Rebecca Ehrhardt ’23 and William Lawler ’23 win 2022 Bass Berry & Sims Moot Court Competition

Feb 10, 2022

Rebecca Ehrhardt and William Lawler won the 2022 Bass Berry & Sims Moot Court Competition, held at Vanderbilt Law School Feb. 4, receiving the John A. Cortner Award and a cash prize for their win.

Ehrhardt and Lawler

Ehrhardt and Lawler faced finalists Kristen Smith and Ryan Jones in the competition’s final round, which was argued before a panel of three federal judges, including Judge Corey T. Wilson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Judge Andrew Brasher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, and Judge Waverly T. Crenshaw Jr. ’81 (BA’78) of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Jones and Smith

Jacqueline Beveridge received the award for Best Oralist, and the team of Adelaide Determann and Matthew Small received the award for Best Brief. Semi-finalists included Brandon Calderon, Benny Finkelstein, Emma Walker and Anya Martin.

All contestants are members of the Class of 2023.

The Vanderbilt Moot Court Board conducts the competition each year. The 2022 competition began in September 2021 with 42 teams and 84 participants. Moot Court Executive Justice Daniel Boddie and a team of third-year associate justices, including Brandon Evans, Natalie Graves and Caleb Sansoucy, organized and ran this year’s competition.

The problem was written by Executive Problem Editor Brooke Bowerman and Associate Problem Editors Jaehee Kim and Brian Ruben. All Moot Court Board members are from the Class of 2022.

The 2022-23 Moot Court problem, Sigler v. United States raised two issues of constitutional and federal evidentiary law.

The petitioner, Arthur James Sigler, was arrested and convicted of attempted bank robbery. Sigler was connected to the attempted robbery by an eyewitness, who was an on-duty security guard, and by cell phone site location data showing his phone was in the bank building during the robbery, which occurred when the bank was closed.

Sigler was arrested after police tracked his phone to a residence where they found several people and phones. They identified the phone from the scene of the robbery by the carrier and held it up to the faces of everyone present in an effort to identify the suspect. When Sigler’s face unlocked the phone, they arrested him. A district court denied his motion to suppress any evidence connected to his biometric data, and Sigler appealed.

Sigler also appealed a district court ruling not to allow his defense to present expert testimony about common mistakes in eyewitness identifications to the jury, alleging that the court erred and abused its discretion under Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 403 and arguing that the expert would provide information beyond the knowledge of the average juror.

Ehrhardt and Lawler argued for the respondent and Smith and Jones for the petitioner.

The John A. Cortner Award, which goes to the winners of Vanderbilt’s annual Bass Berry & Sims Moot Court competition, honors John Cortner ’86, who served as the Moot Court Board’s chief justice. Cortner joined Bogle & Gates in Seattle after graduation but was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease soon after and died within the year. His family endowed the award in 1988 in his memory.

The Vanderbilt Moot Court Board, under the leadership of Chief Justice Molly Gray, also has an ABA traveling team managed by Samuel Brown and runs a program for 1Ls managed by Anya Van Soestbergen and an undergraduate competition at Vanderbilt University led by Peter Byrne.

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