Cardozo School of Law wins ’05 Moot Court

Friday, February 25, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The team from Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, took top honors at the 15th Annual National First Amendment Moot Court Competition today at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.

Winning team members were Rachel Lubert and Rebecca Hagenson. These two second-year law students turned tragedy into triumph with their victory. Last week, their coach — third-year law student Liza Suckle — passed away tragically. “We dedicate this win to Liza,” Hagenson said. “We just wanted to come here and make her proud.”

The student advocates expressed awe at the competition and the panel of federal judges before whom they had to argue. “It was an absolutely amazing experience,” Lubert said.

Final-round judge Martha Craig Daughtrey of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said: “These two young women were simply superb. They are going to make fabulous advocates.”

Also impressive as advocates was the runner-up team from the University of Kentucky College of Law, represented by Caleb Thomas and Thomas Goodwin.

The winning team receives $2,000, the runner-up $1,000. Semifinalists and the best brief and best oralist win $500 each. Other competition winners included:

  • Best brief: Chicago-Kent College of Law (Illinois Institute of Technology)
  • Runner-up best brief: Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
  • Semifinalists: Chicago-Kent College of Law, University of California-Davis School of Law
  • Quarterfinalists: CUNY School of Law, Brooklyn Law School, University of Virginia School of Law, Duke University School of Law
  • Best oralist: Kelley Miller, Western New England School of Law
  • Runner-up best oralist: Thiru Vignaraja, Harvard University

    The best-oralist award was named the Richard S. Arnold Memorial Award in honor of former distinguished federal appeals court judge Richard S. Arnold, who served on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Arnold, who died in 2004, participated in this Moot Court competition for many years. He was a staunch advocate for better press-bar relations so that the public would be better informed about the activities of the federal court system.

    “Judge Arnold also was a great supporter of the law students participating in the National First Amendment Moot Court Competition. He cared deeply for the First Amendment, the future of the legal profession and an independent judiciary,” said Tiffany Villager, director of legal research and longtime coordinator of the Moot Court Competition for the First Amendment Center.

    The challenging moot court argument this year featured the hypothetical case of Vandalia Board of Education v. Anna G., a case that dealt with whether school officials could punish a public middle school student for her drawing depicting violence. The problem explored whether the student expression was protected by the First Amendment as free speech or was subject to regulation by school authorities either as a form of “true threat” or as a disruption of the school’s learning environment.

    “First Amendment rights of students regularly are colliding nationwide with school administrators’ concerns over safety and security, as well as an orderly education process,” said Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center.

    Competition began yesterday morning in rounds held both at the Vanderbilt School of Law and at the John Seigenthaler Center on the Vanderbilt campus, home to the Nashville offices of the First Amendment Center.

    Semifinal and final-round judges featured an impressive array of real-life judges.

    Semifinal judges: Sidney A. Fitzwater, district judge, Northern District of Texas; William J. Haynes, district judge, Middle District of Tennessee; Marian F. Harrison, bankruptcy judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Middle Tennessee; and Sven E. Holmes, chief judge, Northern District of Oklahoma.

    Final-round judges: Todd J. Campbell, district judge, Middle District of Tennessee; Martha Craig Daughtrey, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Robert L. Echols, chief judge, Middle District of Tennessee; Julia S. Gibbons, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Gilbert S. Merritt, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Justice A.A. Birch, Tennessee Supreme Court.

    The First Amendment Center works to preserve and protect First Amendment freedoms through information and education.

    The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of free-expression issues, including freedom of speech, of the press and of religion, the right to assemble and petition the government. The First Amendment Center is an operating program of the Freedom Forum and is associated with the Newseum.

    The center has at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and Arlington, Va. Its affiliation with Vanderbilt University is through the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies.

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    Press contacts: Jenny Atkinson or Gene Policinski, 615/727-1600