Patrick Henry College
Sophomore Kayla Griesemer
In all, PHC again qualified almost double the maximum number of teams allowed, advancing 15 eligible two-person teams that will now have to be pared to eight to compete in the ACMA National Moot Court Tournament at Chapman University Law School in Orange County, Ca., Jan. 13–14. Having contended this fall with schools such as Duke University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Virginia, Holy Cross, the Air Force Academy, and Williams College (listed by US News as the top liberal arts college in recent years), PHC has once again demonstrated a level of dominance in collegiate legal debate that strikes even its competitors as dramatically disproportionate to its size and age.
“I’ve had coaches from many of these universities come up to me afterward and ask me how we do it,” recalls PHC founder and chancellor, Dr. Michael Farris, the College’s founding moot court coach. “For us, success begets success. We’ve been able to recruit very strong candidates to our program because the students who have gone before has seen such success in law school and beyond. These talented young people see a very clear path through our moot court program into the highest levels of the legal profession.”
The College has won five of the past seven ACMA national championships, and two of the top three individual speakers from last year’s team, sophomore Blake Meadows (who set an all-time ACMA score in 2011) and senior Bridget Degnan, are teammates this year. The duo won the Southeast Regional Tournament in Florida last weekend, with Meadows taking home the top speaker award. Other regional tournament championship teams are: Ardee Coolidge and Joshua Chamberlain at the Mid-Atlantic Regional in Virginia; freshmen James Compton and Ben Williamson at the Eastern Regional Tournament in Massachusetts; and Kayla Griesemer and Micah Walters at the Western Regional Tournament in California. Top speaker awards at each of those competitions went to Ardee Coolidge, Kayla Griesemer, Blake Meadows, and Nicole Frazer.
Sophomore Blake Meadows
“Of course we all enjoy winning, but all of us wanted to glorify Christ even more than we wanted to win,” she insists.
Coming into the final round against another PHC team, J.C. Cartee and Andrew Ferguson, Griesemer recalls that “all of us took a collective sigh of relief and got to have some fun during the last round.”
Cartee adds that, besides making it all the way to the final round for the first time, his favorite moment of the California tournament was arguing before Superior Court judges.
“The breadth of knowledge required for moot court is amazing,” he says. “You learn legal principles and improve speaking skills, and it forces you to really think quickly because you never know what the judge is going to ask you.”
Meadows, who, according to Dr. Farris “basically scored a string of perfect ballots” as the national individual speaker champion last winter, agrees that “the educational aspect (of moot court) is unparalleled. While a paper or reading gives you some knowledge, having to present something as your own argument imbues a deeper understanding of the issues.”
Moot coach Dr. Frank Guliuzza said he couldn’t have anticipated this year’s regionals results, but credits students’ hard work and dedication for the outcomes.
“We entered four qualifying tournaments last year and won them all, which had never been done before,” he noted. “We assumed that it would be difficult to duplicate that, but we did.”
Added Dr. Farris, recounting the many former PHC moot court competitors who have gone on to top law schools and into elite professional legal appointments: “One-fourth of all of the top 64 teams in the nation are from a little college of 300. It’s safe to say that from a college of 300 we are producing a vastly disproportionate share of the future leaders of the legal profession for the entire nation. We give God the glory for this. It is very encouraging to realize that we really are training the best of the best for the future of this country. Our objective is to train and equip our teams to successfully argue cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, nothing less.”
Senior Bridget Degnan
Senior Bridget Degnan
1st place team: Ardee Coolidge and Joshua Chamberlain
2nd place team: James Nelson and Rebecca Sampayan
1st speaker: Ardee Coolidge
Eastern Regional Tournament in Massachusetts
1st place team: James Compton and Ben Williamson (freshmen)
1st speaker: Nicole Frazer
Southeastern Regional Tournament in Florida
1st place team: Bridget Degnan and Blake Meadows
1st speaker: Blake Meadows
Western Regional Tournament in California
1st place team: Kayla Griesemer and Micah Walters
2nd place team: J.C. Cartee and Andrew Ferguson
1st speaker: Kayla Griesemer