By Jordan Unger
Youngstown State University’s Moot Court teams competed at the Midwest Regional Tournament on Nov. 18 and 19 at the College of Wooster. Four YSU teams competed, with one team advancing to nationals.
At the tournament, teams of two students studied case laws and competed against other teams in a simulated court case. Paul Sracic, YSU political science professor and coach of the team, said this tournament focused on a voter identification law.
“You basically argue a hypothetical case before a panel of judges,” Sracic said. “It’s a hypothetical case that’s very close to real cases that have been decided by the Supreme Court over the years.”
The teams are scored by ballots written by the judges of each competition. Sracic said the team with the highest ballot wins the case.
Eleven schools competed at the event, making up 36 total teams. The teams compete in three rounds on the first day and the top 16 teams move on to the second day. Team members Jillian Smith and Michael Marshall made it to the semifinals of day two, guaranteeing them a spot in the national competition in January. Marshall said they competed together at nationals last year, and he feels more confident this time around.
“We now have some experience against the national level competition,” Marshall said. “I think Jillian and I have both improved as debaters since last year, so overall I like our chances.”
Participants were also judged individually to determine the top orators of the tournament. YSU competitor Marissa Snyder placed sixth, up from her ranking in the past.
“I scored 12th last year, and so I had a personal goal of being in the top 10 this year,” Snyder said.
Five more YSU moot court teams will be competing on Dec. 2 and 3 at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan in hope of making it to nationals.
Eighty teams across the country will attend the national competition at Stetson University in Florida. Sracic said YSU teams have made it to nationals every year except once since 2008.
“We’ve had a really successful Moot Court program here at YSU,” Sracic said. “We are currently ranked 12th in the country.”
The students involved in Moot Court take a class to help prepare for the competitions. Sracic said the class encourages students to study the 21 court cases that the Moot Court cases are based on.
“They have to become fluent in those cases,” Sracic said. “So they spend the semester studying those cases and then practicing legal argument.”
Marshall said Moot Court has provided valuable experience for a career in law.
“The biggest part of the experience for me has been learning to apply precedents and legal tests in the same way that practicing lawyers do in formulating legal arguments,” Marshall said. “I feel that learning these concepts now will be an advantage to me.”
Greta Frost, a political science student who competed in the tournament, was proud of YSU’s performance. She said competing improves public speaking.
“I came into college being very quiet and shy, and you can’t be quiet and shy in the court,” Frost said. “It’s wonderful, and you really get a good understanding of case law and how to read cases.”
Sracic said he is proud of how well the team has done and continues to do. He said YSU is the only state university in Ohio with Moot Court, making this a very unique learning experience for the students.
“They enjoy the satisfaction of achieving this,” Sracic said. “I’m really glad we’ve been able to provide them the opportunity.”