October 27, 2010by Brittany Hardy
The John Marshall Information Technology and Privacy Competition is different than other moot court competitions, because it deals with three issues and there are three members on the team. The Baylor Law School team includes Kristen Blakely, Huma Patel and Eric Pursley, coached by Professor Connie Powell. The team leaves Oct. 27 for Chicago.
"We have three speakers on our team, instead of two, like most competitions," Blakely said, "It made it nice for brief-writing because there are three issues, so we were each able to focus on just one issue. But trying to figure out how to divide up our speaking roles was challenging, since we can only have two speakers in each round."
The team decided that Patel is always petitioner for the first two issues; Blakely is always the respondent for the second two issues; and Eric plays for both sides on the third issue.
"The competition is rooted in how we apply law to technology," Pursley said.
Their problem involves DNA research, DNA database computer failure issues and how they relate to negligence. There are three main problems as a result of the conflict: defamation, invasion of privacy and breach of contract.
"There's a lot of research that's been done on the HIPA, Health Information Privacy Act, on how business has used contract laws with online contracts to become operable in the new Internet age," Pursley said.
In the competition problem, the team's client has donated his DNA and it's been used for commercial means.
"The initial thing we did was write a brief that was due at the end of September," Patel said, "We each took an issue and researched it in depth and then went line by line and made it concise while also representing each of our voices."
Patel said it was, at first, difficult to make the brief sound unified.
"We really wanted to make it sound like one person wrote it, but that one person is all three of us combined," she said.
For Patel and for her teammates, this was an appreciated lesson to learn.
As soon as the brief was turned in, practice in oral argument began. The team began with a few practices per week but practiced every day the week prior to the competition.
"Professor Powell has been at almost every single practice," Patel said. "It's been nice seeing her so dedicated to our team doing well."
Preparation has included learning both sides of the argument.
"This competitions is interesting because you get to argue as if you're the petitioner and the respondent," Powell said.
In this case the petitioner is the sympathetic position. The petitioner is a minster who donated his DNA for research purposes while he was in college. Now, a large company has changed its contract and is using the donated information commercially to build a family tree. The company has informed a woman that she is this minister's daughter. The woman happens to be a gay rights activist, which conflicts with the minister's public views.
The respondent, the large company, say that it did not disclose anything except this man's DNA, so many other assumptions and connections are being made to hold it at blame.
The team will participate in a pre-elimination round on Thursday. The following rounds are on Friday and Saturday.
There are several rounds to this competition: Prelims, Octos, Quarters, Semis, an Ambassador Round and Finals. If the team makes it all the way to the finals they will compete in a total of six rounds.
"We're hoping to go all the way," Patel said, "It's been a lot of fun and a great learning experience."