November 03, 2004

SIUC hosting health law moot court competition

by Pete Rosenbery

(Editors: Note listing below of local law schools participating.)

CARBONDALE, Ill. - - Law students from throughout the country will put their best arguments forward during the 13th annual National Health Law Moot Court Competition at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

SIUC's law school is hosting the competition, which begins with preliminary rounds at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 12. The top eight teams return Saturday, Nov. 13. The top two teams remaining after quarterfinal and semifinal rounds compete in the finals at 4 p.m. Saturday in the courtroom in SIUC's Hiram H. Lesar Law Building.

Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the moot court finals on Saturday, Nov. 13. Organizers ask that reporters and cameras be in place before the competition begins at 4 p.m. Interviews are available with competing students, judges and organizers when the competition ends at about 5:15 p.m. One of the jurists, U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Julio M. Fuentes is a 1971 SIUC graduate. For more information before the event, contact associate professor Cheryl L. Anderson at 618/453-5634 or professor W. Eugene Basanta at 618/453-8748.

The SIUC School of Medicine's Department of Medical Humanities, the American College of Legal Medicine and the American College of Legal Medicine Foundation are co-sponsoring the event.

SIUC's event is the only health law competition in the country, said W. Gene Basanta of the law school's Center for Health Law and Policy. The competition gives the law school and program some added national visibility, he said.

This year's case focuses on a theoretical lawsuit where the plaintiff is a pregnant, drug abusing 26-year-old unmarried woman. Pursuant to state law covering child abuse statutes, the woman is taken into involuntary protective custody and held her until the baby is born to prevent her from abusing drugs and injuring the fetus. The woman concedes she is addicted to Phenobarbital, although drug tests are negative when she checks into the facility where she is held. In arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, the woman challenges the constitutionality of her incarceration during her pregnancy.

"There has been quite a bit of discussion in legal literature and policy literature about doing that sort of thing. A few states, only a handful, do have state statutes that appear are designed to allow for that, although they are so new that they really haven't been tested much in court as of yet," said Basanta.

Twenty-one teams from 15 law schools from around the country are participating. Each team argues twice in preliminary rounds on Friday, once each on both sides of the issue. Competing students are second- and third-year law school students. The top eight teams resume competition Saturday morning in the quarterfinals, with those winners advancing to the semifinals. Students spend three months preparing for the competition.

"This is what a lot of them are going to be doing when they graduate from law school," he said. "The experience of researching and writing a brief and then arguing and having their arguments critiqued by sitting judges and practicing lawyers is pretty important and valuable."

The American College of Legal Medicine and the SIUC law school Center for Health Law and Policy are providing scholarship money for the top teams and individuals. The ACLM is providing $1,000 for the winning team; second place, $750, and third place, $500. The best-written legal brief receives $500. The student making the best oral arguments in the competition receives a $500 scholarship. In addition, the law school's Center for Health Law and Policy is providing $250 each to the best oralist in the preliminary rounds, and $250 to the runner-up best legal brief.

Judges for the final round of competition are U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Julio M. Fuentes, who graduated with a bachelor's degree from SIUC in 1971; U.S. District Court Judge J. Phil Gilbert of the Southern District of Illinois; and Theodore R. LeBlang of Springfield, president of the American College of Legal Medicine. LeBlang is also chair of SIUC Medical School Medical Humanities Department.

Participating law schools are: Hamline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minn.; Indiana University School of Law; Louisiana State University Law School; Chicago School of Law, Loyola University; Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wis.; New York Law School; Quinnipiac University School of Law; Stetson University College of Law, Gulfport, Fla.; South Texas College of Law; Southern Methodist University School of Law; University of Louisville School of Law; University of New Mexico School of Law; University of Pittsburgh School of Law; University of South Dakota School of Law; and the University of Tulsa College of Law.