Brooklyn Law School Winner in9th Annual National First Amendment Moot Court

Saturday, February 27, 1999

  • The Moot Court case: How free is speech in school?

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A team from Brooklyn Law School won the Ninth Annual National First Amendment Moot Court Competition on Saturday, in which the five judges in the final round voted 3-2.

    The winning team members were Robert Hoff, Sari Gabay and Nichole Tuman.

    The runner-up in the two-day competition was the team from the University of Arkansas School of Law, composed of Hastings Hanshaw and Kathy Ridenoure Schillaci.

    More than 100 of the nation’s top law students debated cutting-edge issues in free expression — student First Amendment rights, symbols linked to “hate speech” and controversial content on the World Wide Web — in rounds cosponsored by the First Amendment Center and Vanderbilt University School of Law.

    “The level of advocacy displayed by these students was exceptional,” said Judge Gilbert S. Merritt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, one of the moot court justices. “They were better and more prepared than most attorneys who argue before the Sixth Circuit. On balance, I would say that these students did a better job than three out of four attorneys who argue before the federal appeals court.

    “This competition is very helpful for me as judge with respect to First Amendment law. It keeps me more up-to-date. Anytime you hear more cases on a particular subject matter, the more you are going to be educated on that subject,” Merritt said.

    A total of $5,000 in prizes was awarded to:

  • Winning team: Brooklyn Law School.
  • Runner-up: University of Arkansas School of Law.
  • Semi-finalists: South Texas College of Law of Texas A&M; University, team members Hunter Barrow, Sherelle Whitmore, Margaret Cox; and DePaul University College of Law, team members Shauna Gutilla, Ken Yeadon and Lisa Barr.
  • Best brief: University of Texas School of Law, team members Juan Alcala, Emily Stephens and Erika Laremont.
  • Best oralist: University of California-Hastings College of Law, Gena Bertolini.

    Receiving gavels:

  • Runner-up best brief: Georgia State University College of Law, Joyce Gist, Nancy Greenwood and Catherine Rodrigue.
  • Runner-up best oralist: Brooklyn Law School, Robert Hoff.

    The competition involved students from 34 law schools, who argued a hypothetical case in which a high school junior enrolled in a school class on Web design attached a picture of a Confederate flag to her Web site. After she refused the school’s order to remove it, she was disciplined and lost class credit — prompting her parents to bring suit against the school.

    In addition to Merritt, judges for the final round of the competition, the only national moot court to focus solely on First Amendment issues:

  • Judge Richard S. Arnold, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit
  • Associate Justice Adolpho A. Birch, Tennessee Supreme Court
  • Senior Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • Judge Aleta A. Trauger, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee

    Semifinal round judges were:

  • Judge Todd J. Campbell, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee
  • Judge P. Michael Duffy, U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina
  • Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas
  • Magistrate Judge William J. Haynes Jr., U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

    “It was truly an honor to argue in front of this distinguished panel of judges, including federal appeals court judges,” said Brooklyn’s Robert Hoff. “It is especially gratifying to do so as a student, because I am not likely to have this honor for a long time in my career.” Hoff also said that in the moot court “we got the privilege to see people from different parts of the country and be exposed to their different views on the law and the art of appellate advocacy – both stylistically and substantively.”

    For more information, please contact:

    Gene Policinski
    First Amendment Center

    Wendy Holcomb

    First Amendment Center