By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
The regional fall moot court season saw Patrick Henry College burnish its growing reputation, as eighteen student competitors will travel to the national moot court tournament in Des Moines, Iowa on January 18-19. The maximum allowed for a college is eight two-person teams, but such is the caliber of PHC’s program that two other schools asked if PHC could lend substitutes.
Sophomore Krystal Brunner will be working with a partner from the University of South Dakota, while freshman Anna Accomazzo and her Long Beach, California partner actually outscored some of the all-Patrick Henry teams in order to qualify for Nationals.
The laundry list of awards for the fall season could fill several pages, including winning first-place individual speaker at all four regional tournaments that PHC entered. On November 29, junior Daniel Watson emailed the results of the MidAtlantic Regional Tournament, held at Regent University, to the entire student body. They had swept all ten of the top individual speaker awards, and PHC moot court teams had earned the top five team spots as well.
“I was introduced by the CalState Long Beach legal debate coach recently, and he called my team the New York Yankees of moot court,” grins Dr. Michael Farris, Chancellor of Patrick Henry College and head coach of the moot court team.
The PHC moot court team has always achieved high honors, among them back-to-back victories against the Oxford University champions on both the American and European continents a few years back by now-graduates Matthew du Mée and Rayel McKennett née Papke. This year, however, Assistant Moot Court Coach Lindsay See says the team has “gone to more tournaments than in the past, with really exceptional results.” It has experienced almost universal success, due both to greater numbers and to the ongoing development of the team.
See is a seasoned PHC legal debate veteran herself. Having graduated in May of 2007, she now leads a moot court section on her own. Farris and See shared responsibilities throughout the year, which allowed twice as many students to join the team as normal.
“Dr. Farris makes sure that we don’t focus as much on winning as on the realities of the legal situation,” says See. “He has a wonderful way of breaking a case down to the question, ‘How would we actually argue this before a higher court?’”
Farris underscores the importance of moot court and other forms of debate as a powerful tool for those who wish to influence the world they live in. “When leaders engage in policy discussions, they don’t shoot baskets—they debate!” he exclaims. “The most authentic sort of debate is when knowledgeable people force you to answer questions. This is used during a legislative session or in a court room. Also, moot court is the best for law school preparation.”
His students agree. “[Moot court] is great preparation—not just for law school, but for any sort of oral advocacy,” says senior Holly Vradenburgh, who is spending her second season on the team. “It is not just a rod for beating down arguments. It teaches respect.”
The PHC students traveling to Nationals in January are Rachel Heflin, Kawika Vellalos, Peter Kamakawiwoole, Holly Vradenburgh, Kelsey Stapler, Joseph Alm, Brianna Edelblut, Ben Sayre, Rachel Blum, Aidan Grano, Carmen Pettus, Jonathan Carden, Caleb Dalton, Daniel Watson, Will Glaser, Rebekah Ries, Krystal Brunner, and Anna Accamazzo.