Government Moot Court members compete at nationals in record numbers
Liberty University’s Helms School of Government Moot Court team is capping off another historic, successful season after once again appearing at the American Moot Court Association’s National Tournament, Jan. 18-20, in Dallas, Texas. Moot Court operates under Liberty’s Center for Pre-Law Studies. (Liberty also competes in graduate level moot court in the School of Law.)
This year, six pairs of students qualified for national competition, the most in program history. Two national qualifiers were freshmen — Chad Wylie and Corey Jones — and half of this year’s roster are first-time moot court participants.
To qualify for nationals, a student pairing must be ranked in the top 80 nationally out of approximately 400 across the country. Liberty sent students to two different regional qualifying tournaments in November.
“I am proud of the team’s accomplishments,” said Assistant Professor of Government and Moot Court Coach Dr. Robert Robertson. “To do what they have done, they have to work really hard. It takes a lot of effort, and they did that.”
Last season, Liberty finished ranked No. 18 in the nation. Final results are expected in the coming weeks, and that rank is sure to rise.
In the national competition, each student tandem competed in three mock trials during the first day of the tournament. Two Liberty pairs — Wylie and senior Nathan Wilson and junior Tyler Shannon and senior Abigail Taylor — qualified for the Round of 32, in the tournament elimination rounds. Wylie received a Top 20 Oralist award for excellence in communication.
“I never would have won without the remarkable program that has been established and the friends that I have made on that team who pushed me to be the very best that I can,” Wylie said, also crediting Robertson with his “incredible” coaching.
Shannon and senior Karsyn Keener placed second in the nation for their petitioner brief. There were hundreds of briefs from participants at schools across the country that were entered ahead of nationals for the writing competition.
“It was great to receive recognition for all the hard work my partner and I put into briefing cases, drafting an argument, and putting the brief together,” Keener said. “I had learned a lot from Dr. Robertson about formulating an argument, so it was only with that knowledge that we were able to get this award.”
The national tournament gave Liberty’s Moot Court team the opportunity to test its critical thinking and argumentative skills against students from prominent schools such as Patrick Henry College and Duke University.
“This team has never been better,” Jones said. “For the future, though, we really look forward to continue to qualify teams for nationals and even competing for a national championship. Within the next few years, I think we’ll definitely be set up for that.”
“Our current group of seniors are the original members of the program who have created a culture of excellence and desire to compete at the highest level,” Wylie added.
Moot Court competitions involve simulated courtroom appellate arguments between two student teams who stand for one side or the other of a law’s interpretation before a panel of judges. This season, students had to be prepared to take stances on issues pertaining to the 5th Constitutional Amendment (protecting individuals from being compelled to witness against themselves in criminal cases) and the 8th Constitutional Amendment (prohibiting the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments).
Team members spend hours preparing for tournaments — each student must be able to read, comprehend, and apply legal concepts from a number of constitutional cases in order to be successful.
“Moot Court provides students an opportunity not only for them to compete but also to hone the skills they will utilize when they go to law school, such as reading, analyzing cases, and logically applying law to particular facts of the case,” Robertson said.
This year’s national qualifiers from Liberty included:
Corey Jones (freshman) and Megan Snyder (sophomore)
Tyler Shannon (junior) and Abigail Taylor (senior)
Chad Wylie (freshman) and Nathan Wilson (senior)
Cayla Miller (senior) and Elizabeth Lapp (senior)
Karsyn Keener (senior) and Jamin Enquist (junior)
Chelsey Wilson (senior) and Alexa Gorman (junior)