Two students on the UNT Texas Moot Court Squad won the Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Association tournament sponsored by Baylor University School of Law in March. In addition, three members of UNT's squad won top 10 speaker awards.
Shelby Henderson, a junior political science and history major from Carpentersville, Ill., and Rebekah Samaniego-Kopsky, a senior political science major from Lewisville, were named the third seed following the tournament's preliminary rounds. They defeated a team from Texas A&M University in the semifinals and a team from the tournament's host, Baylor University, in the finals to take first place.
The Baylor tournament was one of several organized each year by the Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Association, which was founded to advance the legal and analytical skills of undergraduate college students who plan to attend law school. Twelve of the top moot court teams in Texas participated in the tournament.
During a moot court, which is 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.
All students participating in TUMCA tournaments this year argued the fictional case of Bobby Bronner and Chester Cromerford v. The State of Olympus and the United States, in which a same-sex couple challenged the refusal of the fictional state of Olympus to recognize their marriage, which forced them to pay more for health care premiums as single people, thus denying them equal protection of the law in violation of the 14th Amendment. The couple also challenged the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010, claiming that the individual mandate is beyond the reach of the federal government in its ability to regulate interstate commerce.
In the final round, nine faculty members and students from the Baylor School of Law acted as judges -- to represent the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court -- and heard the students argue both sides of the fictional case. Saminiego-Kopsky says having nine judges was a first in TUMCA tournaments.
"It brought the challenge to a new level with trying to keep up with all of the questions and with which justice asked which question," she says.
Henderson called the final round "just plain fun."
"It was intimidating and intense with nine judges asking questions," she says. "Just getting to be part of the final round with Rebekah was amazing, but winning was the cherry on the top."
Samaniego-Kopsky was named the fifth best speaker at the Baylor School of Law tournament, after previously placing in the top 10 speakers at TUMCA tournaments held at UNT and at the Texas Tech University School of Law.
Other winners included:
- Travis Huehlefeld, a junior history and political science major from Victoria, was named the eighth best speaker at the Baylor tournament.
- Shanice Newton, a senior political science major from Fort Hood, was named the 10th best speaker.
- Two other members of UNT's Moot Court Squad received speaker awards at other tournaments this past year.
Nancy Kolsti with UNT News Service can be reached at Nancy.Kolsti@unt.edu.