April 17, 2008

SIU law school students take top honors at moot court

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Two teams from the Southern Illinois University School of Law took top honors at a recent disability law moot court competition in California.

Second-year law students Amanda R. Horner and Kyle C. Mardis won the inaugural Frank N. Darras Disability Law Moot Court Competition. Meanwhile, third-year law students Jamie L. McCarthy and Gregory W. Odom II placed second in the event at Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, Calif. The competition was March 29.

Horner and Mardis earned top honors for writing the best legal brief, and Odom received the award for best oral advocate.

Odom is from Marion, McCarthy is from O'Fallon, Mardis is from Terre Haute, Ind., and Horner is from Martin, Tenn.

"Both teams performed exceptionally well," said Cheryl L. Anderson, associate law professor and coach. The final round — where the two SIU law school teams argued against each other, "was one of the most outstanding displays of advocacy I have seen in over a decade of working with moot court students," she said.

Anderson added that final round judges, in addition to the audience, were "extremely complementary."

The teams spent several weeks writing legal briefs and about three weeks preparing for oral arguments, she said. Several local attorneys and faculty helped by judging practice rounds.

Anderson said the fictional case involved a man discharged from his job as a school janitor after district officials learned the man spent two months in a mental institution diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder. The diagnosis resulted from the man's baseball bat attack on his son's Little League coach more than seven years earlier, where he was found not guilty by reason of insanity for attempted murder.

The man worked in the school district for more than a year with no outbursts or violent incidents before his discharge. He sued under the Americans With Disabilities Act, alleging he was qualified for the custodian position and able to perform essential job functions. The school district, however, argued that the man was not qualified because his IED posed a direct threat to the health and safety of school children and faculty, and no accommodations were reasonably available for a person with IED to work in a school system, Anderson said.