English 380 Moot Court Topics

Students will sign up for one of four Moot Court events: on privacy, free speech, employee language rights, and official language legislation. 4-5 students will argue each side, with the rest of the class serving as judges who may ask questions during the presentation and then render a verdict. Following each moot court, all students will submit a short essay (900-1300 words) arguing their position or explaining their verdict in the case.

1. Privacy Moot Court: The case is In Re: Applications of the United States of America for Historical Cell-Site Data. The question to be decided is whether the government can obtain warrantless access to cell phone location data kept by third-party mobile phone companies. Two students will argue the government's case; two students will argue on behalf of cell phone users. The rest of the class will function as the judges, asking questions of the presenters, discussing the case after the presentations, and "voting" their verdict. Each side will have 15 minutes for its initial argument, followed by brief rebuttals. The judges will then discuss the case. At the end of class, the judges will vote their decision.

Your privacy essays, which should consider all sides of the issue as discussed in the moot court, drawing your own conclusion about how you stand on the issue (regardless of your role in the moot court), will be due at 5:00 pm by email one week after Moot Court.

Please title your paper lastnameprivacy.docx (other acceptable formats: .doc, .pdf, .rtf, .txt).

Links for Privacy Moot Court (feel free to use additional links in constructing your arguments).

For the government:

For the plaintiffs:


2. First Amendment Moot Court: Does the War on Terror justify an abridgment of the First Amendment? For this Moot Court, we will consider free speech in the age of terrorism. The government side will argue that the speech abridgement aspects of the USA Patriot Act are Constitutional, and the opposition will challenge the Constitutionality of warrantless searches of email, text messages, phone calls (land lines and cellular), and other communications, as well as press censorship. (Note: Wikileaks is fair game here, as is the question of who counts as the press). The rest of us will judge the case. It's clear that the First Amendment does not protect speakers from the consequences of their speech. Nor does it prevent the government from restricting or censoring speech in certain instances (obscenity, fighting words). The question is, just how far can prior restraint on speech be imposed in times of national crisis?

The issue here is much broader than the one we addressed in the privacy exercise. In considering what's at stake, make sure you touch on our readings and discussion, and be sure to cite relevant precedents and any new wrinkles that technological change introduces to the notions of what is "speech" and who counts as "press" when we consider First Amendment issues.

Please title your essay lastnamespeech.docx (or other appropriate format), and email it to me by 5 pm one week after Moot Court.

Links for First Amendment Moot Court (feel free to use additional sources in constructing your arguments):

Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, 89 S.Ct. 1827, 23 L.Ed.2d. 430 (1969)

New York Times Company v. United States

The USA Patriot Act of 2001

For the government:

For the plaintiffs:


3. Defense of English Moot Court. The English Language Unity Act (earlier versions were known as the Defense of English Act) is one of many proposals to make English the official language of the United States. Although many official language statutes exist at the state and local levels, and many individual businesses and schools have adopted "official language" policies for citizens, employees, and students, federal law has remained silent on the issue of official English (federal law requires English for certain product labels and for Air Traffic Control, but that's pretty much it). The two sides will argue for or against a federal language law specifying English as the national or official language.

Some links (feel free to use more):

H.R. 997: The English Language Unity Act

Perea, "Demography and Distrust: An Essay on American Languages, Cultural Pluralism, and Official English"

Links to state official language laws

US English--an organization devoted to promulgating English-language laws

The Myth of Official German

Candidate barred from running while Spanish in Arizona

Pew Hispanic Center Report on Language Use among Latinos

Heritage Language Retention in Southern California

Name your file lastnameofficialenglish.docx and email it to me by 5 pm, one week after Moot Court.

Supporting official English:

Opposing official English:


4. Moot Court. Case and details to be announced