This year’s hypothetical case: religious symbols on public property

Friday, February 10, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The 22nd annual National First Amendment Moot Court Competition, sponsored by the First Amendment Center and Vanderbilt University Law School, will be conducted Feb. 16-17.

Recognized as one of the nation’s finest constitutional-law competitions, it attracts many of the nation’s top law schools. The competition this year focuses on a hypothetical case involving the display of a 9/11 memorial with a religious symbol on government property.  The competitors will address the intersection between the government-speech doctrine and the establishment clause.

Teams of student advocates from 38 law schools will argue both sides of the hypothetical case, which challenges the student competitors to immerse themselves in complex First Amendment issues.

“Each year the competition gives future lawyers a chance to consider fundamental First Amendment questions,” said Gene Policinski, senior vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center.

More than 100 attorneys, professors, federal and state judges, and legal scholars will judge the preliminary rounds and final rounds in the two-day Moot Court Competition.

Awards are presented to winning, runner-up and semi-finalist teams, and to individuals for “best brief” and “best oralist.” Competition is conducted in rounds held both at the Vanderbilt University Law School and at the John Seigenthaler Center on the Vanderbilt campus, home to the Nashville offices of the First Amendment Center.

The student who receives the highest “oral argument” score in preliminary rounds will receive 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.

A two-person team from the College of William and Mary Law School won last year’s competition. The demanding competition requires students to write an appellate brief and to answer challenging legal questions from the 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 and at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Press contact:
Gene Policinski, 615/727-1600

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