November 07, 2005

Law school hosting moot court competition

by Pete Rosenbery

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

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Though the case is hypothetical, arguments presented later this week during the National Health Law Moot Court Competition at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will mirror right-to-die issues confronting courts and state legislatures.

The SIUC law school is hosting the 14th annual competition, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11-12. Thirty teams from 20 law schools from around the country are contending in the only health law moot court competition in the nation.

Preliminary rounds start at 11 a.m., Friday, Nov. 11. The top eight teams return Saturday, Nov. 12. The top two teams remaining after the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds compete in the finals at 4 p.m., Saturday in the courtroom in the SIUC Hiram H. Lesar Law Building.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the moot court finals on Saturday, Nov. 12. 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. District Court Judge David R. Herndon, is a 1977 graduate of the SIUC law school. 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 law school's Center for Health Law and Policy, the School of Medicine's Department of Medical Humanities, and the American College of Legal Medicine and the American College of Legal Medicine Foundation are co-sponsoring the event.

The case for teams comprised of second- and third-year law school students deals with issues raised in the Terri Schiavo litigation – a case that riveted the nation and sparked heated debate earlier this year.

The competition has a good national reputation and gives the law school and the program added national visibility, said W. Gene Basanta, a professor in the law school's Center for Health Law and Policy.

"Given our institutional interest in law and medicine issues … it's a logical activity for us to host and sponsor," Basanta said.

This year's hypothetical case focuses on a woman seeking a court injunction to force a hospital system to comply with her request to remove the feeding tube to her 41-year-old husband, who is in a persistent vegetative state. The wife is the legally appointed guardian and patient-designated proxy decision-maker for her husband.

The scenario is one that "courts and legislatures are wrestling with even as we speak and is part of the nationwide debate," Basanta said.

Each team argues twice in preliminary rounds on Friday, once each on both sides of the issue. 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.

Researching and writing briefs, presenting arguments and then having their arguments critiqued by sitting judges and practicing attorneys is valuable, Basanta said. A panel of experts from the American College of Legal Medicine will judge the legal briefs; students also have the opportunity to hone their skills by presenting oral arguments in front of panels of attorneys and judges. The judges provide students with feedback at the end of each round.

SIUC law students do not compete in this event, but they do benefit by observing the competitive rounds, Basanta said.

"The students they see argue are some of the best students from their respective schools," he said. "Our students learn by observing and listening to the critiques."

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 orator in the preliminary rounds, and $250 to the runner-up best legal brief.

Judges for the final round of competition are U.S. District Court Judge David Herndon of the Southern District of Illinois; Dr. Philip A. Shelton, president of the American College of Legal Medicine; and professor Kathy L. Cerminara of the Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale-Davie, Fla.

Participating law schools are: Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, New York, N.Y.; Chicago-Kent College of Law; Georgia State University School of Law; Hamline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minn.; Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis; the John Marshall School of Law, Chicago; Loyola University Chicago School of Law; New York Law School; Quinnipiac University School of Law, Hamden, Conn,; Seattle University School of Law; South Texas College of Law; Stetson University College of Law, Gulfport, Fla.; Texas Wesleyan University School of Law; University of Houston Blakely Advocacy Institute; University of Louisville School of Law; University of Maryland School of Law; University of New Mexico School of Law; University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Health Law Clinic; University of South Dakota School of Law; and the University of Tulsa College of Law.

Creating citizen-leaders with global perspectives is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.