November 01, 2012

Law school to host health law moot court contest

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Security and privacy of electronic medical records will be debated during this weekend's National Health Law Moot Court Competition at Southern Illinois University School of Law.

Some of the nation's leading second- and third-year law school students will have the opportunity to hone their oral and written skills in front of practicing attorneys and judges during the two-day event, Friday, Nov. 2, and Saturday, Nov. 3, in SIU Carbondale's Hiram H. Lesar Law Building. A total of 30 teams representing 22 law schools will participate.

Now in its 21st year, this is the nation's only health law moot court event. More information is available at .php.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the moot court finals on Saturday, Nov. 3. 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 Professor Cheryl L. Anderson at 618/453-5634 or Professor W. Eugene Basanta at 618/453-8748.

This year's fictitious class action lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court asks whether there is a constitutional right to confidentiality and information privacy involving electronic patient medical records after a hacker illegally downloads material from a computer server of several community-operated municipal health clinics. The medical records cover a six-year period, and neither the clinics, patients, nor law enforcement authorities know the hacker's identity or how the comprised medical files have been used.

"As we are beginning to move into the electronic medical and electronic health record age it raises many issues in health care," said W. Eugene Basanta, the Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law. "One of those issues is the security of patient records and large numbers of patient records. If you just have your record in a paper file at the hospital someone can get access to that record and release information from it. But if it's an electronic record that's not well secured and there are tens of thousands of records that someone can get to and disseminate, it poses huge new issues about security of what most people would regard as very private and personal information."

Preliminary rounds begin at 11 a.m. Friday, with 16 teams advancing to compete Saturday. The top two teams meet in the finals at 4 p.m. Saturday in the law school courtroom.

The 16 teams begin competition at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with quarterfinals at 11:30 a.m., semifinals at 2 p.m. and finals at 4 p.m.

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 (ACLM), and the American College of Legal Medicine Foundation co-sponsor the event.

The competition "continues to be one the most important events we undertake at the law school in terms of our national profile," Basanta said.

Students with the SIU School of Law Moot Court do not compete in this event, but it helps team members prepare for similar competitions.  The students review technical aspects of written briefs in the competition while nine ACLM members score substantive arguments in the briefs, Basanta said.

Panelists for Saturday's final round include Dr. Kent Harshbarger, ACLM president, and a three-degree SIU Carbondale graduate. He is a forensic pathologist in the Montgomery County Coroner's Office in Dayton, Ohio, and is the first graduate of the SIU MD/JD program to be ACLM president.

The ACLM is "one of the leading medical legal professional societies" in the United States, Basanta said.

"This is a real recognition of Kent, and by association, our University, that he was selected to serve in this position," Basanta said.

Other final round judges are U.S 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Michael S. Kanne; U.S. District Court Chief Judge David R. Herndon of the Southern District of Illinois, and Jane Bambauer, a visiting associate professor of law at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, who authored this year's moot court problem. Herndon earned his law degree from the SIU School of Law in 1977.

The ACLM and the Center for Health Law and Policy are providing scholarship money for the top teams and individuals. The ACLM provides $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.

The 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."

Participating law schools are: Baylor Law School; Boston University School of Law; Belmont University College of Law, Franklin, Tenn.; DePaul University College of Law; Faulkner University School of Law, Montgomery, Ala.; George Mason University School of Law; Georgia State University College of Law, Atlanta; Hamline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minn.; Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis; Loyola University Chicago School of Law; Michigan State University College of Law; Northeastern University School of Law, Boston; Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center, Davie, Fla.; 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; University of Notre Dame Law School, South Bend, Ind.; University of Pittsburgh School of Law; University of San Diego School of Law; University of Tulsa College of Law, and University of Washington School of Law.