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. Thursday Feb. 7 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. Three students will argue the government's case; three students will argue on behalf of cell phone users. Three students will function as the judges. The rest of the class support 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--roughly 5 minutes per attorney, followed by 5 minutes for rebuttal. The judges will huddle for five minutes, voting and drafting a quick "opinion" and dissent, if they are not unanimous. Tthen they will issue the verdict.

Your privacy essays will be due at 5:00 pm by email the following Tuesday, Feb. 12.

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: Bryan Boccelli, Jenna Reinhardt, Steven McRae

For the plaintiffs: Nathaniel Lash, Elizabeth Weiler

Judges: Nina Laski, Glenn Stojanovic, Stacey Meyers

2. Tuesday, Feb. 26 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. Three students will argue that the speech abridgement aspects of the USA Patriot Act are Constitutional, and three 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). Three will serve as judges. 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 on Tuesday, Mar. 5.

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: Katherine Nugent, Grace Lee, Austin Gomez

For the plaintiffs: Robert Morse, Nick Karyannis, Katy Karyannis

Judges: Cassandra Escatel, Josephine Stoner

3. March 12 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, Tues., Mar. 26.

Supporting official English: Jaqueline Smith, Bianca Ciarroni, Iman Eikram

Opposing official English: Lauren Darwit, Sydney Thompson, Carly Gubbins

Judges: Krista Woltz-Hernandez, David Parks, Brooke Hinman

4. April 25 Defense of Marriage Act Moot Court. This term the U.S. Supreme Court will decide two cases involving marriage equality (sometimes referred to as "gay marriage"). 12-144 (DECISION BELOW: 671 F.3d 1052) HOLLINGSWORTH V. PERRY is an appeal of the Ninth Circuit's ruling on California's Prop 8 banning same-sex marriage. The question to be decided: Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. (Oral arguments scheduled for March 26.)

It will also decide 12-307 UNITED STATES V. WINDSOR (DECISION BELOW: 833 F.Supp. 2d 394): QUESTION PRESENTED: Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines the term "marriage" for all purposes under federal law, including the provision of federal benefits, as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." 1 U.S.C. 7. It similarly defines the term "spouse" as "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." Ibid. The question presented is: Whether Section 3 of DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws as applied to persons of the same sex who are legally married under the laws of their State. (Oral arguments scheduled for March 27.)

This is a great example of a pair of high-profile cases which will turn, in part, on the act of definition. I will provide links to briefs for both sides, and to transcripts of the oral arguments, once they become available.

Oral arguments on March 26: Hollingsworth v. Perry: audio

written transcript:

Oral arguments on March 27: United States v. Windsor audio

written transcript.

Scotusblog site with briefs of petitioners, respondents, and amici

Supporting DOMA: Joshua Doil, Meghan Sutter

Opposing DOMA: Martin Schmit, Ximena Reyna, Stephanie Gilbert

Judges: Destinee Hekmatpour, Vanessa Burroughs, Laura Monteagudo

Please email your essays by May 1, titling your file lastnamedoma.docx