Press Releases

Feb 25, 2015

Drexel University team takes ‘Best Brief’ honors in 25th Annual National First Amendment Moot Court Competition

St. John’s University team is runner-up in 2015 competition sponsored by Vanderbilt University Law School, Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The team from Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law won “best brief” honors in the 25th Annual National First Amendment Moot Court competition, conducted by Vanderbilt University Law School and the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center. Winning Drexel teammates were Elia Robertson and Peter Johnsen.

Runner-up for “Best Brief” was the team from St. John’s University School of Law (Danielle O’Boyle and Jason Birriel).

Tied for third place in final scoring for “Best Brief” were teams from South Texas College of Law (Jeremy Dunbar and Katrisha Shirley) and University of Southern California Gould School of Law (Cody Schvaneveldt and Harper Gernet-Girard).

Teams with briefs selected for “honorable mention” included: American University Washington College of Law; Cornell Law School; Michigan Law School; University of Connecticut School of Law; University of Georgia School of Law; and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

This year’s competition was limited to the teams’ written briefs when severe winter weather forced cancellation of the oral argument portion of the 2015 competition, set for Feb. 19-20.

The competition problem was a hypothetical case in which public high school officials banned students from displaying stickers containing the phrase “Screw Hate, Don’t Discriminate” as part of an ongoing protest over LGBT rights. The problem was written by a team of Vanderbilt law students in collaboration with the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center.

Recognized as one of the nation’s finest constitutional law competitions, the National First Amendment Moot Court competition annually attracts many of the nation’s top law schools.

First Amendment Center founder John Seigenthaler, who died in 2014, annually closed the event with remarks citing the importance of an independent judiciary to the nation, and of that judiciary to the defense of the five freedoms of the First Amendment.

“The National First Amendment Moot Court aims to encourage future lawyers to examine timely First Amendment questions. Our hope is that these soon-to-be attorneys will be vigorous advocates and defenders of the five freedoms of the First Amendment throughout their legal careers,” said Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute.

The two-day event was to have begun with early rounds at the Vanderbilt University Law School, with the concluding rounds taking place at the John Seigenthaler Center on the Vanderbilt campus, home to the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center.

The demanding competition requires students to write an appellate brief and, in standard competition years, to answer challenging legal questions from the judges, while arguing both sides of the case in multiple rounds leading up to the finals. Successful competitors possess a thorough understanding of First Amendment law, are poised under pressure and have expertise in fielding complex legal questions. More than 150 attorneys from the Nashville area and nearly 100 students from the Vanderbilt University Law School, along with staff of the Newseum Institute, are involved each year in staging the competition.

About the Newseum Institute

The Newseum Institute, headquartered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. The Newseum Institute promotes the study, exploration and education of the challenges confronting freedom through its First Amendment Center and the Religious Freedom Center. The Newseum is a 501(c)(3) public charity funded by generous individuals, corporations and foundations, including the Freedom Forum. For more information, visit newseuminstitute.org or follow us on Twitter.

Vanderbilt University Law School

For more than 125 years, Vanderbilt University Law School has trained excellent lawyers for careers throughout the United States and around the world. Located on the Vanderbilt University campus in Nashville, the law school combines the advantages of a stimulating university community, a top-tier faculty, a small, carefully selected student body and a vibrant, livable city. Known for offering a rigorous academic program in a collegial, supportive atmosphere, Vanderbilt University Law School attracts law students and faculty seeking a first-rate academic institution that also affords an excellent quality of life.

Press Contacts

Jonathon Thompson
202/292-6353
jothompson@newseum.org