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Holy Cross Moot Court Earns Collegiate Moot Court Championship Title In Los Angeles

February 3rd, 2016 by 


Bethany Fogerty ’16, Daniel Murphy ’18, Andrea Kelble ’16 and Matthew Brewer ’18 represented Holy Cross at the national championship.

Just before the start of the spring semester, members of the College of the Holy Cross’ moot court team competed in the American Collegiate Moot Court Association’s (ACMA) 2015-16 National Championship Tournament in Los Angeles where they collectively earned four awards, including a national title. Captain Bethany Fogerty ’16 and assistant captain Daniel Murphy ’18 were awarded the national championship for the written legal brief they authored; the runner-up title also went to Holy Cross for the brief submitted by captain Briana Mora ’16 and assistant captain Megan Izzo ’17; Izzo chose to participate in the brief writing competition while abroad at Mansfield College, Oxford University. The briefs earned the top two titles from a pool 72 briefs.

Additionally, Fogerty and Murphy were awarded third place in the oral advocacy competition from among 80 teams, and Murphy was named the seventh highest scoring orator at the tournament, earning awards in three competitive categories: written brief, team oral advocacy and individual oral advocacy.

Moot court is a forensic activity where students from different schools compete against one another in simulated Supreme Court arguments. Teams of two students must study and master two legal issues, usually involving constitutional rights, submitting written briefs and presenting oral arguments before panels of practicing attorneys and sitting judges at various competitions across the country; this year the case focused on the free exercise of religion and immigration.

Holy Cross was among the top 80 teams invited to compete in the National Championship Tournament from the dozens of colleges and universities competing at regional tournaments across the nation, a group of nearly 800 students at the beginning of the season.

“The ACMA has seen a boom in new schools over the past few years with prestigious institutions becoming more involved in Moot Court,” says John O’Donnell ’04, co-coach of the moot court team along with Neil Petersen ’04.  The elite colleges and universities that competed in the national tournament, many of which are far larger than Holy Cross, included: Williams College, Duke University, the United State Air Force Academy, the University of Chicago,  George Washington, the University of Connecticut, Bentley University, and Texas A&M. “To be successful in this atmosphere, our students have to work extremely hard and be talented in their own right.  Winning the brief writing contest is a real testament to that work and skill,” O’Donnell adds.

Scott Sandstrom, coordinator of the mock trial and moot court teams, explains that the coaches have a distant role in the execution of the legal briefs. “We as coaches and advisors do not, and cannot, advise, review, or correct any of the briefs submitted. While we were involved in making sure the students understood the various issues in the case at bar, the submitted brief was 100 percent their own work and effort.”

Students begin work for the new season on May 1, spending the summer reading, analyzing and preparing written summaries of cases in preparation. When they return to campus, the team meets for three to four hour weekly seminar-style sessions with their coaches. By the time nationals roll around in mid-January, students have put it hundreds of hours of work, both on their own and as a team.

“I am thrilled to have won a national championship. It really lends credence to the saying that hard work does pay off,” says Fogerty, who notes that moot court was one of the reasons she came to Holy Cross. Fogerty earned this national title at the end of her four year tenure on the moot court team. She plans to continue on to law school after graduation where she will apply the skills developed while on the team—of analyzing, writing, building arguments and applying cases to new sets of facts.

The moot court team’s national success is indicative of the growing success of the team. Since beginning to compete in 2003, Holy Cross students have won a total of 104 awards in moot court, 71 percent being won by female students. The team was national runner-up in 2004 and 2005, the southeast regional runner up in 2008, and the eastern regional runner up in 2014.  Holy Cross has also won countless individual oralist awards including the national runner-up won by Michael Bender ’15 in 2015.

Murphy, who earned his first national title as a sophomore, is determined to keep the positive trajectory going. “Our team’s success this year means that I and the rest of the younger members have a responsibility to make this level of success a regular occurrence, so I am looking forward to helping improve our program and getting more of my teammates to nationals every year.”

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