Caleb Dickey ’21-Staff Writer- The 24th annual Wabash College Moot Court competition ended on Wednesday night with The Anh Pham ‘18 taking home the prize of Top Advocate. “I just read the case again and again, and after each round I read it again,” Pham said. “It feels great.”
He beat out a pool of students from every class and academic focus. “We were thrilled with the diversity of the students,” Prof. Todd McDorman, Senior Associate Dean of the College, said. “We had new competitors, returning competitors, students from all sorts of majors. We had art students, international students, students who want to go to law school, but students who want to go to graduate school in other subjects as well.”
Pham did not have an easy path to victory. 40 students participated in the preliminary round on Saturday morning. In that round, each student had to argue both sides of the argument in order to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the case. “You’re never prepared to argue your case until you can argue your opponent’s case better than he can,” Prof. Scott Himsel ’85, Associate Professor of Political Science, said. “That’s one of those skills that you learn in Moot Court.”
After the preliminary round, Pham and 11 other competitors advanced to the semifinal round, which took place on Monday night. Each student argued in front of a panel of four judges—Tim Fisher ’91, Matt Griffith ’89, Himsel, and McDorman. “We had a particularly rigorous [semifinal] round Monday night,” Himsel said.
After the semifinal round, the judges chose 4 students to advance to the final round—Walker Hedgepath ’19, Jacob Roehm ’18, Jake Vermeulen ’21, and Pham. These four students argued their cases on Wednesday night to compete for Top Advocate.
The case they argued was based on a case that will actually be argued in front of the United States Supreme Court. “The problem is meant to reflect as closely as possible the same arguments that the parties are making in the real case,” Himsel said, whose wife, Jane Ann Himsel, was the primary author of the case. “The problem was assembled with the materials [of the case].”
The Chief Justice of the final round was Judge Margret G. Robb of the Indiana Court of Appeals. The other judges were Judge Rudolph R. Pyle III, also of the Indiana Court of Appeals; Stephen Creason ’97, counsel to the Indiana Attorney General; and Prof. Derek Nelson ‘99, Chairman of the Religion Department. Nelson had no prior Moot Court experience, but was chosen as a judge because of the religious implications of this case.
Wabash’s Moot Court competition adds to the innate uniqueness of the college; it is very rare for an undergraduate school to offer such a competition. Yet McDorman feels it fits perfectly with the school.
“It is a competition that allows students to really live the Wabash mission statement,” McDorman said. “To think critically, certainly to develop their communication skills, to get to know their fellow students and alumni alike.”
Pham encourages all students who are thinking about participating in Moot Court to do it. “I have no intention of going to law school,” he said. “This competition is for everyone. Participate and you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.”