Team Argues its Way to Top in Moot Court Contest
Oct. 29, 2010
Two UT Dallas political science seniors reasoned and argued their way to first place in the recent Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Association’s Texas Wesleyan Invitational Tournament.
Philip Harris and Grace Bielawski, who is also president of Student Government, also won individual speaker awards, given to the top 10 individual scorers in the preliminary rounds.
In moot court competitions, undergraduates engage in simulated legal arguments in a hypothetical appellate court reviewing a fictitious case. Students are given 20 to 25 actual case precedents to construct an argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Moot Court is an excellent way of developing our students’ critical thinking and logical reasoning skills,” said Anne Dutia, a pre-law adviser, instructor of the Moot Court class and coach of this year’s teams. “It builds on the fundamental rules they learn in their constitutional law, civil liberties or other law-related classes and allows them to delve into the analysis behind Supreme Court decisions to make the best arguments for their issues. These skills will serve them very well in law school.”
Working in teams of two, students take on the role of petitioner or respondent and present oral arguments on two broad areas of Constitutional Law. This year’s hypothetical case involves commerce clause and equal protection clause issues.
Bielawski argued the constitutionality of the individual mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010, based on the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Harris argued the constitutionality of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the fictional state of Olympus.
“In the first three rounds, we won the coin toss and chose to argue respondent, our stronger side,” said Harris. “However, in the final round, against the team from Howard Payne University, we were left to argue the petitioner side. Even though we were nervous, our strong performance as petitioners in answering the judges’ questions really clinched our victory.”
Out of the 46 teams competing at the event, three UT Dallas teams advanced to the sweet 16 round.
|Grace Bielawski and Philip Harris recently placed first overall at the Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Association's Texas Wesleyan Invitational Tournament.|
The Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Association holds competitions to help students learn to argue about and interpret the law.
UT Dallas Moot Court Teams
The UT Dallas Moot Court teams for the season are:
- Grace Bielawski and Philip Harris
- Parisa Korous and Keshavan Sridhar
- Brittany Ellenberg and Tyler Andrews
- Monica Niewiarowski and Stevin George