Law School’s Moot Court Competition Judged By “Supreme” Panel

Two second year Wake Forest Law Students, Lesley Bark and Justin Barnes, had the extraordinary opportunity of arguing a law school moot court case before a uniquely "supreme" panel of judges last week.  U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Judge Thomas Ambro, Jr. of the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heard arguments by both student-lawyers in the final round of the Law School’s Annual Stanley Moot Court Competition.

Ms. Bark and Mr. Barnes were the final competitors in the competition which began three weeks ago with 60 second year law student participants.  Students were assigned to clients in a fictitious appellate case involving a 13-year old middle school student who was barred from wearing a t-shirt displaying an inflammatory message.  Throughout the contest, students competed against each other by arguing for either the appellant or appellee in mock hearings before judicial panels made up of law school faculty, local attorneys and judges from throughout North Carolina.  The panels determined which student in each round would advance further within the competition. Bark and Barnes each competed and won in 5 prior rounds before securing positions as the last competitors in the final arguments before the distinguished and highly accomplished judicial panel on Friday

Ms. Bark was up first and steadily began to present her case before the judges and 1500 onlookers who had gathered to hear the arguments.  She was quickly interrupted with a question from Chief Justice Roberts. "Before you begin, let’s make sure we even have a case," Roberts interjected. "Your appeal was filed late, right?"

Roberts, along with the other judges on this extraordinary bench, had come well prepared and peppered both Ms. Bark and Mr. Barnes with insightful, and sometimes humorous, questions about the difficult issues presented by each advocate.  Both student-lawyers had meticulously researched relevant legal precedent and replied to each question with confident authority and poise that masked their novice status.  In the end, Justice Roberts and Judges Higginbotham and Ambro declared Ms. Bark the winner of the final round.  Ms. Bark was also presented with the James Berkowitz Award for submitting the "Best Brief" in the competition.

It is clear to all who attended, though, that there were no losers in last week’s event.  The Law School community and its guests were treated to an outstanding example of the appellate process at its best, and Ms. Bark and Mr. Barnes had what is probably a once-in-a-lifefime opportunity, the chance to argue before a United States Supreme Court Chief Justice.  As Justin Barnes noted, "It’s hard to believe that the highlight of my legal career might be something that happened in my second year of law school."

The Stanley Competition is held annually at Wake Forest and is organized and run by the Moot Court Board, a group of students who have previously proven to be skillfull appellate advocates.  This year’s competition chairs, Doug Carriker, Chelsea Garrett and Lea Keller, worked for months to ensure that this year’s competition would run flawlessly.  Judge Ambro remarked that he had participated in several moot court programs but has never seen the organization and attention to detail of Wake Forest’s Stanley competition.

Other students who were recognized last week for their appellate advocacy skills during the competition were Tim Flanigan and Suzanne Pomey who tied for the James Berkowitz Award honoring the best overall oralist , Candace Friel who was runner-up for best oralist, and Chris Florian who was runner-up for submitting the best brief.