November 05, 2007

Appellate justice will help judge finals SIUC to host National Health Law Moot Court

by Pete Rosenbery


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. — For a 16th year, the top collegiate legal minds in the United States will gather this week in Carbondale at the Southern Illinois University School of Law for the National Health Law Moot Court Competition.

Students from 22 law schools will argue the constitutionality of a state statute requiring pharmacists to fill contraceptive prescriptions, while prohibiting them from articulating any moral objections to customers having those prescriptions filled.

The competition is Nov. 9-10. Thirty teams from the 22 law schools meet in the nation's only health law moot court competition. Preliminary rounds start at 11 a.m., Friday, Nov. 9. Sixteen teams advance to compete Saturday, Nov. 10. The top two teams remaining will meet in the finals at 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, 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. 10. Organizers ask that reporters and cameras be unobtrusive and 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 co-sponsor the event.

The teams are comprised of second- and third-year law students.

The issue in this year's fictitious case surrounds the three-generation family owned pharmacy of Frank Goody, and Goody's refusal to fill a valid prescription for the Plan B emergency contraceptive – in opposition to state law. The prescription is for a 17-year-old girl who feared pregnancy. In refusing to fill the prescription, Goody was later determined to also violate the state's prohibition on making any statements "regarding religious, moral or ethical objections to use of the prescribed contraceptive."

"As a result of this, his pharmacist license is suspended," said law professor W. Eugene Basanta, the Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law.

Goody's lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the state statute as an infringement on his freedom of religious exercise, and as an infringement on his freedom of speech, Basanta said.

While this case is fictitious, the scenario is currently one being played out in Illinois and a number of other states. The hypothetical problem is one that "has a dose of reality to it," Basanta said.

"We try and have topics that are actively being debated and discussed both in the medical legal literature and also actively being litigated in the courts," he said. "Students like to argue current, topical issues that lends an air of reality. It lets them really explore an issue that they are probably reading about on a regular basis.

"That makes for a better learning experience and gives them a stronger opportunity to identify with the parties they represent. And that makes for a better competition," Basanta said.

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.

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.

Teams started their casework in early August, Basanta said.

"Most of these students have devoted a substantial part of the fall to writing their written brief and preparing for the argument," Basanta said. "The more teams that get to argue more times just makes for a better experience for the students. That's ultimately the main goal; to have a really positive educational experience for the students."

The competition brings national exposure to SIUC and the law school, said Dean Peter C. Alexander.

"This is an opportunity to showcase the law school to the nation," he said. "Law schools from around the country will compete here, see our facilities, and interact with our professors, students, staff, alumni and friends. And I am sure they will leave with a very good impression of the SIU School of Law."

SIU School of Law students assist in running the event. They do not compete, but benefit by observing the competitive rounds, Basanta said.

A panel of experts from the American College of Legal Medicine judges 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."

A team from St. Louis University School of Law won last year's competition, beating a team from Michigan State University College of Law. A team from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn., was third. Teams from St. Louis University and Hamline University are among those competing again this year.

Panelists for the final round of competition are U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit Judge Michael S. Kanne; U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri Catherine D. Perry; American College of Legal Medicine President Bruce H. Seidberg; and SIU School of Law Professor Paul E. McGreal. McGreal drafted the issue the teams are arguing.

Participating law schools are: Albany Law School, Albany, N.Y.; Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, New York, N.Y.; Chicago-Kent College of Law; George Mason University School of Law, Arlington, Va.; 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; Loyola University New Orleans School of Law; Quinnipiac University School of Law, Hamden, Conn.; St. Louis University School of Law; Seton Hall School of Law, Newark, N.J.; South Texas College of Law, Houston; Suffolk University Law School, Boston; Texas Tech University School of Law; University of Kansas School of Law; 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; University of Tulsa College of Law, and Wake Forest University School of Law.