First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
Moot Court competition

  • 2009 winners
  • 2009 audio slideshow
  • Photos from the 2009 awards ceremony
  • 2008 analysis
  • 2008 winners news release

    The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — the cornerstone of American democracy — is the focus of the National First Amendment Moot Court Competition. Recognized as one of the nation's finest constitutional law competitions, this annual event features a current First Amendment controversy.

    During the two-day competition, each team will participate in a minimum of four rounds, arguing a hypothetical based on a current First Amendment controversy before panels of accomplished jurists, legal scholars and attorneys.

    Past participants in the National First Amendment Moot Court Competition have represented law schools nationwide, from Brooklyn Law School to Duke University to Arizona State to Harvard.

    2009 Competition Information

  • Competitor briefs
  • Team pairings
  • Competition schedule
  • Competition problem
  • Team information form
  • Team travel form
  • Official rules
  • Oral argument scoring guidelines
  • Oral argument scoring sheet
  • Acceptance letter
  • Invitation to compete
  • Intent-to-Compete Form

  • When

    The Moot Court Competition is Thursday and Friday, Feb. 19-20, 2009.


  • Jan. 18, 2009: Deadline to reserve discounted rooms at Embassy Suites.
  • Jan. 21: Briefs and Team Information Sheet due.
  • Jan. 22: Competitors’ briefs will be posted on the competition Web site.
  • Feb. 2: Team Travel Information Form must be postmarked no later than this date.
  • Thursday and Friday, Feb. 19-20, 2009: Dates of the 2009 National First Amendment Moot Court Competition.


    The competition is open to 32 two-member teams (2nd- and 3rd-year students only) from ABA-accredited law schools. If the competition is oversubscribed, admission will be based on the quality of the team and the school's commitment to the competition. To assist in making these determinations, please submit team-member resumes (if available) and any other information (e.g., team-selection process) that would suggest a serious commitment to a high level of performance in the competition. All application materials must be submitted by Oct. 10, 2008. Entrants will be notified by e-mail on Oct. 31 regarding their competition status. Fees will be refunded to teams not chosen for the competition.




    The competition consists of four preliminary rounds, quarterfinals, semifinals and the championship round. Five thousand dollars will be awarded to the winning teams' schools: Winner ($2,000), Runner-up ($1,000), Semifinalists ($500 each), Best Brief ($500) and Best Oralist ($500).


    The competition will take place on Vanderbilt University's campus and at the First Amendment Center, also on the campus.

    Travel & Accommodations

    The National First Amendment Moot Court Competition has procured a block of rooms for all competitors at the Embassy Suites, within walking distance of the Vanderbilt campus.

    For more information, call Embassy Suites at 615/320-8899 or use this reservation link before Jan. 18, 2009. After that date, all reservation requests will be accepted on a space- and rate-available basis. Competitors must clearly identify that they are a part of the National First Amendment Moot Court Competition to receive a discounted room rate.


    If you have further questions, contact the Vanderbilt Moot Court Board at 615/727-1345 or by e-mail:

    The Problem

    More than 18 million people work in public employment at the federal, state or local level in the United States. A significant portion of federal court dockets involve retaliation claims filed by public employees who allege their employers punished them for their expression. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court altered the legal landscape of employee First Amendment rights with its decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos, holding that employees do not possess First Amendment right in speech related to their official job duties. The 2009 Moot Court problem requires student-competitors to examine the meaning of Garcetti and whether an employee spoke more as a citizen or as an employee. Additionally, competitors must argue whether employees spoke on a matter of public concern and whether the employee’s First Amendment rights trump a public employer’s right to an efficient, disruptive-free workplace.


    Past participants in the National First Amendment Moot Court Competition have represented law schools nationwide, from Brooklyn Law School to Duke University to Arizona State to Harvard.

  • Year Competition Winner Runner-up Best Brief Oralist
    2009 J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University University of Mississippi School of Law J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University University of California, Davis School of Law
    2008 University of Georgia School of Law University of Washington School of Law Boston University Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
    2007 George Mason University School of Law Loyola University New Orleans College of Law University of Georgia School of Law University of Virginia School of Law
    2006 University of Georgia School of Law University of California, Davis School of Law American University, Washington College of Law Boston College Law School
    2005 Cardozo School of Law University of Kentucky Chicago-Kent College of Law Western New England College
    2004 Western New England College University of Georgia Boston University Duke University
    2003 South Texas Mississippi University of Utah American University
    2002 Villanova Northwestern Northwestern Northwestern
    2001 South Texas Georgia California (Davis) University of San Diego
    2000 University of San Diego South Texas Villanova North Carolina
    1999 Brooklyn Law School Arkansas (Fayetteville) University of Texas California (Hastings)
    1998 Arizona State University of Texas Arizona State University of San Diego
    1997 Georgia South Texas Emory Arkansas (Fayetteville)
    1996 Duke South Carolina Duke Arkansas (Fayetteville)
    1995 Dayton Dayton (2nd team) New York University Detroit University
    1994 Arkansas Duke William & Mary New York University
    1993 William & Mary New York University Wisconsin New York University
    1992 South Texas Cooley Mercer South Texas

    < TR>
    2008 Winner Competition problem   2007 Winner Competition problem
    2006 Winner Competition problem   2005 Winner Competition problem
    2004 Winner Competition problem Best brief

    Note: Licensing of competition problems

    The copyright for the National First Amendment Moot Court Competition problem is the property of the Vanderbilt University Law School Moot Court Board. Any unauthorized use of a competition hypothetical is prohibited by law. For licensing of the competition problems, please contact the Vanderbilt Moot Court Board or Tiffany Villager at

    The Judging

    Panels of state and federal judges will hear semifinal and final-round arguments, while more than 200 attorneys, judges and law professors will serve as early-round judges. Below are a few of the judges from past years and their comments on the competition and competitors.
    "In the Supreme Court we see advocates all the time looking at the clock, perhaps looking for some relief. Your [the competitors] performances are a hopeful sign for future advocacy."

    The Hon. Sandra Day O'Connor
    U.S. Supreme Court Justice

    "I have sat on moot courts of all kinds across the country, and the First Amendment Center/Vanderbilt competition is consistently the most interesting and professionally organized of all."

    The Hon. Gilbert S. Merritt
    Circuit Judge, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

    "There are many moot court competitions, but this one makes a unique contribution to the study of law and to the public consciousness of what is important about law. The First Amendment is and should be first. It is the cornerstone of all our liberties and, together with the Legislative Article, the most important part of the Constitution. I applaud the efforts of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in putting together this competition. It has been a pleasure to participate in it."

    The Hon. Richard S. Arnold
    Circuit Judge, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
    (Judge Arnold died on Sept. 23, 2004.)

    "In this First Amendment Moot Court Competition the issues are intellectually stimulating and the students demonstrate exceptional advocacy skills. The competition provides an excellent source of debate and discussion of the critical importance of the First Amendment to our society."

    The Hon. William J. Haynes, Jr.
    District Judge, U.S. Middle District of Tennessee

    "Each year, students from a growing number of schools are fortunate to participate in one of the country's premiere competitions. And the judges are equally fortunate-the quality of the advocacy and the degree of intellectual stimulation are simply first rate."

    The Hon. Martha Craig Daughtrey
    Circuit Judge, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
    — First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.


    Tension between 1st, 6th Amendments reflected in Moot Court '04
    Western New England College School of Law takes top honors in competition involving gag-order against juror, reporter. 03.01.04

    University of Georgia law school takes top honors
    UC-Davis is runner-up in 16th annual competition; hypothetical case involves college journalist's refusal to identify source. 02.24.06

    University of Georgia wins top Moot Court honors
    Runner-up is University of Washington in competition involving license plates, viewpoint discrimination. 02.22.08

    Western New England College School of Law wins First Amendment Moot Court competition
    News release Competitors argued First Amendment issues involving constitutionality of gag order imposed on juror in politically charged trial. 02.27.04

    print this   Print

    Last system update: Sunday, May 10, 2009 | 06:52:35
    About this site
    About the First Amendment
    About the First Amendment Center
    First Amendment programs
    State of the First Amendment

    Religious liberty in public schools
    First Reports
    Supreme Court
    First Amendment publications
    First Amendment Center history
    Freedom Sings™
    First Amendment

    Congressional Research Service reports
    Guest editorials
    FOI material
    The First Amendment

    Lesson plans
    Contact us
    Privacy statement
    Related links