Students Argue Before Distinguished Judges at Beaudry Moot Court Competition

April 10, 2017

Not every law student going to a job interview is able to say that he or she once mooted a case in front of a former solicitor general, two federal judges, a talented Supreme Court practitioner and the national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union — all at the same time.

But Lauren Renaud (L’19), Elijah Staggers (S’16, L’20), Andrew Delaplane (L’19) and Kate Rheaume (L’19) can now claim that right, after participating in the 66th Annual Robert J. Beaudry Moot Court Competition at Georgetown Law on April 5. Delaplane was named the final winner; Angell Darvalics (L’20) won best brief.

The students wowed a panel that consisted of Georgetown Law Professor David Cole, now on leave to serve as the ACLU’s legal director; Judge Pamela A. Harris of U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit; Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; Kirkland and Ellis Partner Erin E. Murphy (L’06) and former Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., now a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson.

Harris — a former Georgetown Law visiting professor who served as executive director of the Supreme Court Institute for several years — served as chief justice in the moot. “This was a really hard case, and it brought some special challenges that you held up to really well..,” Harris told the students at the end of the competition. “Argument does matter to judges, and I thought you guys did all the important things exactly right.”

Live from Hart Auditorium…

This year’s problem, Bennett v. Towson — on appeal from the fictional Thirteenth Circuit and the fictional state of Hotung — was based on the Supreme Court case Lee v. Tam, argued in January. The decision was still pending at the time of the April 5 competition.

“The arguments are very real, and very live,” said Mackenzie Newman (L’18), the Beaudry director who introduced the event.

The real case originated when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused registration of a trademark that it viewed as disparaging under a portion of the Lanham Act. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit struck down the disparagement provision of the statute as unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The government petitioned for certiorari in the Supreme Court — with Solicitor General Verrilli as counsel of record.

All the judges, including Verrilli, had high praise for all four students at the end of the event. “When you got asked the question that made your argument seem extreme or unreasonable, you stuck to your guns,” Verrilli told the competitors. “That’s really important, because if you don’t, your case will just unravel like that.”

The annual Robert J. Beaudry Moot Court Competition is the qualifying competition for first year law students to join the Appellate Advocacy Division (commonly called Moot Court) at the Georgetown University Law Center. Nearly two hundred entrants compete over several weeks of difficult rounds, culminating in the four finalists’ argument before the panel of esteemed judges. Nicole Pacheco (L’18) served as the Beaudry assistant director. Barrister’s Council Appellate Advocacy Co-Directors Kyle Crawford (L’17) and Jeffrey Thalhofer (L’17) also spoke at the event.