Moot court, a simulation of supreme court proceedings, involves teams of student-contestants, clients burdened by a legal problem, briefs, and oratories detailing the dimensions of the legal problem before a court. Students work hard all semester, during weekends and evenings, preparing to compete against ivy league and nationally recognized universities during tournaments. Moot court judges ask students questions and grade them based on their knowledge of the case, response to questioning, forensic skills, and demeanor. Judges consist of attorneys, law faculty, or, on occasion, members of the judicial branch of government. Recently the team has competed in four different tournaments to qualify for the American Moot Court Association National Tournament at Louisiana State University School of Law on Jan. 14-15.
During the tournament at Fresno State on Nov. 4-5, 2022, senior Isaiah Piche (sociology) placed 12th in the speaker award, and junior Lili Anderson (philosophy) placed 8th in the speaker award among 72 speakers. They advanced to the elimination rounds. On Nov. 11-12 at Yale University in New Haven, CT, moot court co-captain and senior Sebastian Ruiz (political science) and Lauren Zarate (political science) advanced to elimination rounds, as did senior Bryanna Serna (criminal justice) and Walt Wheeler (political science/history). Wheeler also earned 10th place speaker at the tournament.
All four teams advanced to elimination rounds at the Eastern Regional tournament at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts on Nov. 18-19. Sophomore Brandon Gutierrez (criminal justice) and senior Khira Mistry (political science/history), and moot court co-captain; senior Jose Gonzales (political science) and senior Neha Upadhyaya (political science), who earned 4th and 1st place speakers at the tournament of 100 competitors. Gonzales and Upadhyaya faced fellow CSUF team in the elimination rounds, senior Zach Zirzow (philosophy) and senior Liane Brown (sociology), who advanced from that round to the quarterfinals. Finally, junior Aaliyah Porter (psychology) and senior Kayhan Bakian (computer science and accounting) reached the semi-finals. Bakian earned 3rd place speaker at the tournament.
The team traveled to Saginaw Valley State University in Saginaw, Michigan, Dec. 2-3. Junior Samir Yousef (political science) and senior Fridah Sanchez (political science) made it to the elimination rounds and faced fellow teammates from CSUF in the sweet 16 round. Senior Melody Mergavemeddin (political science) placed 14th speaker, and her partner Grace Norcross ranked 15. They made it to the quarterfinals. Jessica Stern, associate dean for student relations in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, enjoyed traveling to the Great Lake Regional Tournament in Saginaw, Michigan, with the team. “It was the highlight of my fall semester. The students have spent months immersing themselves in the legal arguments surrounding a hypothetical case before the Supreme Court that probes arguments about the Fourth and Eighth Amendments,” Stern explained.
“From the first moments I spent with them in the airport, I saw them supporting and encouraging each other as they practiced their oral arguments. What a beautiful community they have created,” Stern reflected.
Three teams from the CSUF Moot Court team qualified for the American Moot Court Association National Tournament at Louisiana State University School of Law. The American Moot Court Association is the largest intercollegiate moot court organization in the U.S. The AMCA establishes the competition rules and supervises regional and national tournaments open to all college and university students. During the contest on Jan. 14-15, 2023, College of Humanities and Social Science students placed in the top 80 teams from over 500 that competed from over 150 universities. All three teams advanced to elimination rounds, including Aaliyah Porter and Kayhan Bakian, Melody Mergavemeddin and Grace Norcross, Zachary Zirzow, and Liane Brown. Zirzow and Brown tied for 10th place as best speakers and seeded 9th going into elimination rounds.
Stern said moot court is a high-impact practice second to none, “one that invites students to dive deep into thorny legal questions, devote themselves to a long-term goal, build an intellectual community and be their best selves.” The College of Humanities and Social Sciences is lucky to have Pam Fiber-Ostrow, whose dedication to this program and the mentorship of the students is astounding. “She has the legal know-how to help them perfect their arguments, and, perhaps most importantly, the sound voice to keep the students focused on what’s important and aware of how truly impressive they are,” Stern added. To learn more about supporting moot court, please visit their website at: mootcourt.fullerton.edu.