December 13, 2011
Andrea Patton and Stephen Perrott were the top finishers for Wooster at the American Collegiate Moot Court Association Midwest Regional Tournament, which was hosted by The College of Wooster last month.
WOOSTER, Ohio — John Carter argued persuasively that Chester Comerford’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when comments he made about President Obama in a private online chat room became the subject of a joint investigation by the Secret Service and the FBI. Carter pointed out that Comerford was justified in having “an expectation of privacy in a chat room,” but a trio of judges had differing opinions, and they peppered the aspiring young attorney with a barrage of questions.
The proceedings took place recently, not in a court of law but at the American Collegiate Moot Court Association (ACMA) Midwest Regional Tournament, which was hosted by The College of Wooster and co-sponsored by the Wayne County Bar Association. Carter, a senior political science major, and co-counsel Amanda Collins, a junior sociology major, argued for the petitioner, while Lee Matheson and Andrew Gordon of Youngstown State University countered as the respondent, claiming that the ruling should be upheld because Comerford’s remarks represented a threat to the President.
The students had to balance the judges’ questions with the time constraints of the competition in order to fully make their case, and according to Judge Clair Dickinson of the Ninth Appellate District Court of Appeals of Ohio, all four did quite well. “I was very impressed with the quality of the students,” said Dickinson, who has served as a volunteer judge at the tournament for the past several years. “I think the competition really encourages them to think seriously about the law.” Dickinson also noted the importance of the students having to learn how to write briefs as preparation for a career in law.
In the end, Carter and Collins edged Matheson and Gordon in a split decision, which enabled them to advance to the quarterfinals and qualify for the national tournament. Also advancing to the quarterfinals and qualifying for nationals from Wooster were seniors Scott Merrifield and Cassandra Zavis. In addition, junior Stephen Perrott and sophomore Andrea Patton qualified for nationals with a team-best second-place finish, while Jacob Sklar, a senior, and Erica Rickey, a sophomore, made it to the semifinals and qualified for nationals.
“I am extremely proud of our performance as a team,” said Carter. “We may not have won the tournament, but in the larger scheme of things, that does not matter. What matters is that we are setting ourselves up for another strong performance in January at nationals."
Joining that group of national qualifiers will be four more Wooster teams that competed in the South Atlantic Regional at the University of Central Florida earlier this month: juniors Janet Zahorsky and Rachel Shonebarger, sophomores Mae Manupipatpong and Eric Petry, sophomores Rachel Myers and Daniel Ikuma, and sophomore Daniel Cohen and senior Leann Do — all of whom made it to the Round of 16.
"The South Atlantic Regional Tournament was especially competitive this year,” said John Rudisill, associate professor of philosophy and one of Wooster’s coaches. “Several schools at this tournament performed noticeably better than in past years, making for many extremely close contests. Even with the terrific level of talent, all four of Wooster's teams advanced to the Sweet 16, and three of the four made the Elite 8 before bowing out in contests that judges described as exceptionally difficult to call."
Individually, four Wooster students placed among the Top 10 orators at the Midwest Regional: Alexi Erlick was fourth, followed by Perrott in seventh, Patton in eighth, and Collins in 10th. "I was really impressed with how the (Wooster) teams all supported each other,” said Collins. Zavis voiced similar sentiments. "The team and my co-counsel inspired me to do my best with their constant enthusiasm and encouragement throughout the season,” she said. “I felt that my months of hard work paid off, and I left the tournament with no regrets; only happy memories of my last regional at the collegiate level."
Overall, more than 100 students participated in the Midwest regional, which also included teams from Aquinas, Austin Peay, Carroll, Denison, Marian, Middle Tennessee State, Ohio Wesleyan, and Saginaw Valley.
“Again this year we will be sending eight teams — four from each regional — to nationals, the most that any school is allowed to send,” said Mark Weaver, professor of political science and head coach of Wooster’s moot court team. “The fact that Wooster continues to qualify eight teams for nationals despite the sharp rise in the quality of competition at the undergraduate level is one indicator of the success of our program.
"As the Midwest Tournament Director, I am pleased by the increasing interest in moot court by colleges and universities in Ohio and surrounding states,” added Weaver. “However, this greater interest also posed a challenge to us because registration for the tournament went from 34 teams last year to 58 teams this year. Thanks to the hard work of Patrice Reeder who recruited additional judges, and the generous response of the members of the local legal community and our alumni, we were able to host the largest regional tournament in the country. The real payoff of all the hard work and effort that goes into the tournament is the valuable learning experience for students, who get to test their ability to argue constitutional issues in front of legal professionals."
The ACMA National Tournament will be hosted by Chapman University Law School in Orange County, Calif., Jan. 13-14.
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