Moot Court Board brings home another championship

Photo of Stetson Moot Court Board members
Stetson Moot Court Board team members who participated in the Annual Leroy R. Hassell Sr. National Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition are, from left: Tyler Vaughn, Tiffani Thornton, Chris Lawson, Evan Dahdah, Audrey Gangloff, and James Nealon

Members of Stetson’s Moot Court Board added another plaque to the case after winning the 19th Annual Leroy R. Hassell, Sr. National Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition at Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on Oct. 4-5, 2019.

Twenty-six teams from around the nation participated in the competition, including advocacy powerhouses Baylor, Liberty, St. Mary’s, and South Texas. The issues were cutting edge and timely: one topic – whether the abolition of the insanity defense and substitution of a mens rea approach to evidence of mental impairment violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment – was argued in the United States Supreme Court in Kahler v. Kansas the Monday after the competition!

Stetson fielded two teams for the competition. A team comprising Chris Lawson, Tiffani Thornton, and Tyler Vaughn had the second-best brief in the competition, but fell to South Texas in a close quarterfinal round. The team with Evan Dahdah, Audrey Gangloff, and returning champion James Nealon defeated teams that won the best petitioner’s brief and best preliminary round oralist before moving through two more rounds to go head-to-head with South Texas in the finals.  

Team perseveres despite grueling questioning

The team faced a panel of nine justices from federal appellate courts, including the Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits, as well as state supreme court justices. The justices showed no mercy, hammering the oralists with questions as soon as they started to speak. The trio persevered and brought home the championship. To top it off, James won the award for the best oralist in the final round! 

The Annual Leroy R. Hassell, Sr. National Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition is named in honor of the late former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia who dedicated his life to the fight for justice for the Commonwealth’s citizens. He championed constitutional rights and was the first African American Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court.

James Nealon was on the 2018 winning team with alumni Madison Wahler and Deanna Cipriano. A photograph of him arguing last year before the panel of justices still graces the competition homepage

Professor of Law Brooke J. Bowman and the Rev. Bill Wildhack, Esq. (class of 2005) coached Stetson’s teams at this year’s competition.

For those keeping count, Stetson’s current stats for championships are:

  • 5 World (International);
  • 75 National Championships;
  • 88 Regional Championships;
  • 48 State Championships;
  • 56 Brief Awards;
  • 169 Best Oralist/Best Advocate Awards; 
  • 6 Professionalism Awards;
  • 1 National Competition Award.