GW law students argue for first prize in moot court finals

Two teams of GW Law School students competed for the top spot in a prestigious moot court competition Friday night.

Second-year law students Seth Cohen and Jeffrey Foor won the Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition after presenting their case in front of a three-judge panel. Zachary Cunha and Chris Pugsley were officially runners-up, but the judicial panel said both teams were extraordinarily talented and demonstrated tremendous skill and organization.

Both teams were extremely competent, said U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Carlos F. Lucero.

One of the judges said the winner was not decided simply on the skills of the respective teams but also the topics they debated.

We couldn’t judge (the two teams) on their merits, said Alexia Morrison, an alumnus and adjunct professor of the GW Law School. As judges, we had to look at the issues. If their cases were reversed, it certainly could have gone the other way.

The competitors argued two issues, both of which will be considered by the Supreme Court this spring.

The first was whether Congress could effectively replace the Miranda rule – the right of the accused to know his rights – with a standard of voluntary self-incrimination.

The second issue involved the constitutionality of Congress penalizing domestic violence offenders under the commerce clause.

Forty two-person teams started preparing for the competition last September. The students had to prepare 15-page written briefs to present their arguments and prepare themselves for a 20-minute oral argument. They also had to be ready for any question a judge might ask.

It took so much time and effort, Cunha said. It’s an incredible relief that it’s over.

It’s really been a long five months, Foor said.

While the work was difficult, each of the students said it was a rewarding experience.

The competition was phenomenal, Pugsley said. I have the utmost respect for every one of my competitors.

Cunha said he was honored to be a part of the competition.

It was a privilege just to argue in front of the panel, Cunha said.

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