BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Kaitlin Macaranas captured Bakersfield High School's coveted 2013 Earl Warren Cup Wednesday night by correctly answering the question of which U.S. Supreme Court decision struck down President Bill Clinton's use of the line-item veto.
The answer was Clinton v. City of New York.
With that, Abba's "Dancing Queen" song blared across Bakersfield High School's Harvey Auditorium, confetti and balloons dropped, and Macaranas self-consciously held the eighth championship trophy.
Thirty-two senior students in BHS government teacher Jeremy Adams' Advanced Placement Government class -- seeded for the competition according to their grade point average in the class -- began the competition that tests students' knowledge of constitutional law and politics.
In front of a crowd estimated between 1,100 and 1,400 people, they faced off two-by-two during a tense two hours until they were whittled down to two finalists, Macaranas, the sixth seed, and No. 1 seed Patrick Crowley.
They both answered some difficult questions (Who was the author of the Supreme Court decision Schenck v. United States about free speech? Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.) and missed some tough ones, too (Who was America's first diplomat to England? John Adams).
Before the competition Jeremy Adams had compiled 550 questions; during the course of the evening he asked about 200.
The event is known for interspersing videotaped questions from luminaries in politics and popular culture with live questions presented by Adams, the Earl Warren Cup creator.
This year's competition did not disappoint for high profile taped appearances.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy kicked off the competition by reading the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, calling it a "beautiful piece of writing," and saying it was "of the utmost importance" for all generations to understand it.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan asked three questions, beginning with, "Which amendment reserves power to the states and to the people?"
Answer: the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked the identity of his predecessor in the Texas governor's mansion.
Answer: George W. Bush.
Actor Kevin Spacey, who plays fictional House Majority Whip Francis Underwood on the show "House of Cards," asked who said it was better to be feared than loved.
Answer: NiccolÃ² Machiavelli.
Gov. Jerry Brown asked if any U.S. presidents called California home.
Answer: Ronald Reagan
Youth betrayed the contestants frequently, with recent current events often beyond their grasp. One student, for instance, couldn't recall who John McCain picked as a running mate in the 2008 presidential election. It was, of course, then-Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.
Yet instant answers sprang forth from seemingly obscure questions, such as the name of the legal test applied to determine when it's appropriate to fund private schools with public money (The Lemon Test) or the year of the Constitutional Convention (1787).
"It's really a showcase of what our students have learned" in class, Adams said afterward. "And they've learned a lot.
"I couldn't be prouder of all of them."