Melissa Hart

Professor of Law, Director of the Byron R. White Center

Please tell us about a  piece of your scholarship or your teaching that you are passionate about and that is related to public service.

Teaching Education and the Constitution, the curriculum component of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, has been one of the greatest opportunities in my career.  I love working with law students to think and talk about constitutional law at a law school level and then to think about how to translate these same ideas effectively for high school students.  My students and I go teach constitutional law in area high school one day a week for the entire semester, and coach the high school students to do a moot court competition.  The students we work with are in underserved communities, and for many of them, the project is their first real exposure to law and to public speaking.  Both I and many of my law students have developed lasting mentor relationships with the high school students we work with, and students come back to Boulder each year for the regional moot court competition.  Dozens of law professors, law students, judges and lawyers from Denver-Boulder legal community come to help judge and make the competition run well for the high school competitors, and the sense of a community pulling together to support these young people is enormously gratifying.

How are students involved in your public service work?

I have loved getting students involved in as many different public service projects as possible.  Many students are involved with the Byron White Center's constitutional literacy efforts:  50-60 students each year travel to high schools to teach a one-day Constitution Day lesson in the fall; students teach in high schools for the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project or come help on the day of the regional competition; and the Colorado DACA Support Project gives students the opportunity to represent young undocumented students who are requesting work authorization through the federal DACA program.

What motivated you to become involved in public service work?

Lawyers are problem solvers.  When you can work on solving problems that are the largest social problems, or the problems of people whose needs are the most significant, it feels like you are using the special skills and knowledge for the greatest good.  There is nothing more satisfying.

What advice do you have for our students who are interested in public service?

Call me!!  Reach out to any of the students or faculty members involved in public service.  We have a fabulous community at Colorado Law and around the state.  There are so many opportunities, and there is so much need, and it is one of the privileges and joys of being a member of the legal profession that we can play a part in helping people solve hard problems.