Students interested in Constitutional Law had an opportunity to participate in or attend an exhibition of appellate advocacy being debated on Nov. 8 and 9, at Loras.
Loras was host to the 2013 American Collegiate Moot Court Association (ACMA) Upper Midwest Regional Moot Court Tournament. The ACMA is the only national organization that exists for intercollegiate students to try their hands at moot court. The organization was founded by University of Texas political science professor Dr. Charles Knerr, and Dallas attorney Andrew Sommerman. The Championship Tournament has been hosted by the ACMA since 2001. In 2006, the organization decided to implement national qualifying tournaments at colleges and universities all across the nation, such as the Regional Moot Court Tournament.
Moot court differs from mock trial in the fact that mock trial is usually a simulated jury trial or bench trial, while moot court is a simulation of appellate court (court of appeals) or arbitral case (resolution of disputes outside the court) on constitutional issues. Many of the mock trial participants at Loras also partake in moot court. Senior Jessie Donels is one of these students, and also is the captain of mock trial. The moot court team is led by coaches Deone Merkel and Christopher Budzisz.
“I like moot as opposed to mock because it is a purely legal exercise. Mock trial requires a lot of theatrics and flare. Most of the points go to theatrical skills such as acting and emoting,” said Donels. “In moot, there are 100 points per four categories: knowledge of subject matter, response to questions, forensic skill and courtroom demeanor, and organization, logic, and clarity of the argument. The judging is less subjective and more focused on your abilities to put together a case and convince the judges that you are right. It is argument focused, which suits me well.”
Besides being enjoyable for its participants, moot court provides numerous other benefits for students as well.
“The benefits of participating in Moot Court from a student level are multiple. If the student has any interest in going to law school, it is an excellent exposure to some of the rigors they will face,” said Merkel. “For all students, interested in law or not, the constitutional issues that it deals with are important to learn about since they have huge impact on us all. Additionally, Moot court is a great way to hone speaking skills. It requires students to think on their feet in order to answer the questions that the judges ask. Moot court is a great combination of critical thinking and oral communication.”
The case for this tournament revolved around a potential violation of the Fourth Amendment (warrantless tracking of the petitioner via cell phone technology) and an Article II issue, which was whether or not the powers of the president included the right as Commander-in-Chief to detain the same petitioner indefinitely as a potential terrorist. Students participate in the competition in teams of two. Three teams of Loras students participated in this particular competition.
At the end of the first competition day, Donels and fellow senior Dale Elenteny ranked fourth overall. All three of the Loras teams advanced to the second competition day. Sophomore Blake Gibney and senior Megan Horst joined Donels and Elenteny in earning a spot in the top eight, but were unable to move on to the semifinals. Sophomore Julian Valdes and first-year Brandy Rubin made up the third Loras team. The teams that placed in the top three on Saturday qualified for Nationals, which are going to be held in January in Arizona.
“We had a very successful Moot Court Regional Tournament this past weekend. While Loras did not earn a bid to Nationals, our three teams performed well and gained valuable experience. We are hopeful that the majority of our competitors will be back to argue next season,” said Merkel.
Students interested in participating in moot court should contact either of the coaches or the current team members.