Mike Stephens (JD ’18) wins 45th annual George K. Walker Moot Court Competition

Group photo of Mike Stephens (JD ’18) and Malcolm Boyd (JD ’18) posing with their awards and judges Richard Dietz (JD ’02), Denise Hartsfield (JD '91) and Eric Morgan following the 45th annual George K. Walker Moot Court Competition

Mike Stephens  (JD ’18), a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, won the 45th annual George K. Walker Moot Court Competition final round on Friday, April 15, in the Worrell Professional Center.

Stephens argued in opposition of Malcolm Boyd  (JD ’18), a native of Hartsville, South Carolina, who was named runner-up of the competition. 

The final round showcases the top two first-year law students in the moot court competition. Arguing a fictitious discrimination case,  Stephens represented the Defendant Deerfield Corrections Inc. while Boyd represented the Plaintiff Paula Perez.

The distinguished panel of judges included the Honorable Richard Dietz (JD ’02), North Carolina Court of Appeals; the Honorable Denise Hartsfield (JD ’91), District Court, 21st Judicial District of North Carolina; and the Honorable Eric Morgan, Superior Court, 25th, Judicial District of North Carolina.

The judges were highly complimentary of both finalists. “You guys are amazing,” Dietz said before announcing the winner. “You both did a great job encapsulating your arguments.”

Hartsfield added she thought both finalists did a good job arguing about an area of the law that is relatively unknown. “Mr. Stephens we started in on you pretty heavy but you were prepared,” she added. “The hardest part about this sometimes is that the merits of the arguments don’t play here.”

Morgan added he thought both finalists did a wonderful job with case management. “Mike, when we asked you a question, you answered and then segued back to your argument,” he said.

Leading up to the event, which is held each spring for first-year law students, each student wrote a brief and argued twice, once “on-brief” and once “off-brief.” After two weeks, 16 students were invited to join Moot Court, and competed in the following week in an elimination tournament leading up to the final round.

The 2016 Sweet Sixteen and the newest members of the Moot Court are: Ashley Barton, Malcolm Boyd, Mitchell Davis, Vanessa Garrido, Mickey Herman, Ryan Holt, Emily Lagan, David Layman, Yawara Ng, Stephanie Poon, Emily Scotton, Mike Stephens, John Van Swearingen, Brittany Wages, Evan Weltge and Zack Young.

Stephens was not the only student to take home an award. Distinctions for Best Brief, Best Oralist and the Debbie Parker Memorial Moot Court Service Award were also awarded.Van

Daniel McClurg won the Best Brief award and Mickey Herman was runner-up. The Best Oralist award went to John Van Swearingen and runner-up was Zachary McCamey.

The Debbie Parker Moot Court Service Award went to Lauren Emery (JD ’16) and Eric Benedict (JD ’17).

The 2015 Walker Moot Court Competition co-chairs were Eric Benedict and Kayla Frederickson. The Moot Court Board was made up of Chief Justice Ryan McIntyre, Associate Chief Justice Diana Castro and Marshall Meredith FitzGibbons.

“This year had a great group of competitors,” Benedict said.

For 45 years, the Wake Forest Moot Court Board has conducted a moot court competition for first-year law students. In 1998, the Moot Court Board named this competition the George K. Walker Moot Court Competition in honor of Professor George Walker’s long-standing support of the Wake Forest Moot Court program.

The Debbie Parker Moot Court Service Award is an honor granted to either a member of the Moot Court Board or a participant in the Walker Moot Court Competition who exemplifies throughout the competition a spirit of dedication and service to Wake Forest University School of Law, as well as compassion and cooperation with his or her fellow students.

The distinguished panels of judges for the Thursday semi-finals included The Honorable David W. Aycock, 25th District Court; Dylan Greenwood (JD ’13), criminal defense attorney; Vanessa Zboreak (JD ’11), Professor of Practice, Wake Forest Law; Professor George Walker, Wake Forest Law; Pat Kane, partner at Smith More Leatherwood, LLP; and Ken Carlson, partner at Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP, and adjunct professor, Wake Forest Law.

This year’s case for the competition is as follows:

Defendant Deerfield Corrections, Inc. is a private, for­-profit corporation that contracts with several states to operate correctional facilities. One of the facilities operated by Deerfield Corrections, Inc. is the Skinner Juvenile Detention Center in Forsyth County, North Carolina. Plaintiff Paula Perez was employed at Skinner from Feb. 2012 to Oct. 2015.  She started out as a third-­shift Girls Group Leader and eventually moved up to second­-shift Girls Group Leader. Ms. Perez received superior performance evaluations during her tenure as a Girls Group Leader. In February 2015, a first­-shift Boys Group Leader position became open, and Ms. Perez applied. She was not hired for the position; Skinner’s Director of Human Resources, Ellie Herndon, informed her that pursuant to Deerfield  Corrections’ policy, females could not serve as Boys Group Leaders at Skinner. 

Deerfield Corrections bases its policy on the belief that hiring only males to be  Boys Group Leaders is necessary to enable it to achieve its mandate from the State to maintain a secure facility and to rehabilitate the juveniles while safeguarding their privacy rights. After being denied the Boys Group Leader position, Ms. Perez eventually quit her job at Skinner and later filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, which issued her a right­ to ­sue notice dated Oct. 26, 2015.  Ms. Perez then filed this lawsuit against Deerfield Corrections, Inc. The issue before the court is whether Deerfield’s policy of hiring only males as Boys Group Leaders at Skinner qualifies for the “bona fide occupational qualification” exception to Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination in employment based on concerns about the privacy and rehabilitation of the juveniles.

The George K. Walker Moot Court Competition is the first chance for law students to join the Wake Forest Moot Court Board. It is a competition strictly for first-year students and works hand-in-hand with Wake Forest’s Legal Analysis, Writing and Research (LAWR) program. The Walker Competition is held in the spring, once the first year students have finished their final LAWR II briefs.

Once in the competition, the competitors’ scores are based on brief scores and oral argument scores. The competitors argue two appellate arguments, the first arguing the position of their Legal Research and Writing brief and the second of the opposing position. Moot Court members score each competitor’s brief and both oral arguments. The final competitor score is based equally on the brief and oral argument score.

The top 16 competitors are invited to join the Moot Court Board. At its discretion, the board also takes honorable mention finishers who demonstrated exceptional writing or oral advocacy skills during the preliminary rounds. The 16 competitors then argue in elimination rounds, with the written brief score counting less in each round. The final competitor becomes the George K. Walker Moot Court champion.  You can find the results of past Walker Competitions here.

This competition is named after George K. Walker, Professor of Law, who founded the intramural moot court competitions at Wake Forest. Professor Walker also teaches Admiralty, Civil Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Federal Jurisdiction, International Law and National Security Law. He joined the Wake Forest law faculty in 1972 and was promoted to professor in1977.