Moot Court Team Wins Second Annual Holy Cross Invitational

By Lauren Hayward

On Saturday, Nov. 5, the Holy Cross Moot Court team won the second annual Holy Cross Invitational Tournament, taking first place out of a field of 24 teams. Tournament participants included teams from St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Canada; Colorado Christian University in Fort Collins, Colorado; and Fitchburg State University and Bentley University, both in Massachusetts.

A total of 14 Holy Cross students participated in the tournament, competing in pairs. In Moot Court, rounds last 40 minutes, with each competitor presenting a roughly 10-minute argument in front of a panel of judges, who interrupt and question the advocates throughout their presentations.

Captains Megan Izzo ’17 and Daniel Murphy ’18 were named the tournament champions, winning first place in oral advocacy. The team of Mike Carboni ‘18 and Renu Mukherjee ‘19 also made it to the afternoon elimination rounds, placing in the top eight out of 24 teams. The teams of Izzo and Murphy, and Carboni and Mukherjee, both went undefeated in the preliminary rounds, winning every judge’s ballot. Izzo and Murphy’s win also marks a special occasion in the program’s 14-year history.

“It’s surprising, but this is the first time we have won a tournament in Moot Court competitions,” said Professor Scott Sandstrom, pre-law advisor.  “We have been very close, finishing second and third a bunch of times, but we never actually got over the wall and won a regional or invitational tournament until this weekend.

“We have had the top individual orator award winner three times at the American Collegiate Moot Court (ACMA) National Championship Tournament, and we were also the runners-up in team oral advocacy at Nationals two years in a row. We have also excelled in ACMA legal brief-writing competitions, last year finishing first and second, with over 70 briefs submitted by teams. So winning a tournament is a breakthrough for us. Congratulations are in order for Megan and Dan, who were able to win six trials in a row Saturday, and to the coaches who helped prepare them for the competitions.”

Moot Court is a simulation of appellate court, in which two-person teams argue the constitutionality of a fictitious lower ruling before a panel of judges acting as the Supreme Court. Competitors flip a coin to determine whether they will be acting as the petitioner’s counsel, arguing to overturn the lower court’s ruling, or as the respondent’s counsel, arguing to uphold it. Moot Court arguments are based on real Supreme Court jurisprudence, and teams typically begin preparing for each year’s case in the previous spring. For the Holy Cross team, that preparation and research began as soon as the case was released last May, and extended through the summer and fall. This year’s case deals with a voter ID law and involves a standing issue, 1st Amendment issue, and 14th Amendment issue.

“This year’s case is challenging because there are three certified issues in the record, rather than the usual two,” said Izzo, the team’s senior captain. “It’s been an unusual season so far, but our performance this weekend affirmed all of our preparation and gave us confidence in our ability to repeat last year’s success at the regional and national competitions.”

Team co-captain Dan Murphy is the defending national champion for the ACMA legal brief-writing competition, having secured the title for a brief he wrote last year in collaboration with former captain Bethany Fogerty ’16. Izzo and Briana Mora ’16 were named the national runners-up in the same competition. Murphy and Fogerty also led the team to a third-place finish in oral advocacy at the 2016 ACMA National Championship Tournament last January, an accomplishment that the captains hope to repeat.

“It felt great to build on last year’s success and finally bring home a tournament win for Holy Cross, in addition to seeing our new teams get a lot of good reps in,” said Murphy. “I look forward to seeing our teams carry this momentum into the regional and national tournaments.”

The Holy Cross Moot Court team is coached by alumni John O’Donnell ‘04 and Neil Petersen ‘04.  The team will compete in AMCA regional tournaments at Fitchburg State University on Nov. 18-19 and Suffolk University on Dec. 2-3, where the top 20 percent of teams will qualify for the ACMA National Championship Tournament.

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