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Respondents Christopher Dougherty and Dennis D’Angelo, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Guido Calabresi, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr., 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and petitioners Jason Gould and Peter Farrell.

By Laura Ewald
All photos by Abdul El-Tayef/WPPI

For more than 50 years, the final round of the Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition has been a highlight of the GW Law experience. This year was especially memorable, as the competition was judged by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. and by 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Guido Calabresi and Sonia Sotomayor. Held Feb. 9 in Lisner Auditorium, the event was attended by nearly 1,500 students, alumni, and faculty members—the largest audience at any GW Law competition to date.

Students Jason Gould and Peter Farrell won the 2006 Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition. Gould also was named Best Oralist and Best Brief. C-SPAN covered the event for a national audience.

Students Dennis D’Angelo and Christopher Dougherty represented the respondent in the fictitious case of U.S. v. Richard Stevens.

The fictitious case argued, U.S. v. Richard Stevens, focused on three First Amendment issues that raised novel applications of traditional free speech theories.

Arguing for the petitioner were 3Ls Peter Farrell and Jason Gould. The respondent was represented by 3Ls Dennis D’Angelo and Chris Dougherty. The problem was written by 3L David Belczyk, who was assisted by 3L V. David Zvenyach. Professors Thomas Colby and Chip Lupu supervised the project. Each team had 30 minutes to present arguments, with each participant speaking for 15 minutes.

“It was an honor to argue in front of judges the caliber of Chief Justice Roberts and Judges Calabresi and Sotomayor,” Gould says. “Their intellect is matched only by their personal kindness—each of them took time to speak with us before and after the competition. I was thrilled I had the chance to speak to them after the event to receive feedback on what I did well and what I could improve upon.”

Dean Frederick M. Lawrence and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

In his opening remarks, Dean Frederick M. Lawrence praised the participants for their hard work during the long road to the finals. The competition began in September, with quarter- and semifinals in November. Gould said all the finalists were “mooted” by faculty members and friends to help them prepare for the finals.

Van Vleck faculty adviser Professor Amanda Tyler said the finalists faced a “hot bench,” noting how the judges fired fast-paced, tough questions at the competitors and continually challenged their responses.

Each year, the Jacob Burns Award is presented during commencement weekend to the two members of the winning Van Vleck team. The award was established by Jacob Burns, LLB ’24, Hon. LLD ’70, a former trustee, and is considered one of the Law School’s highest honors. While all four participants showed remarkable poise and skill in their arguments, Farrell and Gould won the competition. Gould also won Best Oralist and Best Brief.

Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr., center, and 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Guido Calabresi and Sonia Sotomayor hear arguments in the finals of the Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition. Held in Lisner Auditorium, this year’s event drew a crowd of nearly 1,500, the largest audience to ever attend a GW Law competition.

As the judges deliberated, Lawrence and GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg recognized the many GW Law students who brought home competition awards in 2005 and 2006 (see sidebar). The ceremony underscored GW Law’s presence in national and international competitions.

Roberts praised the teams on the outstanding quality of their briefs and arguments and complimented GW’s moot court organization. Sotomayor added that she was “heartened” by the “love and respect for the profession” demonstrated by GW Law.

The Van Vleck competition has a longstanding tradition of attracting high-profile judges. Supreme Court Justices Tom Clark, Byron White, Potter Stewart, John M. Harlan, William J. Brennan, and William Rehnquist (as assistant attorney general) have judged the competition. Next year, Justice Samuel Alito will preside, continuing the momentum of one of GW Law’s premier events.

Each of the visiting judges took time to talk with students and members of the GW Law community before and after the event. Here, Roberts attends a post-competition reception in the Marvin Center. Lindsay Hedrick, Moot Court Board president, likened the excitement level of the crowd to “a U2 concert.”

“This competition underscores every strength that GW Law has to offer. We have a fantastic student body, one that can impress the greatest legal minds of our generation. We have a terrific faculty that has the knowledge and connections to put together an event like this year in and year out,” says David Johnson, assistant dean for student affairs. “We are located in Washington, where our nation’s leaders can easily visit. Lastly, we are on a wonderful main campus where our students and faculty can take advantage of facilities such as Lisner Auditorium. Simply put, GW is where the law happens.”

GW Law Oral Advocacy Successes

Many students excelled while representing themselves and GW Law at regional, national, and international oral advocacy competitions this academic year.

Competition Victories

GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and Dean Frederick M. Lawrence congratulate Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition champions Olivia Hussey, JD ’05, and Kristie Blase, JD ’06, during a special ceremony honoring GW Law oral advocacy successes during the Van Vleck Moot Court Competition in February.

Olivia Hussey, JD ’05, and Kristie Blase, JD ’06, won the world championship of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Fukuoka, Japan, defeating Cambridge in the semifinal and Singapore in the final. They argued before three sitting International Court of Justice judges in the finals. In the spring of 2005, they won Best Team at the North American Space Law Moot Court Competition and were invited by NASA to compete at the world championship.

Sean Krispinsky, JD ’06, and Sarah Bannister, JD ’06, won the 2006 National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition in Seattle and won Best Brief. Krispinsky was named second best oral advocate. Traditionally, the Best Brief from this competition is published in the fall edition of American Indian Law Review.

Adrian Esguerra, JD ’06, and Mayur Saxena, JD ’06, won the Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition in Washington at the Court of Appeals for the Armed Services this spring. Second-year students Jamie Long and Laura Kelly were the second place team. Esguerra was awarded top oralist for the final round, and Long was named second place oralist
for the first round.

Regional Victories

V. David Zvenyach, JD ’06, and Phillip Warrick, JD ’06, won the regional round of the New York City Bar Moot Court Competition in Baltimore in 2005. In addition to besting the University of Pennsylvania in the finals, Zvenyach was awarded Best Oral Advocate in the final round and the overall competition. Their brief was ranked second overall. Zvenyach and Warrick competed in the 56th Annual National Moot Court Competition sponsored by the New York City Bar Association and the American College of Trial Lawyers in New York in January and February. Twenty-eight law schools competed from a field of 184. Zvenyach and Warrick advanced to the quarterfinals and were awarded The Edwin L. Weisl Jr. Bowl for the second best brief of the national competition.

Spencer Davis, JD ’06, Mazna Hussain, JD ’06, Jaclyn West, JD ’06, and Michael Winn, JD ’06, won the Mid-Atlantic Regional Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. In addition to being named the best overall advocates, they were awarded Best Brief. The team advanced to the International Jessup Competition where they competed against teams from around the world and finished 40th out of a field of 115. Their brief finished 13th. The Jessup International Law Competition is the largest moot court competition in the world.

Jasmine Blackmeir, JD ’06, and Jason Stone, JD ’06, won the fall 2005 Regional Negotiations Competition hosted by Washington & Lee in Lexington, Va. They advanced to the nationals in Chicago in the spring where they finished eighth in a field of 26.