Adrianna ScheerCook '17
On Saturday, February 27, four teams of third-year law students competed in the semifinal round of the 88th William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition. To get to this moment, the teams had advanced through three previous rounds of the Competition, which had taken place during their second year and the fall of their third year of law school. In each of the rounds, the students wrote a brief and then presented an oral argument before a panel of judges on a problem written by a fellow law student.
Third-year law student Kevin Palmer wrote the problem for the Semifinal Round of the Competition. Palmer has been responsible for writing all of the problems the competitors have briefed and argued throughout the course of the 88th William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition. In the Semifinal Round, the teams presented arguments on two issues related to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The problem was set in 2018 and asked the competitors to imagine that Congress had amended the Voting Rights Act “to prohibit voter discrimination on the basis of ‘belief’ in addition to race, color and language minority status.” Against this backdrop, the legislature of the fictional State of Hamilton enacted a gerrymandered redistricting plan in order to allow one party to have permanent control over the majority of its districts; however, the governor of Hamilton challenged the legislature’s redistricting plan as violating both the Constitution of the United States and the amended Voting Rights Act.
In writing the problem, Palmer focused on two legal hurdles that the governor of Hamilton would have to overcome in order for her claim to succeed, and these were the two issues the competitors addressed. The first issue the competitors argued related to standing. The question was whether the governor, who was a resident of a non-gerrymandered district, had standing to sue, or whether the Constitution imparts a cause of action for political gerrymandering. The second issue involved the meaning of the word “belief” in the amended Voting Rights Act. The competitors had to address the question of whether “belief” meant only religious belief or also encompassed political belief.The arguments took place before a panel of distinguished judges that was composed of Judge Raymond M. Kethledge, Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons, and Judge Amul Thapar. Judge Kethledge serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He was appointed to this judgeship in 2008. He received his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and clerked for Judge Ralph B. Guy, Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Justice Anthony Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court. Chief Justice Lemons serves on the Supreme Court of Virginia. He was appointed to this judgeship in 2000, and he started his term as chief justice in 2015. Chief Justice Lemons is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, and he spent several years as an assistant dean and assistant professor at the Law School. Judge Thapar serves on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. He clerked for Judge S. Arthur Spiegel on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and Judge Nathaniel R. Jones on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He also worked as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky and as an Assistant United States Attorney in both the Southern District of Ohio and the District of Columbia before assuming his current position. Judge Thapar has the distinction of being the first South Asian Article III judge.
The first set of arguments took place in the morning between Danielle Desaulniers and Adam Stempel, who represented the Appellant, and Harry Marino and Chet Otis, who represented the Appellee. After the judges’ deliberations, Danielle Desaulniers and Adam Stempel were named the vwinners.
The second set of arguments took place in the afternoon between Alex Nemtzow and Zach Nemtzow, who represented the Appellant, and Tuba Ahmed and Kyle Cole, who represented the Appellee. Tuba Ahmed and Kyle Cole were named the winners of the afternoon arguments.
The two teams that won their semifinal arguments will advance to the Final Round of Competition, which will be held on March 25, 2017. Please join us on that date to see these competitors demonstrate their impressive oral advocacy skills in front of a distinguished panel of judges!