November 17th, 2014 (Jupiter, FL)–– Every year passionate college undergraduates all around the world prepare and train for moot court tournaments. This month, more than 350 teams from across the United States are competing in ten different regional competitions with the hope of earning a chance to participate in the Moot Court Championship Tournament. The national championship of intercollegiate moot court will be held on January 16th and 17th, 2014, at the Florida International University College of Law in Miami, Florida. This year eight students from Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College competed in the South Atlantic Regional Moot Court Tournament at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, representing one of the three participating universities from the state of Florida.
Moot court is an extracurricular activity in which students simulate arguing a legal case before the Supreme Court. Each case is designed to pose questions relating to two constitutional issues. This year the case focused on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and a doctor’s freedom of speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The case includes the facts, an appellate majority opinion, a dissent, and a list of Supreme Court cases that can be used by students to develop and support their oral arguments. The competitors must develop two arguments and be prepared to represent either side¬: the petitioner (their clients) or the respondent (the State of Olympus). Benjamin Paley, a junior concentrating in Political Science, plans to attend law school upon graduation. Paley believes Moot Court to be one of the most rewarding experiences of his undergraduate experience. “Learning to get up there and respond to those questions takes courage; my speaking skills have dramatically improved. If you can survive Moot Court, you can survive anything,” he explains. Alexandra Ledesman, a sophomore double concentrating in Biology and Law and Society, plans to attend medical school after graduation. However, when asked, she confesses that she really enjoys the competition and the environment shared with attorneys, judges, and other motivated students. In addition to Paley and Ledesman, freshmen Kahlil Ricketts and Franklin Sklar, sophomore Selene C. Vazquez, junior Andrew Faris, and senior Mumbi Ngugi also competed at the regional tournament. “Everyone in our team has grown so much in just the past few months. They've put in time, hard work, and dedication to becoming better orators, and it shows!” explains moot court competitor Ngugi.
At the Honors College, students have the opportunity to take a course over the fall semester with Associate Dean Dr. Mark Tunick and attorney Ashlee Richman as their coaches who help them prepare for this competition. Students also have the opportunity to present their arguments in front of many local attorneys from different fields of law, who volunteer to serve as judges for their practice sessions. “The North Palm Beach County Bar Association, Honors College alumni who are now attorneys, such as Wesley Mathieu and Jeffrey Van Treese, and our coaches have all been instrumental in our training,” explains Ricketts. The class is designed to help students develop analytical and public speaking skills. “The class involves discussion of court cases, brainstorming sessions to help develop arguments, sessions addressing public speaking and style, and practice sessions in which students present arguments, respond to questioning, and grill and provide feedback to other students,” states Associate Dean and coach Dr. Mark Tunick. The course also offers the opportunity to participate in statewide practice scrimmages. All of the Honors College’s teams were able to travel to the University of Tampa on November 1st and 2nd, 2014, to gain experience and learn from other teams before the regional tournament.
Some of the opposing teams these Honors College students faced at the South Atlantic Regional Moot Court Tournament include schools such as Duke University, the University of Georgia, Middle Tennessee State University, Armstrong State University, and the College of the Holy Cross. But such stiff competition did not intimidate the Honors College’s teams; they felt well prepared and were ready to give it their best. “Everyone has set the standards high for others to follow next year; I am excited to see where our teams are headed from here. The idea of hosting a practice scrimmage one day at the Honors College has been mentioned,” says competitor Faris. The Honors College is very proud of the achievements of all of its Moot Court competitors and is very thankful for the support the program has received from the North Palm Beach County Bar Association, alumni, and the local community. The Honors College is also very excited to hear the final results within the next few weeks, and find out if one of its teams will be prevailing to the national tournament in the spring.
About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.