November 03, 2006

School of Law to host health law moot court

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. --The top collegiate legal minds in the United States will argue the constitutionality of state-required HIV testing next week during the National Health Law Moot Court Competition at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The SIU School of Law is hosting the 15th annual competition, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10-11. Thirty-one teams from 21 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. 10. This year, for the first time, 16 teams will advance to compete Saturday, Nov. 11. The top two teams remaining after the octo finals, quarterfinal and semifinal rounds compete in the finals at 4 p.m., Saturday, in the courtroom at the SIUC Hiram H. Lesar Law Building.


Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the moot court finals on Saturday, Nov. 11. Organizers ask that reporters and cameras be in place before the competition begins at 4 p.m. 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, the American College of Legal Medicine and the American College of Legal Medicine Foundation are co-sponsoring the event.

The teams are comprised of second- and third-year law students. At issue is the constitutionality of state-required HIV testing under some circumstances, and imposing criminal penalties for unsafe sex practices. In the fictitious case, a person is criminally charged, and the U.S. Supreme Court is deciding the constitutionality of the criminal statutes under which he is being prosecuted.

The issue presented in the case is a public health problem and "it involves a lot of current controversy about HIV testing; whether it should be treated more like we treat other communicable diseases and routinely tested," said law professor W. Eugene Basanta, the Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law.

Teams in the finals will present oral arguments five times in the space of two days. Each team argues each side of the issue in the two preliminary rounds on Friday. In Saturday's rounds, teams choose the side they represent in arguments by coin flip. Teams prepare in advance an appellate brief for the competition, but have to be prepared in oral arguments to argue either side. Students spend months preparing for the competition.

Basanta likes Saturday's finalists field expanding from 8 to 16 teams. The 16 teams compete at 9:30 a.m. followed by quarterfinals at 11:30, semifinals at 2 p.m. and finals at 4 p.m.

"When you have more than 30 teams competing we really wanted to give more teams a chance to advance past the preliminary rounds," Basanta said.

"We are pleased to host this competition. It brings national exposure to the law school," said Dean Peter C. Alexander.

The competition brings together "very good students from law schools all over the country," Basanta said. It is also a great opportunity to show off the School of Law and SIUC, he said.

Basanta and associate professor Cheryl L. Anderson oversee the event, and SIU School of Law students assist in running the competition, he said. SIUC law school students do no compete in this event, but they do benefit by observing the competitive rounds, he 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.

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, $750 for second place and $500 for third place. The best 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. The ACLM also will publish the best legal brief in its "Journal of Legal Medicine."

Teams from the University of Tulsa College of Law took the top two spots in last year's competition, winning the title for the second time in three years. A team from Indiana University-Indianapolis School of Law finished third.

Panelists for the final round of competition are U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey; U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Chief Judge Carol E. Jackson; American College of Legal Medicine President Richard S. Wilbur, and LSU Law Center Professor Edward P. Richards. Richards drafted the issue the teams are arguing.

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; Michigan State University College of Law; New York Law School; Quinnipiac University School of Law, Hamden, Conn,; St. Louis University School of Law; South Texas College of Law; Stetson University College of Law, Gulfport, Fla.; Suffolk University Law School; 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 the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.