By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
Assistant moot court coach, Dr. Frank Guliuzza,watches a practice round, along with debaters Rachel Heflin and Jenna Lorence
“It’s a good team—an experienced team,” says Professor of Government Dr. Frank Guliuzza, a PHC assistant moot court coach alongside Dr. Michael Farris, PHC Chancellor, College founder, and Constitutional lawyer. “If we do our best, we expect a great result.”
“We entered three and won three -- the mid-Atlantic, East Coast, and West Coast championships,” said PHC Chancellor and moot court coach, Dr. Michael Farris. “Last year we won Nationals with basically the same group. If there were not a limit on qualifiers, we could have sent 13 of our 19 teams to compete with the top 64 in the country.”
PHC will once again send a maximum number of eight two-person teams to nationals in Miami, Florida. Because of this limitation on national competitors, students who were in the top-ten at last year’s national tournament didn’t make the traveling squad to nationals in Miami, said Dr. Guliuzza.
Senior Brianna Edelblut, competing in moot court for her third year, won a regional qualifying tournament earlier in the season with her partner, Joseph Alm, and observes that “the quality of other teams in the league is really improving.
“Other teams are going without notes too,” she explains, indicating Patrick Henry College’s habit of training its moot court team to present their cases, and answer extensive questions, without a sheaf of papers at the podium to reference.
Preparation, as always, is the key to success at the intense, hyper-competitive moot court tournaments. The day prior to their win at the Western Regional Conference in Long Beach, for instance, Edelblut and Alm ran practice rounds in their hotel rooms and in front of mirrors, wherever they could find them, in the weight room or in the bathrooms. It paid off as, along with their first-place finish as a team, Edelblut and Alm earned fourth and fifth place, respectively, for individual speaker points.
Brothers Joshua and Aaron Kamakawiwoole discuss the moot court case (foreground)
Other nationals teams who won regional tournaments include seniors Rachel Heflin and Jenna Lorence, former high school debate adversaries and now moot court partners, and the team of junior Mackenzi Siebert and sophomore Zachary Enos.
In general, Dr. Guliuzza calls moot court and participation in moot court nationals a “tremendous” part of a pre-law program.
“I’ve never had a student who did moot court or mock trail who didn’t get into law school,” he clarifies. “The material learned and the interactions with judges spark quick critical thinking. Whether you are a literature major—or whether you are interested in music or in business—it develops necessary skills in a way nothing else does.”
Edelblut, for example, is a literature major who quickly transitioned from her tournament win to writing a poem for poetry class. She says that she “has a real passion for the persecuted church and against sex trafficking.
“I want to use writing to inspire others on those issues,” she emphasizes. “Possibly, I can use my oral communication skills to persuade legislators.”
Senior James Mieding, on the other hand, is looking at law schools for a program in business law, while his partner, Robert Kelly, is interested in Constitutional law, or possibly international law.
“I’ve only really become interested in law since joining the moot court team,” says Kelly.
PHC Students competing at moot court Nationals: