WOOSTER, Ohio – Two of The College of Wooster’s three partnerships earned All-American status at the American Moot Court Association (AMCA) National Championship Tournament, as the Oria Daugherty-Heather Hartmann and Cecelia Payne-Brianna Schmidt teams each emerged with the prestigious honor during the oral advocacy competition. This year’s preeminent collegiate moot court event took place at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, La., on Jan. 17-18.
Payne, a junior, and Schmidt, a senior, advanced through the preliminaries at nationals, then won two elimination rounds to reach the quarterfinals of what is considered to be the marquee AMCA competition. Making it all the more impressive, the duo had not been partners previously, as Payne had qualified with junior Elyse Evans during the fall semester when they won the AMCA-sanctioned Windy City Regional, but the latter is studying abroad this semester, thus Schmidt took her place.
“What is especially noteworthy is that, for the whole season, Brianna argued the 4th amendment question. Elyse had argued the 6th amendment. So, in less than eight weeks, Brianna developed a whole new set of arguments on a constitutional question completely distinct from the one she’d worked on throughout the course of the season,” explained John Rudisill, associate professor of philosophy and coach of the moot court team. “In spite of this short window to prepare, Brianna still contributed very effectively in her partnership with Cecelia.”
Each year, the AMCA competitors are presented with a hypothetical case related to U.S. Constitution law, with the 2019-20 case problem centered on a defendant who was accused of human trafficking and possession of child pornography. One argument was whether the defendant’s 4th amendment rights were violated when police conducted a warrantless search on his cell phone location data, and the 6th amendment question regarded the individual’s right to confront an accuser’s declarations.
In addition to the oral advocacy tournament, there is an AMCA brief writing competition and Schmidt also excelled in that area with sophomore partner Tim Cotter, as they argued on behalf of the state and finished in ninth-place (respondent category).
For Schmidt, it closed out an outstanding career at the AMCA nationals. In addition to being a competitor all four years in the oral advocacy, with this year’s quarterfinal run being her highest finish, she placed among the top-10 every year in the brief writing, headlined by a national championship with partner Dawson Honey in 2018.
Daugherty and Hartmann, both juniors and each competing in their third AMCA national tourney, also emerged from the 80 teams in the preliminaries to the play-in round in the oral advocacy competition, good for All-American recognition. Each team is judged on four categories – knowledge of case law, response to questions, courtroom demeanor, and forensics, or speaking skills.
Wooster’s other national-qualifying partnership consisted of first-year Haley Huett and sophomore Michael Nahhas. The duo gained valuable experience, and also traveling with the team as alternates were Cotter and fellow sophomore Spencer Gaitsch.
“This was my first year taking over head coaching responsibilities for the college’s moot court team and the experience has been incredibly rewarding and fun,” Rudisill added. “I am so proud of the work that these students have put in and of the remarkable progress they made throughout the season.”
Wooster’s moot court season is not quite over. In fact, a group of four—Daugherty, first-year Jenna Dyroff, Hartmann, and Schmidt—will take part in an exhibition tournament, hosted by University of California, Hastings College of Law, this Saturday, Feb. 8, in San Francisco. As an added bonus, the competitors will have the opportunity to observe oral arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on the day prior to their exhibition.