During the Fall 2017 semester, a class of pre-law students prepared to participate in Moot Court. These students were the first to represent Meredith in this competition that simulates a Supreme Court hearing.
These students were in the Moot Court class, which is required in Meredith’s new pre-law concentration within political science. The course is taught by Assistant Professor of Political Science Whitney Ross Manzo, who is Meredith’s pre-law adviser.
Six of the students, in three teams of two, competed at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., on November 3, while 14 other students, in seven teams of two, competed at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.
Each team had to perform three arguments in front of real lawyers and judges. One student on each team had to argue whether measuring brain activity to determine guilt was a violation of the 5th Amendment's protection against self-incrimination, while the other student on each team had to argue whether a sentence of solitary confinement when a prisoner has mental illness constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment. Each team had to be able to argue both sides of the issue, both for and against.
“Our teams did very well for their first tournament, with judges across the board saying our students had excellent poise and courtroom demeanor,” said Manzo.
Students who participated in Moot Court said they gained much from the competition.
"We experienced a lot of growth both individually and as a team. Because of my Moot Court experience I now feel I am better prepared to speak in front of others, receive constructive feedback, and collaborate with a team,” said Ivey Burgess, ’18.
While many schools have Moot Court teams, Meredith is one of the few to require it as a course. Moot Court gives students interested in law an early opportunity to practice legal skills.
In class, students spent time learning the cases and worked in teams to develop their own arguments. For several weeks, students took turns arguing their cases in front of faculty members and local attorneys who served as guest judges. Professor of Theatre Catherine Rodgers visited the class to critique presentation styles.
Manzo said the course is useful for anyone considering law school or for anyone interested in building presentation, communication, and persuasion skills. The students were graded on their improvement over the course of the semester.
“The students in this class improved their presentation skills and learned how to make interesting, persuasive arguments,” Manzo said. “Being able to firmly defend all sides of an argument is an important part of preparing for law school.”
Student Cameron Ruffin, ’18, called Moot Court the most rigorous course she has taken at Meredith.
“Moot Court simultaneously challenged and improved my teamwork, oral communication, critical thinking and writing skills,” Ruffin said. “This hands-on learning experience enhanced skills I will use outside of the classroom and reaffirmed my desire to attend law school.”
Class member Haley Ligon, ’18, recommends the course, which she called a unique opportunity.
"Moot Court strengthened my oral and writing skills since we had to prepare oral arguments and present them in a persuasive yet succinct manner. I would encourage anyone interested in political science or law to take this class,” Ligon said.