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UNT Insider | April 2008 Issue | UNT Moot Court Squad

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UNT Moot Court Squad captures top spots in state rankings

From a UNT News Service press release

UNT's Moot Court Squad ended its competition year with two of its two-student teams ranked first and second in the state by the Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Association and with one of the teams winning the TUMCA competition held at UNT.

The association gave out its year-end awards April 5 following the UNT tournament. The UNT tournament was one of several organized each year by the association, which was founded to advance the legal and analytical skills of undergraduate college students who plan to attend law school. During a moot court, a simulation of an appellate court's proceedings, teams of two students examine a legal problem and present arguments for both sides of the case to a group of appellate judges. The judges review the students' arguments and ask them questions about the case. All first- and second-year law students at American colleges and universities must participate in a moot court activity.

TUMCA usually selects universities with pre-law programs and law schools to host its tournaments. UNT is the only university with a pre-law program, but without a current law school, that has been chosen by TUMCA to host a statewide tournament during the last two years.

Nate Gies, a UNT senior political science and philosophy major from Spokane, Wash., and his partner Emily Ownby, a senior political science major from Plano, argued both sides of a fictional court case that is similar to a real Supreme Court case to win the UNT tournament. They defeated another team of UNT students in the finals — Jesus Gonzalez, senior international studies and Spanish major from Diboll, Texas, and Shanna Valentine, senior political science and criminal justice major from Beaumont. A third UNT team of Allie Hallmark, senior political science major from Midland, and Francisco Gonzalez, senior psychology major from Robstown, reached the quarterfinals of the tournament before being eliminated by a team from Stephen F. Austin University that Jesus Gonzalez and Valentine defeated in the semifinals.

It was the third win of the academic year for Ownby and Gies, who also won the Southwest Regional tournament sponsored by the Texas Tech University School of Law in October and the Texas Wesleyan University School of Law TUMCA tournament in February.

The teams in TUMCA tournaments this year argued the fictional case of The United States v. William DeNolf. In the case, DeNolf uses his home to clean, repair and manufacture handguns. He integrates information about those guns into the home school curriculum for his three children, who are ages 7, 9 and 11. DeNolf was indicted by the federal grand jury for violating provisions of Section 922 (q) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, which outlaws possession of a gun within a school zone. Simulating the process of an appeal by the United States before the Supreme Court, the teams argue whether the Gun Free School Zone Act of 1997 applies to DeNolf and whether it violates the Commerce Clause or the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The fictional case is closely related to District of Columbia v. Heller, which focuses on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Dick Anthony Heller, a guard at Washington, D.C.'s Federal Judicial Center, argued that his Second Amendment right was violated when he tried to register a handgun with the city to keep in his home, but was turned down because Washington, D.C., has banned the registration, and thus the possession, of all privately owned handguns. District of Columbia v. Heller is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court.

Valentine and Jesus Gonzalez were ranked as the top team for 2007-08 by TUMCA, based on their performances throughout the year, while Gies and Ownby were ranked the second-best team.

UNT's Moot Court Squad members also won three of the top 10 speaker awards at the UNT tournament, and six of the students were among those named the top 10 orators for the year by TUMCA.

Out of the 62 students participating in the UNT tournament, Graham Rainer, junior political science major from Carrollton, was named the tournament's top speaker. Halmark was named the fifth-best speaker and Ownby was named the ninth best.

Rainer was also ranked as the top orator for the year by TUMCA, with Jesus Gonzalez ranked third, Valentine fifth, Ownby seventh, Gies eighth and Hallmark ninth.

Kimi King, assistant professor of political science and Moot Court Squad coach, says the eight year-end speaker awards are the most the squad has won since it began in 2000.

"Once again, UNT dominates Texas and the Southwest region, but we're still looking for a national title," she says. "Across the country, other schools give scholarships and require courses for their team members, so we're starting to think about how we can be more competitive. In our opinion, if you want to go to law school, UNT is the only place to be in the Southwest region."

UNT News Service Press Release
Nancy Kolsti can be reached at nkolsti@unt.edu.

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April 2008

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