Mar 4, 2008

Moot Court team making decided strides

by Mattison Brooks

Liberty University’s moot court team traveled to the undergraduate National Moot Court competition in late January. In only its second year of the competition, hosted by the American Collegiate Association, the team placed ninth overall out of 63 others.
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The event focuses on scenario trials, where teams are asked to present an appeal and case based upon the assignment and position given. 
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“There is often confusion between moot court and mock trial,” Assistant Professor of the Center for Law Michelle Rickert explained. “Moot court takes place before the supreme court, while the mock trials are more like ‘Law and Order,’ before a judge and jury.”
“The teams at Nationals are made up of two-person teams, which then argue and deal with an appeal in front of three judges against another two-person team,” Coach Grant Rost explained. “The judges are asking questions the entire time, doing all they can to find holes in the case for both sides. It is up to teams to defend their points being made, and at the end have a stronger case.”
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Liberty’s team was comprised of sophomores Mike Hewitt and Nicole Mazzarella. The competition, which was held in Des Moines, Iowa, began with a rocky start for Liberty’s competitors. The day of their departure for the competition, the team’s takeoff was delayed and they missed their flight. On top of all this, they also lost their luggage and barely managed to check in on time for the competition, eventually walking into the main room late.
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“We lost all our luggage on the way,” Hewitt said. “No suits, no toiletries — nothing.”
Teams are judged upon professionalism and their presentation of their assignment; professional appearance and attire are taken into account under that category.
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“We walked into the main hall wearing what we wore on the plane. Everyone else was wearing suits,” Hewitt said.  “And it was like all at once — all the teams, lawyers and judges — just turned and watched us walk in.”
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The team went on to win its preliminaries against the No. 1 ranked team, then went onto the elimination round to beat the No. 4 ranked team. Liberty’s team was beaten in the following round by the No. 2 ranked team, although Hewitt said that it was “very close” when it came to the final scores.
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Despite all the hardships, challenges and the age of the law program at Liberty, the team performed exceptionally well, capturing the No. 9 spot at the competition.
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“We began practicing back in October,” Rost said. “That consists of three to four hours of practice, one time a week, not including the amount of work being done by the students independently. We didn’t find out we officially qualified until basically one month before the competition. I’m happy with how we did based on all the circumstances.”
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Rost also admitted that there were schools in attendance that are solely dedicated to the moot court program, and that factor always gives other schools at the competition a run for their money.
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“Patrick Henry, specifically — they are easily the 800-pound gorilla in the room. They pool a great portion of their resources into the moot court competitions,” Rost said.
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He also noted that the competition is really about the one-on-one with the students who are competing, but the winning teams and school are also given something besides the obvious sense of victory with a win in a court battle.
“(We get) a big trophy and bragging rights. It’s absolutely worth it,” Rost said.
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The moot court will be holding open tryouts later this semester in preparation for the next season of regional competitions. Contact Grant Rost at grost@liberty.edu for more information.
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Contact Mattison Brooks at embrooks@liberty.edu.


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