Eastern Michigan University’s moot court team went undefeated last month, beating 25 teams at the regional moot trial conference in Saginaw, Mich.
The moot court is at the appellate level, whereas the mock trial team is a collegiate exercise at a trial level. This is the first time that EMU had a team that competed in the moot trial contest.
“In moot court you’re arguing the law, not the facts,” Student Body Vice President Nino Monea said.
“The difference is that at the trial level, I would prove you were robbing the bank, by introducing facts like: Did you have a gun? Did you do this? The appellate level,you’re not contesting whether the bank was robbed. You’re contesting the application of the law.”
The competition at Saginaw Valley State University drew 26 teams from around the country, and EMU was undefeated. The moot court team is going to the nationals on the weekend of Jan. 17.
“The basic thing you have for moot court is your short trial folder, or statement of the facts, it’s called,” Monea said.
Teams then analyze the fictional case. The example Monea gave was of a suspected terrorist who was also arrested for drug possession. But since this was an appellate trial, the defense team did not try to prove that the suspect was innocent, but they had to question the law as it was used.
Specifically, the defense had to question police methods, like the fact that the police did not have a warrant for the drugs. Then the teams argued on whether or not the government was justified in treating the suspect as a terrorist. The teams of two both tackle one issue and they have to prepare for both the applicant and the government’s case because the teams do not know who they are going to represent.
“At the competition you’re basically making an argument before a panel of judges,” Monea said.
“You say ‘Based on these laws that have passed and based on these Supreme Court readings and based on this analysis of them the person should be found guilty or not guilty.’ You have to compare it to both sides.”
Monea said these competitions are applicable to a future career.
“You always have to do a little changing of reality for these kinds of competitions,” Monea said. “I would love to work at the appellate level one day as a lawyer. Even though the case we have here might be a fictional case, but the kind of skills that we’re learning are definitely going to apply.”
He also recommends potential law students join these teams.
“Being a lawyer certainly isn’t all about being in court,” Monea said. “Many spend more time doing writing and preparation. But if you can’t go before a judge and keep your cool and stay composed, you may have a very hard time being a lawyer. It gets you accustomed to the massive amounts of reading you need to do because for every minute or hour that we’re spending in a court room arguing, we spend five or 10 hours reading and preparing our argument.”
He also said it’s important for people to prepare for the work that goes into the dramatic aspect of court, another reason to engage in this club.
Another teammate representing EMU at the moot trials was sophomore Steven Cole, a political science major.
“I was honestly pleasantly surprised by the good fortune we had,” Cole said. “We put in a lot of work and we felt as if we were prepared, Nino and I just had never done anything like moot court, so we didn’t know what to expect.”
“We were truly walking in blind. I thought we would do well, but we also knew one of the national contending teams was also going to be at our regional,” Cole said. “As expected, we saw them in the finals and hung right with them, taking 4 out of 5 judges’ ballots.”
Cole said their coach, Robert Dobronski, prepared them well.
“He teaches this same type of appellate advocacy as an adjunct lecturer at the Michigan State College of Law, so he put us through the ringer,” Cole said. “The skills he taught us in structuring arguments and how to read the cases in an analytical way is immeasurable as Nino and I move toward law school and careers as lawyers.”
Dobronski is a lawyer and alumni of EMU, according to a press release by the university.
Also according to the press release, the moot court team will be advancing to the national level in January at the Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law at Arizona State University.
“I am elated that I’m afforded the privilege at Eastern Michigan University to participate in a competition that has a practical application in my career field,” Cole said. “I expect it will be instrumental in helping me prepare for moot court in law school.”
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