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Students compete in Moot Court invitational

Four Lamar University undergraduate students broke new ground for the university recently when they represented LU as its first participants in a Moot Court invitation held by the Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Association (TUMCA) at Southern Methodist University.

Founded in 1993, TUMCA is the nation's largest moot court association, and holds the Southwestern Regional Championships from which teams qualify to compete in the national moot court championship tournament.

TUMCA’s Moot Court is a competition in which undergraduate students engage in simulated legal argument before a hypothetical appellate court reviewing a fictitious case. Students draw on a limited number of actual appellate court decisions to support their arguments.

LU’s two teams were among 24 teams from 9 universities that participated in the Moot Court at SMU Feb. 12-13.

Representing LU were Megan Collins, a senior from Nederland, Siara Dodds, a sophomore from Beaumont, Mason Gardner, a senior from Lumberton, and Nathanial Henry, a senior from Winnie.

 “This is the first time we’ve participated in Moot Court in collegiate competition,” said Craig Tahaney, and instructor of political science, “but it’s not really new to LU. Dr. Terri Davis has incorporated in-class moot court competitions in her constitutional law classes for more than two decades because it is such a valuable learning tool.”

With an eye toward collegiate competition, Davis and Tahaney created a moot court class that was offered for the first time in Fall 2015. In the class, students prepared briefs for both sides of an issue and over several weeks refined their arguments. However, because the course was new it wasn’t possible to participate in off-campus competition last year, Tahaney said.

Students participating in moot court competition learn to argue about and interpret the law. TUMCA's goal is to provide opportunities for undergraduates to test their research skills, knowledge of the law and forensic abilities in a competitive environment.

“Many of our students aspire to attend law school,” said Tahaney, who holds a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the South Texas School of Law. “Moot Court is something you do in your first year of law school as part of a legal writing and research class where you are given a constitutional issues that you will argue before a mock supreme court. “Participating in moot court competition is a great experience that will put these students ahead of many of their peers when they get to law school, or another career that requires strong logic and communication skills,” he said.

Teams of two compete in three rounds, taking either the side of the government or the side of the petitioner. The teams alternate positions for the first two rounds, while their position for the final round is determined by coin toss. “The students have to be well versed in both sides of the argument,” Tahaney said.

They plan to offer the class again this fall with the intention of competing in a fall tournament, he said. Only fall tournaments bring the opportunity to advance to national competition, which takes place in January.

Students had to apply to represent LU, Tahaney said, and winners in competition have opportunity to earn valuable scholarships. “Besides the chance to receive a trophy and scholarships for winning, it is an experience of a lifetime,” he said. “They thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to argue their case.”