JOSEPH REILLY ‘18 | EDITOR- IN-CHIEF • This weekend marks the beginning of the 24th annual Moot Court Competition at Wabash College. Wallies of all classes, majors, and post-graduate interests will prepare and present legal arguments in this mock courtroom setting while competing for the prize of Top Advocate. Many students consider the trial and preparation to be something that only pre-law track guys would be interested in, but the benefits of participating in Moot Court extend to all liberal arts fields.
Jacob Roehm ’18, President of the Pre-Law Society, specifically noted the benefit that Moot Court participation has for everyone involved. “It gives you the ability to take a great deal of information and learn how to best present it to a group of people and be questioned and take those questions well,” Roehm said. “It gives you a lot of practice being interrogated and having ideas that you have interrogated in a way that you’re not going to get from anyone else. There’s a reason Professor Himsel calls it the ‘liberal arts on steroids’. It’s more of that kind of experience than you will get in any one day ever, aside from Comps.”
The benefits of Moot Court participation give students a chance to present their ability to tie multiple aspects of their education together. These aspects stem from both in and out of the classroom, as well as across divisions. It is an opportunity to display just how well one can make connections between subfields to really bolster an argument. Students hoping to rise to the challenge of this year’s problem would do well to make use of all aspects of their Wabash education.
Prof. Todd McDorman, Senior Associate Dean of the College, outlined this year’s case. “It’s a really interesting case,” McDorman said. “It’s based on an actual problem out of the state of Colorado that involves a baker who sees himself as an artist. He was asked by a same-sex couple to bake a cake for their wedding. Upon being told what the cake was for, he declined, and explained that based on his religious belief he would make any other item that they wanted, but he would not bake a cake for a same-sex couple.”
The case itself is formed by the two sides of the issue. Competitors will represent Higgins, the baker, or the Broadway Civil Rights Commission and the couple attempting to purchase the cake (Smith and Jones) in each round. Those representing Higgins will argue that the state is not within its rights to compel Higgins to bake the cake. Those representing the Broadway Civil Rights Commission and Smith and Jones will argue that it is within the Broadway Civil Rights Commission to compel Higgins to bake the cake. However, it is not enough for the competitors to understand their own side, they must understand both arguments in order to succeed.
“I hope that students build their critical thinking and advocacy skills,” McDorman said. “I think it is the sort of activity that brings together many of the ways of thinking and skills we most value at Wabash: to critically examine an idea and think about it from all angles and to think about its humane and social implications. We put a lot of emphasis on communication in both written and oral form, so I really look at it as an opportunity to apply their liberal arts education.”
The students will compete in front of alumni, faculty, and other legal-minded volunteers. Not only is it a great chance to demonstrate their argumentative chops, but also the competition also allows the students to interact with people in the legal field. For the final round of competition, the four judges will be Judges Margret G. Robb and Rudolph R. Pyle III, both from the Indiana Court of Appeals, Mr. Stephen R. Creason ’97, the Chief Counsel of the Office of the Indiana Attorney General, and Prof. Derek Nelson, Professor of Religion. The members of the Wabash community who have worked hard to put this year’s competition together include Prof. Scott Himsel ’85, Matt Griffith ’87, Jon Pactor ’71, Seamus Boyce ’03, and Jane Ann Himsel, the primary author of this year’s problem.
The event takes place over the course of the weekend, and The Bachelor would like to wish all those competing the mental wherewithal to overcome any tongue-tying questions. For those who aren’t competing, be sure to come out to the final round next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Salter Hall. It might come as surprising to those in attendance as how interesting and fun the competition seems. It’s not unusual for the the event to spark interest in competing in next year’s Moot Court. Whether one is interested in law or not, participating and attending the event is an opportunity for another unique experience here at Wabash College.
“A lot of people feel about Moot Court is that it’s something that pre-law guys do,” Roehm said. “In many cases that’s true, but I think that it’s valuable for pretty much everyone on campus because of the things it asks you to do. And it’s a lot of fun. It really is a lot of fun.”