After four rounds of competition, NDLS students Sarah Gallo and Patrick Duffey (with Jae Kim on the brief) were declared the winners of the National Religious Freedom Moot Court Competition February 7.
The competition, held at George Washington Law School in Washington, D.C., featured two days of arguments and several dozen teams from law schools across the nation. The final round, against Roger Williams University School of Law, was argued before Judge Pamela Harris of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Justice Don Willett of the Supreme Court of Texas.
A second NDLS team (Greg Chafuen, Allison Burke, and Kyle Ratliff) also competed. Both teams will square off against each other in the 59th Annual Moot Court Showcase in the Patrick F. McCartan Courtroom February 26.
The legal problem at issue in both competitions involves claims of conscience raised by teachers against a hypothetical law in Washington, D.C., that requires teachers and administrators to carry firearms on public school property during school hours.
Professors Christine Venter, Richard Garnett, and Randy Kozel assisted the NDLS teams with their final practice arguments this year. The Law School’s Program on Church, State & Society, which Professor Garnett directs, helped fund the teams’ travel and competition expenses.
Professor Venter, the law school’s Legal Writing Program director and moot court advisor, noted that students interested in the moot court program can participate in try-outs in the spring of their 1L year. Students who are admitted to the program are then eligible to compete for a place on one of the competition teams.
In addition to selecting the teams for the annual Religious Freedom competition, the NDLS Moot Court Board sends two teams to the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition. It also selects four third-year students to write briefs and conduct oral arguments in appointed cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit under the supervision of Adjunct Professor Robert Palmer, a leading appellate practitioner.
Sarah Gallo commented, "In my second year competing in the National Religious Freedom Moot Court Competition, I learned about the inherent tension in the Free Exercise Clause's special protection of religion and the Establishment Clause's prohibition of government sponsorship of religion. I also now understand the difficulty in defining "religion" for the purposes of the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act. My participation in the tournament taught me how to apply historical, statutory, and policy arguments when considering these difficult questions. After dedicating two years to this subject area, it will always be an interest of mine and I hope to continue to explore it in my legal practice."
Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett,
D.C. Circuit Judge David Sentelle, Fourth
Circuit Judge Pamela Harris, and NDLS students
Sarah Gallo, Patrick Duffey, and Jae Kim.