Williams students ready for moot court

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The Williams College Department of Political Science will be holding a U.S. Supreme Couty moot court argument at Griffen Hall Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., and based on each side, it looks as though the legal battle will be fierce.

"The case in question is the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act that was passed in 2006," said visiting lecturer Bernard Moore, who organized the event. "The question or issue is whether Congress has the constitutional authority ... to proscribe commitment for sexually dangerous persons who are already in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons after the completion of their sentence."

The case has proven to be a thorny one even outside of Williams: While the U.S. Court of Appeals deemed the Walsh Act outside of Congress' authority, the case is now pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Moore said he explained the case to his students, and they quickly split into their respective teams.

"We've been working on this since the beginning of February. ... Since spring break, it's escalated," Moore said with a chuckle.

The teams were broken into groups of 10, with two leads for each side. After each side gives an opening argument, they will be questioned by the judges. "They have been focused on legal strategy and legal standards," Moore said. "They're broken down in issues, not all are arguing, but they're back-up support based on issues."

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To make the event at Williams even more realistic, Moore arranged for the event to be presided over by actual court judges, such as Judge Jeffrey R. Howard, Judge Williams K. Sessions III from Vermont, Judge Consuelo Marshall of California, and Judge Victor Marrero of New York.

In addition, each team was coached by high-powered attorneys. The prosecution worked with David K. Kirby, a former U.S. attorney and law clerk to Judge John Paul Stevens; the advocates trained with Barbara O'Connor, former supervisory assistant federal public defender in California and Vermont.

"We've had hundreds of pages of reading because we have the different components of the case. ... We deconstruct it at each stage." said C.J. Flournoy, a team leader for the prosecution.

Asked about his role for the team, Flournoy said his main ability was litigative finesse: "Usually in law school people become good oralists," Flournoy said. "I've done public speaking for a number of years, I won national speaking tournaments in high school — my oral advocacy skills are what I think I bring to the table."

His colleague, Jamal Jefferson, felt that being forewarned about the case was being forearmed.

"I like to ask a lot of questions and make sure we thoroughly know our information and what we're arguing because that's the most important aspect of the case," he said. "When you go up to a judge and he asks you a question, you have to be fully prepared to defend your point."

The advocacy group took a different approach to the case, considering it had the U.S. Appeals Court on its side. Team leader Gershwin Penn said that he chose his side based on the research, rather than ideology.


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