By Rachel Gobep
For three political science and philosophy double majors, moot court is an activity that has shaped their college career.
Four members of the Youngstown State University moot court team traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to compete in the American Moot Court Association’s national competition at the Southern University Law Center.
This is the 11th consecutive appearance the team has made at the national championship.
According to Jacob Tomory, a senior political science and philosophy double major, moot court is an intense mental activity.
“If you’re in an intense practice round at 7 p.m., you’re not going to be able to turn that off for the next few hours. You’re going to stay in that mentality,” Tomory said.
Samantha Fritz, a senior political science and philosophy double major, and Tomory are team members, placed in the top eight of the competition.
More than 500 teams competed in 15 regional tournaments across the country to advance to this year’s 80-team national championship.
Participants have the opportunity to take part in an activity that simulates the appellate court process through moot court. Competitors must give an oral argument that uses court precedent, legal analysis and forensic and advocacy skills.
This was Fritz and Tomory’s third time arguing at nationals. They lost two votes to one in the round of eight at Eastern Michigan University, the eventual champion of the tournament.
The first time the pair argued at nationals, they were freshmen at YSU and placed in the top eight. Tomory said although it might not appear like there was growth for the two, there certainly was.
“The entire activity has gotten so much harder since when we started. Suddenly, everyone we’re arguing up against is very good,” he said. So, while the results have stayed the same, I do think that we have grown a lot in terms of our abilities. I think this last year was the best we’ve ever been.”
Fritz said she believes the most growth for the pair has come from acknowledging the subjectivity of moot court.
“Once you break rounds at nationals, everybody’s good. It’s just a matter of the personal preference of the judges,” she said.
Michael Factor and his partner, Moataz Abdelrasoul, a senior political science and pre-law major, placed in the top 32 of the competition.
The American Moot Court Association releases the case problem in May each year, which means the moot court team begins to prepare for the season in the summer.
Fritz said this means she sometimes has to take a break.
“Usually at the end of October or early November, which is unfortunate because it’s right before regionals, but I just need two weeks to stop thinking about moot court. Then rereading the cases feels fresh and the facts are kind of muscle memory at a certain point,” she said.
Tomory placed 5th for best orator individually, while Abdelrasoul received 24th place for best orator.
Fritz, Tomory and Abdelrasoul are all seen as leaders and examples for the team and will be graduating in May. Factor said it’s going to be a rough adjustment.
“It’s going to be a loss just for me personally in terms of the resources that they provide for the team in terms of bouncing ideas off of them,” he said.
Factor said there is young talent on the team though, so he’s hopeful for their success moving forward.
The class not only shapes students for communication skills in the real world but also prepares some students for their ultimate goal: law school.
Tomory plans to attend law school after graduation and has been accepted into tier-one law schools.
Fritz plans to complete a dual Ph.D. and law degree program, while Abdelrasoul also plans to attend law school.
Fritz offered advice for those who are interested in participating in moot court: Overall the nervousness of arguing doesn’t go away.
“I think that it’s just [finding] a way to cope with the nerves that people get better at. … It’s just a matter of practice, getting up there and arguing, going through the material, even just going through the motions. It’s practice, but that first practice is always going to be intimidating,” she said.