By David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
Coaches Dr. Michael Farris (R) and Dr. Frank Guliuzza (L) with top team finishers (L to R): Brianna Edelblut, Joseph Alm, Aidan Grano, and Rachel Heflin
Winning the ACMA national championship at Chapman Law School, January 17, were PHC juniors Rachel Heflin and Aidan Grano, who argued successfully for the “petitioner,” or plaintiff, in a mock free-speech case involving disciplinary due process at the collegiate level. Second-place finishers were senior Joseph Alm and junior Brianna Edleblut, and third place went to juniors Robert Kelly and James Mieding. They tied for third place with Allie Hallmark and Emily Owenby of the University of North Texas.
In fifth place were senior Rachel Blum and sophomore Noah Oberlander.
“This was a truly an outstanding team, one of our best," said a very pleased Dr. Michael Farris, PHC’s Chancellor and moot court coach. His teams have now won three national titles in nine years of competition. “They were incredible, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that any of the eight teams we sent could have been in the final round.”
Most impressively, Dr. Farris added, “is that of the sixteen PHC students competing, only two were seniors.”
By any measure, it stands as one of the most dominating performances by a moot court squad in PHC’s short, albeit illustrious history. Other competing teams included last year’s national champion runner-up Wooster College, as well as Holy Cross, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Drake University, Cal-State University, and the University of Texas.
Rachel Heflin, Aidan Grano, Joseph Alm, and Brianna Edelblut display their combined collection of team and individual awards
“The national championship is back where it belongs,” he said. “We had two teams in the finals competing against one another, and we came within two ballots from closing out the competition in the semifinals (with four PHC teams almost making up the entire semifinal and final rounds).”
A professor of government, Dr. Guliuzza arrived at PHC from Weber State during the summer, and said he was amazed at the level of skill and preparation of PHC’s legal debate team. It is a team that, had rules allowed, could have sent eighteen teams to nationals.
“When I arrived in August, most of the teams were already ready to compete, and could have probably broken into the top rounds at nationals,” he recalled. “This team was really hungry to bring back the national trophy. I had ten Top 10 finishes at Weber State, but I’ve never won a national championship. This is just a tremendous bunch of truly gifted, humble Christian students who have prepared themselves to serve God and be quite successful in their future endeavors.”
“This season has been full of blessings and difficulties,” added Brianna Edelblut, who captured second place with teammate Joseph Alm. “At the end of the day, what I hope the other teams will see is not only our success, not only the discouragements that we sometimes face, but a team and a school that is able to take everything they have been given and turn it around and bless the Lord’s name.”
Summarizing the weekend’s events, Dr. Farris recalled a final judges panel that ranked among the most distinguished he has seen: a federal district judge, two California court of appeals judges, and two law school deans, one of whom clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. And he shared his delight at PHC’s strong presence and growing influence in the legal arena.
“Two judges at the tournament were former PHC moot team members, both now attending Pepperdine Law School,” he said. “One was offered a very prestigious judicial opportunity while he was there. Two other PHC alumni now attending Harvard Law School were judges during our East Coast Championship. I see this and recognize how extremely blessed we are to have a program that launches kids into incredible opportunities that will enable them to serve God and change America in powerful ways. That’s what really matters.”
Moot court or legal debate is an intensive simulation of appellate court proceedings that tests students’ abilities in a range of exacting judicial disciplines -- research, brief writing, and debate -- in arguing authentic court cases before a panel of judges.
Best Respondent Brief:
Josh and Aaron Kamakawiwoole (1st. place)
Grace Lichlyter and Rebekah Ries (2nd. place)
Robert Kelly and James Mieding (3rd. place)
Individual Speaker Awards
Aidan Grano (1st)
Robert Kelly (4th)
Joseph Alm (5th.)
Rachel Heflin (7th.)
Brianna Edleblut (10th.)
Rachel Blum (11th).
Rachel Blum and Noah Oberlander (2nd. place)
Ben Sayre and Carmen Pettus (4th. place)
Joash and Aaron Kamakawiwoole
Carmen Pettus and Ben Sayre
Jenna Lorence and Paul Sellers