English 380 Moot Court Topics

Students will sign up for one of four Moot Court events: on privacy, free speech, official English laws, and a final debate on a major case before the Supreme Court this term. 2 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 question to be decided is whether it is lawful for the government to conduct warrantless monitoring and surveillance by means of CCTV, facial-recognition software, license-plate ID cameras, red-light cameras, and other hi-tech devices, which treat everyone as a potential criminal, and whether businesses can legally collect data about users' online and offline activity and use or sell that data to improve profitability as well as your online experience?

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: Stephanie Y; Mara Wetherholt

For the plaintiffs: Ryan Fane; Gary Montesinos

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: Marli Levin; Pao-Yi Warne

For the plaintiffs: Eli Murray; Nick Peters

3. Defense of English Moot Court. The English Language Unity 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. The two sides will argue for or against the imposition of official language policies at work, in schools, or at the local, state, and federal government levels.

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

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: Musa Muhammad; Christina Larcher

Opposing official English: Tara Chattoraj

4. Moot Court. Whistleblower or security risk? In DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY v. MACLEAN, the Supreme Court will consider the question, "Does the Whistleblower Protection Act bar an agency from taking enforcement action against an employee who intentionally discloses sensitive security information?" In the wake of WikiLeaks and the Edward Snowden revelations about secret NSA spying, we will consider both the broad issue of leaking government secrets in times of national crisis and the specific issues of this case, in which a TSA air marshall, Maclean, told MSNBC about a TSA plan to reduce the monitoring of flights right after a warning that an attack on an airliner might be imminent. MSNBC broadcast the story, interviewing Maclean on the air. Co-workers recognized Maclean's voice and identified him, after which he was disciplined. Is he protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act, or may his employer retaliate for his breach of security?

Supporting the government: Jack Yardin; Priya Trivedi

Supporting the employee: Shannon Barkley; Bree Billow

Some links to follow:

Scotusblog follow the Scotusblog links to the briefs for the Government and for Maclean

Washington Post story on the case