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University of Georgia wins top Moot Court honors
News release

First Amendment Center
02.22.08

Final-round judges and competition winners, from left: Cornelia A. Clark, Tennessee Supreme Court; Steven M. Colloton, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Martha Craig Daughtrey, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Emily Shingler, University of Georgia School of Law; Gilbert Merritt, 6th Circuit; Robert L. Echols, district judge, Middle District of Tennessee; Leslie Horne, University of Georgia School of Law; Julia S. Gibbons, 6th Circuit; Reggie B. Walton, district judge, District of Columbia.

NASHVILLE — The team from University of Georgia School of Law won the 18th Annual National First Amendment Moot Court Competition today at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. Winning team members were Leslie Horne and Emily Shingler.

Runner-up in the two-day competition, sponsored by the First Amendment Center and the Vanderbilt University Law School, was the team from University of Washington School of Law. Team members were Travis Weaver and Nelissa Milfeld.

Recognized for “best brief” in the competition were Connie Choi and Cynthia Kopka of Boston University School of Law; and for “best oralist,” Laura Ashley of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

“The issue, particularly viewpoint discrimination, is so complex that I felt like I just barely scratched the surface, so this was really a good opportunity to learn it more,” said Shingler of the winning University of Georgia team.

The competition, said Horne, “certainly gave me a pretty good background as far as the First Amendment goes.”

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

Winning team ($2,000): University of Georgia School of Law

Runner-up ($1,000): University of Washington School of Law

Semi-finalists ($500 each): New York University School of Law and Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Best brief ($500): Connie Choi and Cynthia Kopka, Boston University School of Law

Best oralist ($500): Laura Ashley, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Receiving gavels were:

Runner-up best brief: Leslie Horne and Emily Shingler, University of Georgia School of Law

Runner-up best oralist: Stuart Mitchell, J. Reuben Clark Law School – Brigham Young University

Recognized as one of the nation’s finest constitutional-law competitions, the First Amendment Moot Court Competition attracts many of the nation’s top law schools.

The competition this year focused on a hypothetical case involving state specialty license plates. Teams of student advocates from 35 law schools argued both sides of New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission v. Stone, which challenged the student competitors to immerse themselves in such complex First Amendment issues as the government-speech doctrine, the public-forum doctrine and the viewpoint-neutrality principle.

“This annual competition provides future lawyers with an opportunity to consider fundamental questions of free expression and religious liberty,” said Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center. “In arguing this year’s hypothetical case, students considered the extent to which government may control speech, in this instance on specialty license plates issued by states — a real issue very much in the news in recent months.”

“As they say in the opening of 'Law and Order,' our competition hypotheticals are 'ripped from the headlines,'” said Tiffany Villager, director of First Amendment Studies for the First Amendment Center, who directs the Moot Court program. “We look for cutting-edge First Amendment issues that are newsworthy at competition time.”

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 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; Bernice Donald, district judge, Western District of Tennessee; Robert L. Echols, district judge, Middle District of Tennessee; Sidney Fitzwater, chief judge, Northern District of Texas; Julia S. Gibbons, 6th Circuit; Marian F. Harrison, bankruptcy judge, Middle District of Tennessee; William J. Haynes Jr., district judge, Middle District of Tennessee; Gilbert Merritt, 6th Circuit; Reggie B. Walton, district judge, District of Columbia; and Susan Webber Wright, district judge, Eastern District of Arkansas. Joining them from the state judiciary will be Cornelia A. Clark, Tennessee Supreme Court.

A two-person team from the George Mason University School of Law 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. Its affiliation with Vanderbilt University is through the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies.

Press contact:
Gene Policinski, 615/727-1600


Related

License plates are focus for ’08 Moot Court legal teams

News release Hypothetical case in First Amendment competition involves free speech on state specialty license plates. 02.19.08

Inconsistent circuit rulings complicate Moot Court case
By Josh Tatum University of Georgia law school team prevails in First Amendment hypothetical involving a state's denial of a license-plate request. 02.26.08

Moot Court competition

License plates

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