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Kendra Johnson Wins Eighth Annual 2L/3L Moot Court Oral Advocacy Tournament

October 13, 2012

On Saturday, October 13, 2012, after an intensive week of competition, Kendra Johnson (Class of 2013) has officially claimed victory in this year’s Eighth Annual 2L/3L Moot Court Tournament.  The tournament was held in the Towns Alumni Lecture Hall and was hosted by the Moot Court Board of Liberty University School of Law. Benjamin White (Class of 2014) was pronounced runner-up and Adam Walton (Class of 2014) won overall Best Brief.

“We had an opportunity this year to allow each of the competitors to compete in five preliminary rounds before they advanced to the elimination rounds.  That meant that the quality of the advocacy during those elimination rounds was superb,” added Professor Scott Thompson, director of the Center for Lawyering Skills at Liberty University School of Law.  “Once again, our students have acquitted themselves well and continued to impress the local bench and bar with their advocacy.”

This year’s hypothetical case involved the fictitious inmate, David Silver, an Orthodox Jew who participated in Beverly Cliffs State Prison’s religious meal program.  During lunch one day, Silver was involved in a fight and his meal was thrown to the floor.  Silver was not given another meal and was too afraid to go to dinner.  After becoming lightheaded, Silver ate non-kosher food from a vending machine. The prison removed him from the religious meal program because he had to deviate from his kosher diet.

The legal issues involved whether Mr. Silver’s religious belief was burdened by the government’s zero tolerance policy; whether the government has a compelling interest that justifies the burden on Silver; and whether the government has burdened Silver using the least restrictive means possible.

As with tradition, nine practicing judges from across the country-visited Liberty to judge the final round this year, including a Supreme Court Justice from Idaho, Daniel T. Eismann.  Commenting on the quality of the competitors, Judge Eismann said, “It was obvious the students studied thoroughly; I was amazed at their excellent grasp of the facts and the case law involved.  The truth is, as lawyers, your credibility is always tied to how well you know the facts.  I found the students credibility here today among the best I have seen.”

In addition to Judge Eismann, the bench for the final round consisted of a highly accomplished judiciary including the Honorable William N. Alexander II, Chief Judge for the 22nd Judicial Circuit of Virginia; the Honorable Robert Holmes Bell, United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan; the Honorable Jeff Brown, Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Texas; the Honorable David S. Cayer, United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina; the Honorable Walter S. Felton, Chief Judge for the Virginia Court of Appeals; the Honorable Gary A. Hicks, Fourteenth Judicial Circuit of Virginia; the Honorable Henry Coke Morgan, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia; and the Honorable James C. Turk, the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

For many of these judges, this was their first visit to Liberty.  “It is indeed an honor to host and welcome our judges as more than one of our alums currently work with them, whom they first met while being judged in previous moot court tournaments,” added Thompson.

Justice Cayer also commented, “Both Mr. White and Ms. Johnson were better than many attorneys’ I see on a daily basis.  They were knowledgeable about the case and I especially appreciated Mr. White’s humor.  Ms. Johnson was very respectful and affective in her arguments and the demeanor of both was very smooth.”

“I have done between 130 and 140 appellate cases and argued before 10 of the 12 federal courts of appeal. I can honestly say these students rank at the top of the list of appellate attorneys. I am very proud of them and of all our competitors,” concluded Mathew Staver, Dean of Liberty University School of Law.