moot court team went from sixth place to second and credits God for their success

Liberty University’s Moot Court team moved up in the American Moot Court Association’s national rankings for Oral Advocacy from sixth to second in the nation and looks forward to a different but exciting season this year in light of COVID-19.

The AMCA released the new rankings in early September. Advocacy rankings for the oral competition are determined by the number of ballots won at the national competition in January 2020 and success in previous years, according to junior Dalton Davis, member of Liberty’s Moot Court team.

Davis said the team was very well-prepared for competitions and this made a difference. They sent five teams to nationals.

“We won a lot of ballots at nationals as a collective unit because we sent so many teams to nationals,” Davis said.

According to Dr. Ben Rathsam, associate professor of government and adviser for Liberty’s Moot Court team, they achieved this new ranking because of blessings from God and a lot of hard work.

“They set out to achieve a whole bunch of goals last year and they accomplished them, so we couldn’t be prouder of them,” Rathsam said.

The problem the team had to solve was released in May. Liberty’s team members worked on their arguments over the summer and hit the ground running when the fall semester started, practicing three times a week.

This year, Liberty’s Moot Court program consists of eight teams, two people per team, and will compete at four regional tournaments beginning at the end of October, according to Rathsam. However, tournaments will be conducted over a digital platform to fit within social distancing guidelines.

Rathsam is interested to see how the lack of live interaction in competition will affect argument style. 

“Normally, when you’re arguing you can physically see and interact with your judges,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how that changes over a web-based platform.”

A  large  part of  judging  is  based on mannerisms, how teams present themselves and how well they can handle being interrupted with difficult questions while staying on track, according to Julia Robertson, senior and Moot Court team member.

Dr. Ben Rathsam

Davis explained that the digital platform will be much different than competing face-to-face.

“We have to be more focused on what we’re saying and making sure that we are articulating very clearly and not just relying on maybe what we see the judges doing,” he said.

While this new way of competing will present challenges, Robertson is optimistic about upcoming competitions.

“We are grateful that we can still compete, and I think it’s going to be an interesting experience,” she said. “I like traveling, so unfortunately we won’t get a chance to travel or go places, but we will be on home turf so maybe that’s going to be beneficial mentally as well.”

According to Rathsam, competitors are basically presenting arguments in front of a mock Supreme Court of the United States. Competitors argue both sides of an issue representing the petitioner and the respondent. This year the team will be dealing with a First Amendment issue.

Patrick Henry College is first in the national rankings and has been for over a decade. To make it to the top spot, Liberty’s Moot Court Team will need to continue in its preparation and have success in its competitions, according  to Rathsam. 

“We just need to qualify as many teams as possible out of our regional tournaments and then have some good success at nationals,” he said.

According to Davis, to reach their goal of being first in the nation, it’s going to take a lot of people competing at a very high level.

Robertson is very proud of the team’s new ranking and sees it as an encouragement to work even harder to reach first place. 

“I am just very proud, I am not surprised I would say, because we have a lot of hard-working and very intelligent people that really want to be there and deserve it,” Robertson said.

Liberty’s Moot Court team also qualified for the Nelson Mandela Human Rights International Moot Court Tournament for the second straight year. According to Rathsam, the international tournament only accepts two university teams from the U.S. each year, and Liberty was selected to compete. Two 2020 alumni will be competing in this tournament.

Mia Nelson is a News Reporter.

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