George Mason takes top Moot Court prize

Friday, February 23, 2007

  • Legal Times Supreme Court Correspondent Tony Mauro wrote a blog during this year's Moot Court.

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The team from George Mason University School of Law won the 17th Annual National First Amendment Moot Court Competition today at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. Winning team members were Al Clarke and Samantha Mortlock.

    Runner-up in the two-day competition, sponsored by the First Amendment Center and the Vanderbilt University Law School, was the team from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Team members were Laura Cocus and Katie Francioni.

    Recognized for “best brief” in the competition were Bret Hobson and Lauren Mock of the University of Georgia School of Law; and for “best oralist,” Ryan Faulconer of the University of Virginia School of Law.

    “It was an intimidating experience but also it was a truly great honor to argue in front of a panel of such distinguished jurists,” said Al Clarke of George Mason.

    Added Mortlock: “I’m taking a First Amendment class this semester and next week we are discussing commercial speech — I think I’ll be ready to talk in class on the subject.”

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

  • Winning team ($2,000): George Mason University School of Law

  • Runner-up ($1,000): Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

  • Semi-finalists ($500 each): Brooklyn Law School and University of Georgia School of Law

  • Best brief ($500): University of Georgia School of Law

  • Best oralist ($500): Ryan Faulconer

    Receiving gavels were:

  • Runner-up best brief: Brooklyn Law School

  • Runner-up best oralist: Kyle Unser, University of Arkansas School of Law

    The competition this year focused on a hypothetical case involving commercial speech, specifically attorney advertising. Teams of student advocates from 35 law schools argued both sides of complex legal issues involving whether a state regulation of lawyer ads is constitutional.

    “This annual competition provides future lawyers with an opportunity to consider fundamental questions about our basic freedoms, this year focusing on an emerging area, commercial speech,” said Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center. “This hypothetical case raises several interesting questions: Are attorney ads fully First Amendment-protected political speech, or less-protected commercial speech?”

    “This year’s problem presented law students from across the country a unique opportunity to examine and discuss a complex area of First Amendment law,” said Tiffany Villager, director of First Amendment Studies for the First Amendment Center, who directs the Moot Court program. “The success of the competition is a tribute to the hard work of the Vanderbilt Moot Court Board under the learned guidance of Professor Tom McCoy.”

    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.

    The “best oralist” award for the highest “oral argument” score in preliminary rounds comes with an engraved gavel in honor of Richard S. Arnold, formerly a judge on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Arnold, who died in 2004, 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.

    Semi-final and final-round judges in the 2007 competition included, from the federal judiciary: Steven M. Colloton, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Martha Craig Daughtrey, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Robert L. Echols, district judge, Middle District of Tennessee; Sidney A. Fitzwater, district judge, Northern District of Texas; Julia Smith Gibbons, 6th Circuit; Marian F. Harrison, bankruptcy judge, Middle District of Tennessee; William J. Haynes Jr., district judge, Middle District of Tennessee; and Aleta A. Trauger, district judge, Middle District of Tennessee. Joining them from the state judiciary were Cornelia A. Clark and Gary R. Wade, Tennessee Supreme Court.

    The demanding competition requires students to write an appellate brief and to answer challenging legal questions from panels of judges. The event requires a thorough understanding of First Amendment law, poise under pressure and expertise in fielding complex legal questions.

    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 offices 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 contact:
    Gene Policinski, 615/727-1600