Moot Court: how to argue before the Supreme Court

Moot Court: a fun and challenging experience that grows you as a person, competitor, and Christian.

What is Moot Court?

The official explanation of Moot Court as defined by the American Moot Court Association is “a method of teaching law and legal skills that requires students to analyze and argue both sides of a hypothetical legal issue using procedures modeled after those employed in state and federal appellate courts.” Essentially, Moot Court is a competition that simulates what it is like to argue a case before the Supreme Court. A team consists of two partners, and each round of competition has two teams arguing for their respective sides in front of judges (or justices, as they are called in the Supreme Court); one side argues as the legal counsel for the Petitioner, and the other argues for the Respondent. As each partner presents their argument, the justices may interrupt them and ask questions at any time. Each partner has about 10 minutes to argue their side and answer the justices’ questions. A hilarious example of a shortened Moot Court round about The Princess Bride can be found on the Regent Undergraduate Debate Association’s Facebook page.

What makes Moot Court enjoyable?

Moot Court President and Business major Lexie Cross, who is also going to compete at Nationals with her partner Madeline Person, said about Moot Court, “I enjoy having an outlet where I can reason and have an intelligent conversation on challenging topics.” With Moot Court, thinking logically on your feet is paramount in order to be able to answer the justices’ questions thoughtfully.

Madeline said that she enjoyed “the team and the relationships that we made while doing Moot Court” and “the challenge of stretching your limits more than you think you can.” Moot Court pushes competitors to grow and discover skills they already have as they develop their public speaking, quick thinking, and debating abilities.

Moot Court Secretary Hannah Lillemo, who won first place at the Moot Court Mid-Atlantic Regional Competition (held at Regent this November) with her partner Jessie Wollum, said, “The people are probably the biggest thing. I liked being able to be around people who think very similarly and that you bond [with] over the experience; it creates a tight-knit community of people who believe the same thing. My goal for this year was to become a stronger public speaker, and Moot Court helped a lot with that.” Through all the hard work, Moot Court is a lot of fun, and the people who are a part of it help make it that way. Not only is the team a great group of people, but the coaches and faculty adviser are very helpful and encouraging as they challenge everyone to do their best and reach their full potential.

Lessons Learned

Madeline explained that Moot Court has taught her “that hard work has better results than you realize. But at the end of the day, the best thing is for you to control your attitude. That, and it’s up to God.” Hard work and perseverance are learned when competitors apply themselves and train their hardest to do well in competition; however, good sportsmanship and leaving the results up to God after doing your best are just as important, if not more so.

What is also interesting about competing in Moot Court is that it gives one a unique opportunity to experience how the Supreme Court of the United States works, which can still be appreciated by those who are not looking to become lawyers; whenever you read about Supreme Court cases and hearings and how they impact the country, you get a better picture of how it all works as a result of participating in Moot Court.

Why join?

“Friends pulled me into it,” Hannah said when asked why she joined Moot Court. “I wanted to tease out if law was something in my future, and if I was any good at it.  And I appreciated that I’d learned a lot, no matter how I did; the experience was something I valued.” She explained that people should join Moot Court “for a challenging experience that will grow them and that’ll teach them a lot of life skills like conquering fears, learning how to speak confidently, engage with new material, how to argue well, and be logical.”

Lexie said people should join Moot Court, “because regardless of their career path, everyone should be able to have tough conversations and be able to express themselves well.  And Moot Court gives those skills, plus it’s a lot of fun, and you meet great people.” Additionally, there is the option to take Moot Court as a 2-credit class during the fall semester, which is an added bonus to the experience that is already gained from participating.

Moot Court Nationals Competition

On Jan. 19 and 20, the Nationals competition will be in Dallas, Texas, where about 80 teams from colleges all over the United States will compete.  As of this past January’s Nationals competition, Regent is currently ranked 4th place in the American Moot Court Association, and is sending three teams to Nationals in a few weeks, which include Lexie Cross (College of Arts & Sciences’ Class of ’18) and Madeline Person (CAS ’18); Hannah Lillemo (CAS ’20) and Jessie Wollum (CAS ’18); and Samuel Lillemo (CAS ’19) and Kana Turley (CAS ’21).  However, the Regent Undergraduate Debate Association (RUDA) still needs to raise funds in order to send these teams to Nationals; the last 3 posts on RUDA’s Facebook page have the link and explanation of how to donate to them so they can cover the cost of sending these teams to Dallas.  These teams have worked extremely hard all semester to make it to Nationals, so it would be great to award their astounding achievement by getting them there!



Natalia Mittelstadt is a contributor to The Daily Runner.