After researching the leading cases on school speech, writing a twenty-five page brief, and arguing both sides of the issue through several rounds of oral arguments, the sixty competitors who entered this year’s Paul A. McLennon, Sr. Honors Moot Court Competition were reduced to two participants. Melisa McKellar and Craig TenBroeck, both 2L members of the USD Appellate Moot Court Associate Board, stood ready to argue the issues one last time before members of the USD law school community, family and friends, and three distinguished judges.
Seated in the theater of the Joan B. Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice, the Honorable Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit; the Honorable Larry Alan Burns, District Judge for the United States District Court, Southern District of California; and the Honorable Judith McConnell, Presiding Justice of the First Division, California Fourth District Court of Appeal, came prepared to hear the arguments and were ready with questions for the competitors.
Both McKellar, counsel for the petitioner, and TenBroeck, counsel for the respondent, were only thirty seconds into each of their arguments when Justice McConnell asked her first question. The remainder of the twenty minutes turned into a conversation between the competitor and the judges, each student making strong arguments for his or her client.
This year’s problem, written by Brooke Meling, concerned an offensive rap song that a student wrote and posted to his blog after school hours and the principal’s subsequent disciplinary action. Although Judge Burns admitted that he made an effort “to avoid hip-hop” and Justice McConnell confessed to only “listening to hip-hop when someone drives by with their windows down,” all three judges were very interested in this year’s issue because of a similar case that may soon come before the Supreme Court.
After taking a short recess to determine the results, the justices returned to deliver their decision. They congratulated both competitors on their terrific performances and announced Craig TenBroeck as the 2011 McLennon, Sr. Honors Moot Court Competition champion.
In his opening remarks, Dean Kevin Cole thanked Professor Devitt and his family for their generous contribution to the McLennon Tournament, in addition to the 610 attorneys and judges who have volunteered this year to judge USD moot court competitions. Dean Cole also commended the USD Appellate Moot Court Board for its “outstanding contribution to the school” for organizing and running the McLennon competition and for continued success as a team in several national moot court tournaments this year. A reception and awards dinner followed the competition.
Congratulations to this year’s McLennon participants and finalists!