It’s been an educational weekend for SHSU’s first-ever Moot Court team. Following a pleasant evening at the Art Department’s Gala (where the students spent some enjoyable time with Dan Phillips)…
…the Moot Court Team embarked on a late-night trip to Dallas, where the UNT Law School’s Moot Court scrimmage was scheduled. More than fifty teams competed, making this the largest scrimmage in the Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Association’s history.
The set-up for such a scrimmage is as follows:
- Day One: There are three rounds of tournaments, which serve as qualifying rounds. Each team is scored in points, with the points determining which team wins and which team loses. The won-loss record then determines whether the teams compete on Saturday (teams need to win two of their three rounds, with a tie-breaker based on a complex system of schedule strength and points). The points are further used to determine individual awards.
- Points: Speakers are scored on four dimensions, each constituting up to 100 points. An award-winning speaker will likely accumulate 360 or more points (90+ average) over the four dimensions: knowledge, response, forensics, and demeanor
- Day Two: Day two then follows in a playoff-style system, with winning teams proceeding to the next round. There are four such “playoff” rounds, moving from the “Sweet Sixteen” to the finals.
The logistics alone are a daunting enterprise. Registration, for example, ended at 11:30am on Friday, and only then could tournament directors begin the pairings and room scheduling processes. Between 11:30 and 2:00pm, a series of orientations (e.g., bailiffs, coaches, competitors) took place, while other tournament officials tried to finalize the schedule. It was an impressive display of organization!
We were a bit anxious, but we tried to enjoy ourselves….
Between orientations and a quick lunch, we grabbed what study time we could come by…
…with help from our coach.
…but, ultimately, game-time arrived, and we began the tournament.
A typical contest includes an 18 minute argument from the petitioner (split between the two team members), followed by a 20 minutes argument from the respondent (again, split between the two-team members), followed by a two-minute rebuttal from the petitioner (the time for rebuttal can be modified up front, but two minutes is a typical time).
The tournament is run by a tournament director. This tournament’s director was Andrew Sommerman, who is the founder of the American Undergraduate Moot Court Association and a local Dallas attorney. Also helping run the show was Dr. Kimi King, who works tirelessly to help her students and to help keep the tournament moving on schedule.
Three judges oversee the competition, interjecting as they see fit. A “hot” panel interjects often; a cold panel interjects rarely. Some contestants enjoy the give and take; others do not. A good judge will pose questions designed to assess the competitors’ knowledge, strength of arguments, and ability to think on their feet. Some judges are better than others at directing such questions.
Following the contest, the competitors (and audience) leave the room, giving the judges time to complete their ballots and prepare remarks. Once the ballots have been completed, the judges ask the competitors to return and go over the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors. Good judges mix specific and general advice and do so constructively. Less helpful judges speak in vague generalities or offer idiosyncratic advice based on their personal/ideological reactions. Fortunately, few judges fell in the latter category, and even they can be helpful, because such judges exist on the bench in real life.
For our team, the rounds were immensely helpful. While they didn’t turn out well in terms of wins and losses, they did turn out very well in terms of gaining information and experience. For Kaitlyn Tyra, she said it was a good opportunity to “gain a realistic view of the competition in the state.” This, she continued, was particularly helpful for a first-year team such as SHSU, which hasn’t seen the competition before. For Austin Campbell, the trip was helpful because it helped build “synergy among most of the team’s members.” For Kristyn Couvillion, it allowed “observation of the state’s best speakers, and the skills they have, as well as the benefits of receiving specific feedback from judges.”
Photos are not encouraged in the tournaments (especially for those in smaller rooms, where they can be distracting), but we have a couple of action photos. One is of Kristyn…
For the winning teams, the day would start early the next day, with coin tosses at 8am. Most of the losing teams went home. SHSU’s moot court team, however, didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to see the winning teams in action another day, hear more of the questions that judges ask, and to learn more about the process. In that spirit, we went back to the hotel, to prepare for another day of Moot Court.