A supportive culture has empowered students in Saginaw Valley State University’s moot court program since its founding six years ago, a span when at least one tandem of student teammates from the program has qualified for the national tournament each year.
This year, four SVSU teams — eight dedicated students in total — have qualified for the 2017 tourney at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida January 6-7. Only two colleges or universities – out of more than 350 nationally – qualified more students to attend the contest. In all, 80 teams with 160 students will compete.
Julie Keil, SVSU assistant professor of political science and moot court advisor, said SVSU’s success is inspired in part by a hard-working group of supportive faculty and alumni. Among Keil’s assistant advisors this year are former SVSU President Eric Gilbertson, a constitutional law scholar who now serves as the university’s executive in residence; Amy Hendrickson, SVSU assistant professor of law; as well as SVSU graduates and former moot court members Mark Babcock and Jacob Mojica.
“None of these people get paid to help our students,” Keil said. “They’re doing it because they care. It’s a network, and it’s a culture of belief that we are capable of succeeding at any level.”
In a moot court competition, students act as attorneys in teams of two. They make arguments to a panel of judges by drawing from constitutional law and Supreme Court cases. Judges then decide winners based on public speaking ability, knowledge of cases and of law, and the ability to answer questions.
Most recently, three SVSU teams qualified for the finals after a regional tournament SVSU hosted Dec. 2-3. They include the tandems of Jrew Brickel, a criminal justice major from Midland, and Gabe Klotz, a political science major from Midland; Allison Fuller, a political science major from Davison, and Nancy Haddad, a communication major from Saginaw; and political science majors Eric Maul of Lupton, and Joshua Hoebeke of West Branch.
In November, SVSU student teammates Connor Hughes, a political science major from Howell, and Madison Laskowski, a political science major from Bay City, qualified for the finals during a regional tournament in Chicago.
Keil and a group of passionate students founded the program six years ago. Since then, SVSU students have qualified for the national tournament each year. During the inaugural season, one SVSU team qualified; three teams qualified each of the following two seasons; and two teams qualified for the next two seasons.
More than 350 colleges and universities field American Moot Court Association teams. Each year, American Moot Court Association organizers create a single fictional U.S. Supreme Court case — often based on actual cases heard in lower courts — that competitors must address when participating in the regional and national tournaments.
This year’s case study concerns voter rights. The case specifically deals with a citizen who divorced her husband, changed her name but did not update her ID documents in time for the election. As a result, clerk employees did not allow the citizen to vote because her ID did not match the voting registry.
For more information on the American Moot Court Association, visit www.acmamootcourt.org/.