St. John’s University team takes home top Moot Court honors

Monday, February 24, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The team from the St. John’s University School of Law, New York, won the 24th Annual National First Amendment Moot Court Competition on Feb. 20-21 at the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. Winning team members were Kelly Porcelli and David Hommel.

Runner-up in the two-day competition, sponsored by the Institute’s First Amendment Center and Vanderbilt University Law School, was the team from Georgetown University Law School. Team members were Danielle Scoliere and Sean Quinn.

The competition problem was a hypothetical case involving a fictional candidate for judicial office, who was fined for directly requesting campaign donations during a speech to a small group, which violated regulations on making such solicitations.  The problem, while not based on any particular case or incident, reflects an ongoing debate nationwide over how or whether judicial candidates should be treated any differently under campaign and campaign-finance regulations than are candidates for legislative or executive branch offices.

Semi-finalists were teams from William and Mary Law School, Kevin Elliker and Katlin Cravatta; and
Emory University Law School, David Anderson and Ashley Baxter.

Quarterfinalists were: Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Eli Litoff and Sarah Ferguson; American University Washington School of Law, Allison Pearson and Alexis Miller; Georgia State University College of Law, Susan Haynes and Benjamin Stubbs; and Michigan State University College of Law, Louis Kraus and Nola Garcia.

Recognized for “best brief” in the competition were Loyola’s Litoff and Ferguson. Litoff also was recognized with the Richard S. Arnold Best Oralist Award.

Receiving competition gavels were the runner-up best brief: St. John’s Porcelli and Hommel; and runner-up best oralist: Nicholas Poli of Boston College Law School.

The 25th anniversary competition is set for Feb. 19-20, 2015. Recognized as one of the nation’s finest constitutional-law competitions, the National First Amendment Moot Court Competition annually attracts many of the nation’s top law schools. A special briefing session on the issues involved in each year’s competition is conducted the evening prior to the event. This year’s briefing was presented by First Amendment scholar and law professor David Hudson.

First Amendment Center founder John Seigenthaler closed the event with remarks citing the importance of an independent judiciary to the nation, and to defense of the five freedoms of the First Amendment.

“The National First Amendment Moot Court strives to expose significant numbers of future lawyers to vital First Amendment questions. Our hope is that these soon-to-be attorneys will be advocates and defenders of the five freedoms of the First Amendment throughout their legal careers,” said Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute.

Competition in early rounds during the two-day event is held at the Vanderbilt University Law School; and at the John Seigenthaler Center on the Vanderbilt campus, home to the Newseum Institute’s 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, and an annual judge in the Moot Court competition. 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 2014 competition were: Judges Martha Craig Daughtrey, Bernice B. Donald and Jane Stranch, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Sidney A. Fitzwater, chief judge, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas; Judge Marian Harrison, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Middle District of Tennessee; William J. Haynes Jr., chief judge, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee; Judge James C. Mahan, District Court of Nevada; and Judge Susan Webber Wright, Eastern District Court of Arkansas.

The demanding competition requires students to write an appellate brief and to answer challenging legal questions from the judges in multiple rounds leading to the finals. The event requires a thorough understanding of First Amendment law, poise under pressure and expertise in fielding complex legal questions. More than 150 attorneys from the Nashville area, along with nearly 100 students from the Vanderbilt School of Law, along with staff of the Newseum Institute, are involved in staging the competition.

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About the 2014 National First Amendment Moot Court sponsors:

  • The Newseum champions the five freedoms of the First Amendment through education, information and entertainment. One of the top attractions in Washington, D.C., the Newseum’s 250,000-square-foot news museum offers visitors a state-of-the-art experience that blends news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits. The Newseum Institute serves as a forum for First Amendment study, exploration and education. The Newseum is a 501(c)(3) public charity funded by generous individuals, corporations and foundations, including the Freedom Forum.

For more information on the Newseum Institute and the Newseum, visit newseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

  • For more than 125 years, Vanderbilt Law School has trained excellent lawyers for careers throughout the United States and around the world. Located on the Vanderbilt University campus in Nashville, the law school combines the advantages of a stimulating university community, a top-tier faculty, a small, carefully selected student body, and a vibrant, livable city. Known for offering a rigorous academic program in a collegial, supportive atmosphere, Vanderbilt Law School attracts law students and faculty seeking a first-rate academic institution that also affords an excellent quality of life.

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Press contact:
Gene Policinski
202-292-6290