Christian Brothers offers a wide variety of clubs and programs that allow students to explore different activities and find an interest that they might want to pursue in their future. For those who have a desire to become a lawyer, Moot Court gives students a taste of what a career in the law is all […]
Christian Brothers offers a wide variety of clubs and programs that allow students to explore different activities and find an interest that they might want to pursue in their future. For those who have a desire to become a lawyer, Moot Court gives students a taste of what a career in the law is all about.
Moot Court is one of the few academic clubs on campus where students spend many months preparing for an important competition. It’s similar to Academic Decathlon, but not as many people know about it. Moot Court is open to all upperclassmen who want to experience what it is like to work in the law and learn about arguing different sides of court cases.
“I decided to try out for Moot Court because I want to be an attorney when I grow up, so I thought this [club] would be useful to better my public speaking skills and help me to decide my future,” second year Moot Court participant Casey Koenig (‘19) says.
Priya Sharma (‘20) joined Moot Court this year as a junior.
“I want to go into law when I’m older and hopefully get into politics from that, so [Moot Court] really interests me,” she said about her motivation for trying out for the club.
The club gives students the opportunity to act as attorneys in real courthouses in competition with other schools.
“Moot Court is a simulation of appellate law, so it simulates the Supreme Court and how that works,” Moot Court moderator Mr. Vince “Lep” Leporini said. “[It deals] with constitutional rights and how the Constitution should be interpreted.”
“Appellate law [means] we are arguing for cases that have already been decided, and the plaintiff or the victim is appealing the decision of the lower court,” Casey said.
Since the seniors have been through it before, Priya said that “[the juniors] see what the seniors do and work with that and take advice from them.”
Each Moot Court team is given one case to work on over the course of the year and then present their arguments during the competition in January.
“This year’s case is about a protest around gun rights and violence on campus, and the protest gets out of hand, so to what extent do you have free speech,” Lep says.
The team has to prepare both sides of the argument for competition because the judges “tell [them] right before [they] have to present, either the affirmative or the negative side,” Casey said. The competition is intense since most of the competition is thinking on the spot, which is incredibly intimidating.
“We present these arguments against another team in front of three judges and they are firing questions at us constantly,” Casey said. Lep believes the most challenging part of Moot court is “the unknown of the questions you’re being asked” by the judges.
“The hardest thing is when you’re giving your argument in front of the judges, and they are asking you these very difficult questions and you have to think of a response and say it properly,” Casey agreed. “You are thinking very quickly and just coming up with a response that is logical is really hard.”
The competition began on January 27th and will continue for the next few weeks into February.
“It’s three rounds. It’s at night and in the actual courthouse. If we advance past [the three rounds] then there’s quarter finals and finals that are at the state Supreme Court,” Lep explained. “Students get to argue in front of the actual state justices.
While Moot Court sounds very difficult, students gain skills and lessons that will help them in their future careers as attorneys or elsewhere.
Students learn “confidence in any kind of public speaking,” Lep says. “After [public speaking], anything [like] class presentations, talking to your peers, is easy. You can see the confidence is very transformative from junior to senior year.”
The Moot Court team meets on Thursdays for an hour and a half.
“Our meetings just simulate the competition, so students come in prepared with arguments and have to try to present for about ten minutes while judges, who are our attorney coaches and teacher coaches, interrupt them with questions at anytime,” Lep says. “It’s pretty much trial by fire.”
The two attorney coaches, Alissa Kubochi and Catia Saraiva both graduated from CB and practice law. Ali works for the Sacramento’s district attorney’s office and Catia is high profile litigation attorney. These coaches help the students in their practices learn about the different types of law and help students prepare for the stressful competition.
“They teach us the court language, words we don’t normally use, and what not to say,” Casey said.
“Students really resonate with these individuals because they were here not too long ago, and they do all the heavy lifting in helping the students read court cases,” Lep added. “They are invaluable to the program.”
Since the students and teachers work hard for most of the year preparing and studying for the competition, CB has had a huge amount of success with the Moot Court program.
“Our first year we won, and since then we’ve gotten two third places, and last year we won,” Lep said.
Moot Court teaches students about what it is like to practice law and gives them the opportunity to read and study a court case, craft arguments, and then present those arguments in front of real judges.
“It’s open to any upper division students who are interested in the law or arguing or just fascinated by trying to protect people’s rights or students who are interested in current events,” Lep said.
To join Moot Court, you do have to try out in front of Mr. Leporini and Mr. Michael Hood, who are the moderators of the program.
“When we have our open calls for tryouts, I’d say show up to the meetings and see if it’s interesting to you, we give you the case and you can look it over,” Lep recommended. “Our interview process is standing and giving an argument.”
This club requires an immense amount of commitment and dedication, but for the students who aspire to have a future in government or in law, it is extremely helpful in getting a peek into life as a lawyer.
“If you want to better your public speaking skills, better your logical reasoning, and if you want to be an attorney then [Moot Court] would be good to do,” Casey said.