University of Georgia law school takes top honors

Friday, February 24, 2006

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The team from University of Georgia School of Law took top honors at the 16th Annual National First Amendment Moot Court Competition today at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.

Winning team members were Mike Caplan and Warren Geller.

The runner-up team was from the University of California, Davis School of Law, represented by Danny Barak and Chad Mahalich.

In this year’s hypothetical problem, a college newspaper journalist is appealing a contempt-of-court holding, issued when she would not tell a state grand jury the name of the confidential source she relied on in a series of stories about the environmental practices of local business and government operations.

“I am still in a state of disbelief,” said Caplan. “I’m still soaking it up right now. It is an immense honor to argue in front of such a distinguished panel of federal judges.  It definitely is one of the highlights of my legal education.”

Said Geller: “It was nerve-wracking and intimidating but it was also incredibly exciting.”

Runner-up team member Barak, who also made the Moot Court semifinals last year, said: “It was a great panel and a great experience. I agreed with the panel that our opponents did a marvelous job and deserved to win.”

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: Genevieve Johnson and Paul Stern, American University, Washington College of Law.

  • Runner-up best brief: Michael Franck, Catherine Gellis, Boston University Law School.

  • Semifinalists: Faith Lovell and Andrew Wenzel, St. John’s University School of Law; Johnson and Stern, American University;

  • Quarterfinalists: Clete Samson and Vojtek Karpuk, Arizona State University College of Law; Jennifer O’Brien and April Strahan, South Texas College of Law; Liam West and Jay Sexton, Western New England College School of Law; and, Jaynie Randall and Jennifer Peresie, Yale Law School.

  • Best oralist: Allison Hickey, Boston College Law School.

  • Runner-up best oralist: Clete Samson, Arizona State University College of Law.

    The best-oralist award was named in 2005 the Richard S. Arnold Memorial Award in honor of former federal appeals court judge 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.

    “Complex legal issues involving journalists and confidential sources are being raised in a number of cases nationwide. Law students in this competition argued the implications of a 1972 Supreme Court decision, Branzburg v. Hayes, and how the various federal circuits have differed in applying that ruling,” said Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center.

    Competing this year in the two-day competition were 40 teams of students from law schools across the United States. More than 200 attorneys, professors, federal and state judges, and legal scholars judged the preliminary rounds and final rounds.

    “The performance of these student advocates gives me great optimism for the future of the profession,” said 10th Circuit Judge Deanell Tacha.

    Tiffany Villager, who as First Amendment Center research director spearheads the Moot Court program, said: “The level of oral advocacy was impressive and of the highest quality. It always inspires me to see the level of dedication and professionalism that these law students from across the country put into this First Amendment Moot Court competition.”

    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.

    Judges in the concluding rounds today included:

    Semifinal judges: Bernice B. Donald, district judge, Western District of Tennessee; Cornelia A. Clark, Tennessee Supreme Court, and Sidney A. Fitzwater, district judge, Northern District of Texas.

    Final-round judges: Martha Craig Daughtrey, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Robert L. Echols, chief judge, Middle District of Tennessee; Julia Smith Gibbons, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; William J. Haynes, district judge, Middle District of Tennessee; Gilbert S. Merritt, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Deanell R. Tacha, chief judge, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    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 in Arlington, Va. Its affiliation with Vanderbilt University is through the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies.

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