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Appalachian’s moot court team participates in regional ACMCA competition

BOONE—Six students from the Department of Government and Justice Studies’ pre-professional legal studies concentration at Appalachian State University participated in the regional American Collegiate Moot Court Association competition held Nov. 8-9 at Liberty University.

View larger imageWorking in two-member teams, students from Appalachian State University competed in the regional American Collegiate Moot Court Association competition. A team with Cory Hutchens and Alexandria Ransom advanced to the competition’s quarterfinal round. Pictured seated are Megan Dyer, left, Cory Hutchens and Brittany Mixon. Pictured standing are Alexandria Ransom, left, Andrew Eastwick and Jessica Berkowitz. (Photo courtesy of Rhys Hester)

Students worked in teams of two. The team comprised of seniors Cory Hutchens and Alexandria Ransom advanced to the quarterfinal rounds before being eliminated.

Moot court involves presenting mock appellate arguments before a panel of judges. The competition is based on a hypothetical case problem and incorporates actual U.S. Supreme Court cases. The students study these cases, develop their own legal arguments and then present and defend their arguments before the judges.

This is the second year that a team from Appalachian has participated in the competition. Other schools were Liberty University, James Madison University, University of Virginia, UNC Chapel Hill, Patrick Henry College, Washington and Lee University and Western Carolina University.

Team members were Jessica Berkowitz, a junior political science and pre-professional legal studies major from Charlotte; Andrew Eastwick, a sophomore political science and pre-professional legal studies major from Bakersville; Cory Hutchens, a senior political science and pre-professional legal studies major from East Bend; Alexandria Ransom, a senior political science and pre-professional legal studies major from Fair Bluff; Brittany Mixon, a senior political science and pre-professional legal studies major from Charlotte; and Megan Dyer, a junior history major from Charlotte.

This year’s case problem involved two hypothetical issues. The first was whether police could track an individual’s movements via their cell phone without first obtaining a warrant and without the individual’s knowledge. The second issue involved the question of whether the president might indefinitely detain an American citizen at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for suspected terrorist activity committed on U.S. soil.

“From my perspective as a professor and their coach, moot court gives students an opportunity to apply many of the skills we try to teach in the classroom,” said Assistant Professor Rhys Hester, who initiated Appalachian’s involvement in moot court. Hester teaches in Appalachian’s Department of Government and Justice Studies and has a juris doctorate from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

“The competition requires them to be able to read and digest difficult Supreme Court cases. They must then critically think about how those cases apply or are distinguishable from the facts in the case problem they’re given, and they have to construct arguments for their positions,” he said.

Hester added that having to orally present and defend their arguments challenges students in a way that professors often are not able to achieve in the classroom.

“Moot court is a close simulation to what an attorney might do in the real world, and I think the students appreciate and really benefit from pulling together all of these aspects of reading the law, thinking critically, and public speaking,” Hester said. “There’s also a rewarding aspect for me to watch these students demonstrate their ability to think so intelligently about such intricate legal issues and present and defend those thoughts in front of others. It builds confidence in the students and they come away proud of their involvement and stimulated by the process.”

Members of this year’s team also commented on the value of the experience. “This experience helped with my critical thinking, communication and public speaking skills,” Hutchens said. “It gave me an insight into an aspect of the legal system that only makes me want to go to law school more. Overall, it was a beneficial experience that really challenged me and let me realize I had skills I never knew I had.”

Eastwick added, “This has been by far the most professional experience I have had since being at Appalachian. It helped to build confidence in my ability to perform professional activities in a professional setting. Also, I gained invaluable experience in legal reading, thinking and argument preparing. Hands down, this has been the most beneficial experience I’ve had in my career pursuit thus far.”

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