Moot Court: A 2L Team Member’s Perspective

satiraby John Satira, Class of 2017

Last year, I made the decision to try out for the William & Mary Moot Court Team, and I ended up making the cut! This past week, I have been helping to judge and select new members for the Moot Court Team, and the experience has had me recollect on my experience with Moot Court over the past year. So far, as a second-year member on the Moot Court Team, I have been able to participate in a few different experiences thanks to Moot Court.

The first has been being involved with the Bushrod T. Washington Tournament. Each year, the Moot Court Team holds the intra-school Bushrod Tournament as a tryout competition for new members to join the Team. The tournament releases a problem over winter break about either a First Amendment, Second Amendment, or Fourth Amendment issue. The problem consists of a fact pattern and two mock court opinions that lay out a particular legal issue with two very compelling arguments on either side. Competitors are then tasked with formulating a 15-minute oral argument for each party in the case, and then the competitors present their arguments to justices (current team members) who interrupt them with questions—just like a real appellate argument. After presenting, the justices judge the competitors’ oral arguments, and after two or three weeks of competition, the top twenty competitors or so make the team as first-year members. I have had a blast being a justice for the tournament, because I have been able to help grade competitor’s arguments and presentation style while still being able to give them feedback to encourage improvement. Plus, it has been great to see so much interest in joining the Moot Court Team!

Moot Court

After making the team, each Moot Court member is required to take the Advanced Brief Writing class during the Fall semester following their selection to the Moot Court Team. Advanced Brief Writing helps to prepare oral argument and appellate writing skills, and the class is currently taught by Professor Benjamin Hatch, who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court. Needless to say, Professor Hatch is well aware as to what makes an appellate argument persuasive. During my time in the class, we wrote briefs and gave oral arguments on the case Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which the Supreme Court actually heard arguments on while I was in the class. While I knew absolutely nothing about election law going into the class, I feel like I learned a lot of substantive material on election law along with improving my general knowledge of appellate practice.

Right now, in the early part of the Spring semester, I am preparing for my assigned tournament for the year. Each team member is required to compete in at least one inter-school tournament a year. My teammates have traveled pretty far to compete in places such as Chicago, Louisiana, and New York, or if they are do not want to travel that much, there are a variety of other tournaments in Virginia and Washington, D.C. My upcoming tournament is at West Virginia University and focuses on law that implicates energy, environmental, and sustainability issues. While writing the brief has been challenging, as I know very little about that topic, I am looking forward to traveling to Morgantown, West Virginia, with my teammate and experiencing my first inter-school tournament. Wish us luck!

The Moot Court Team does a variety of other events as well, such as hosting its own inter-school William B. Spong Tournament, which is now in its 45th year. The tournament is student-run, so as a team member, I have been required to help out with the tournament in some capacity since I joined the team. Also, we have an annual banquet to celebrate the successes of the team at the end of the Spring semester. While being involved with Moot Court takes up a lot of time and is quite a bit of work, I do feel as though I have learned a lot from the experience. I am excited to welcome the new team members soon!

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