political tumult and protest learn about Tinker v. Des Moines, the landmark Supreme Court case that established and delineated students’ rights to free speech in schools. On May 6th, our students will have the opportunity to speak with Mary Beth Tinker, the plaintiff of that very case, in a virtual conversation and Q+A hosted by the Mock Appeal program.

It’s not every day that students get to speak directly with the individuals responsible for catalyzing groundbreaking achievements in the law, let alone to hear the reflections of a person who accomplished this feat at the same age as many of the Mock Appeal participants. However, this event will provide an opportunity for our student attorneys to do just that.

In this session, Tinker will share reflections with the students about her work participating in student activism, becoming a plaintiff in a national civil rights lawsuit, and subsequently charting a path as a national leader in efforts to empower students to advocate for their rights. Students will have the opportunity to ask Tinker their own questions about her experiences and how her advocacy can inform their understanding of the law and civic engagement. 

Hearing about Tinker’s activism will provide opportunities for students to incorporate the lessons from her efforts into their own work within the Mock Appeal program and beyond. “Students will get a real connection between what they have been learning about free speech in the program and real life,” said Luke Matys, Discovering Justice’s coordinator of the Mock Appeal Program. “When they meet and speak with Mary Beth, that historic change becomes more real and accessible.”

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Judges Visit Mock Appeal Sessions as Students Prepare for Mock Appeal in May

During the month of April, students in our Mock Appeal program had the opportunity to hone their appellate skills with the assistance of federal and state judges.  Through the power of video conferencing, judges visited our students across the state and shared insider tips on how to deliver a powerful appellate argument. 

This session also gave students the opportunity to ask a wide array of questions to the judges. Students asked about the most interesting case the judge had ever presided over, what steps they took to become a judge in the first place, how it feels to make decisions that affect people’s lives every day, the judge’s thoughts on current events like the Derek Chauvin trial, and a wide variety of other topics.  

All this preparation will come in handy on the evenings of Tuesday, May 25th, Wednesday, May 26th, and Thursday, May 27th from 5:00 to 6:30 when our student attorneys present and defend their arguments as our appellate panels pepper them with questions. 

Although it can be a daunting challenge, our student attorneys always rise to the occasion and thrive off of these questions. As veteran Mock Appeal panelist and Federal Judge David Barron had said: “If you really want to know what the value of the program is, all you have to do is see the students take a deep breath at the end of it.” We hope you can join us in supporting our students from across the state as they exhale with a deep pride in the work they have done. To register to be part of our audience, please sign up through this online form by Monday, May 24th. If you are an experienced attorney or a judge who would like to serve on one of Mock Appeal panels and judge the student appeals, contact the program coordinator, Luke Matys (, by Friday, May 7th.

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Discovering Justice’s 2021 Gala: Mentoring the Next Generation: Pathways to Civic Engagement

Each year Discovering Justice brings together its partners, students and supporters to celebrate the civic education programs the organization brings to students across the Commonwealth.

“Mentoring the Next Generation: Pathways to Civic Engagement”, Discovering Jutice’s 2021 Gala will be held on June 8 and highlight the importance of mentoring and the role that mentors have in the success of our programs. We can’t wait to see you at the virtual event and we encourage you to bring along a mentor or mentee from your career of life for only $25! 

We are excited to honor Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey as our 2021 Champion of Justice. Attorney General Healey is tireless in her work for justice here in Massachusetts and across the nation.

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