Finalists in Baylor Law School's annual intramural Strasburger & Price, L.L.P. Spring Moot Court Competition demonstrated their courtroom skills before a large audience Monday afternoon at the James Kronzer Appellate Advocacy Courtroom. At the end of the final round, a distinguished panel of judges named Anneke Cronje and Michael Ellis the winners over fellow students Marcy Allen and Patrick Bell.
"It will probably end up being one of the most memorable experiences of my time at Baylor Law. I feel very lucky to have gotten the chance to argue in front of my peers and in front of such a prestigious panel of judges," Cronje said.
This year, 44 two-person teams took part in the competition, which simulates the appellate advocacy process, from writing an appellate brief to preparing and presenting oral arguments before a panel of judges. Baylor Law School holds another intramural moot court competition during the fall.
Baylor law students who currently are taking Appellate Advocacy and Procedure are required to participate in the moot court competition. At the completion of the fourth round, the top 16 teams advanced to compete in bracket-style competition, with a team being eliminated each day. The top 16 teams were awarded the distinction of barrister. Prize money is awarded to the top teams, best speakers and competitors who wrote the best briefs.
The case the teams argued centered on a high school student who, at home, had implied on her personal blog that a fellow student had cheated in school. The school later punished her for that blog entry. The first issue on appeal that the teams argued was whether the school's punishment violated the student's First Amendment rights. More specifically, the teams argued whether the school could, constitutionally, punish a student for off-campus speech. The teams also argued whether the student's speech caused a disruption in school sufficient to allow the school to constitutionally punish the student for her speech.
The second issue that the teams argued centered on a teacher's deletion of emails relevant to the student's lawsuit against the school. The teams argued whether the school can be sanctioned for this type of destruction of evidence and, if so, what sanction is appropriate.
Cronje and Ellis represented the Respondents in the case.
"The problem was very interesting because it was a combination of a First Amendment issue that is very relevant in schools right now right now and spoliation which is a much more technical and procedural issue," Cronje said.
For the final round, Baylor Law compiled a formidable panel of judges. Serving as judges were Judge Catharina Haynes, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, acting as Chief Justice; Chief District Judge Leonard Davis, United State District Court for the Eastern District of Texas; Judge Ed Kinkeade, United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas; Judge Rodney Gilstrap, United State District Court for the Eastern District of Texas; Justice Rex Davis, Tenth Judicial Court of Appeals; Justice Brian Hoyle, Twelfth Judicial District Court of Appeals; Greg White, appellate lawyer and adjunct professor; and Tim Keane and Jason Fenton, winners of the 2011 Dawson & Sodd Moot Court Competition.
"It was great to have such a prestigious panel of judges, and they certainly did not hold back with the questions. It was clear that they were not going to let us get through our speeches without answering the tough questions. No matter how good you think your argument is, the judges will always find a way to punch holes in it," Ellis said.
In addition to naming the winning team, the top 10 speakers in the competition were announced. They are Claire Carroll, Cronje, Marcy Allen, Lindsey Lehrmann, Patrick Bell, Seth Burt, John Collins, Ellis, Emily Seale and Jennifer Pfanzelt.
Cronje, a native of East Stroudsburg, Pa., received her undergraduate degree in international politics from Penn State. Ellis, who is from Houston, earned a biomedical engineering degree from Tulane University.