Jenna Farleigh '12 and Anne Greengard '12 were the winners of the 2011 Bass Berry & Sims Moot Court Competition, which concluded on Friday, February 4. In the final Moot Court round, Farleigh and Greengard competed as the respondents against finalists John Arceci and John Williams, argued on behalf of the plaintiff. The final round was argued before a three-judge panel comprised of the Honorable Andre M. Davis of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the Honorable Diane S. Sykes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and the Honorable William J. Riley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Seventy-five teams, representing three fourths of the Class of 2012, entered the intramural competition, which began in September 2010, when competitors received the problem packet and began writing their briefs. “Each year, the competition addresses a First Amendment issue,” said Talmadge Infinger, who is Executive Justice for the Intramural Competition. The 2011 problem was written by Executive Problem Editor Lauren Fromme, a member of the winning team in the 2010 competition, along with Associate Problem Editors Allison Davis and Joanna Robinson, who worked in conjunction with Adjunct Professor of Law and First Amendment expert David Hudson, Class of 1994, and Tiffany Villager, both of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. “This year’s problem required competitors to address an issue that has yet to be addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court – when a school official may regulate student speech on the Internet – through a case involving a student who posted a racially offensive poem on an online forum,” Infinger said. “The First Amendment Center and Vanderbilt’s Moot Court Board also cosponsor a national First Amendment Moot Court competition each spring in which the same problem is used.”
Moot Court Chief Justice Mike Dumitru emphasizes that, while the competition “is completely student-run,” members of the Vanderbilt Law faculty, judges and attorneys play a key role by volunteering to judge rounds throughout the competition. Twenty-two faculty members and 42 members of the Nashville Bar Association judged rounds in this year’s competition, with attorneys from Bass Berry & Sims and Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis particularly well-represented. “The school’s support of this organization and tournament is amazing, and so is the support we get from the Nashville legal community,” Dumitru said. “Throughout the competition, each judge makes comments after each argument, and teams use those comments to tailor and improve their arguments. By the final round, you’re hearing the best arguments on each side.”
Michael Bressman, who directs the law school’s Clerkship Program, helped Dumitru and Infinger identify federal appellate judges who would find the competition’s First Amendment problem compelling. “All three judges commented to me multiple times how impressed they were by both teams’ performances; they were equally matched and represented the school really well,” Dumitru said. “Both teams did an excellent job, and it was an incredibly close decision.”
These competitors also received Moot Court awards: