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
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
Best oralist ($500): Laura Ashley, Loyola University New Orleans College of
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
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
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
“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 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
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
Gene Policinski, 615/727-1600