Scalia Spotlights

ASLS Starts the Moot Court Season with a Win

ASLS Moot Court Jessica Choate and Brandon Parker

In the Moot Court Board’s first event of the season, the team of Jessica Choate (‘3L) and Brandon Parker (‘3L) won the 15th Annual Emory Law School Civil Rights and Liberties Competition. The event featured 28 teams from 24 law schools and was held on Zoom from Friday to Sunday, October 15–17. Choate and Parker won all six of their matches to capture the title, and Parker was named best oralist in the final round before Judges Albert Diaz (4th Circuit), Bernice Donald (6th Circuit), and Robin Rosenbaum (11th Circuit). ASLS’s other team of Nicole Johnson, Blake Pendleton, and Danielle LeGrand advanced to the Octofinal round of the event, where they lost narrowly to the team that Choate and Parker faced in the final round.

The contest problem pitted the constitutional rights of prisoners against the needs of prison officials to maintain order. Petitioner Harlan Thrombey, serving a life sentence for murder, sought compensatory damages for alleged violations of the First Amendment, caused by the warden’s decision to remove the board game Clue from the prison library. No one disputed that playing Clue (for whatever reason) had become a virtually irreplaceable and exclusive vehicle for Thrombey to express himself while in prison. But prison officials decided to forbid prisoners from playing Clue in the belief that it might be contributing to an upsurge of inmate violence. Support for the officials’ judgment was thin, but deference was due. Ultimately the judges were apparently swayed by Parker’s closing argument that prison officials must have discretion to act proactively and need not wait until “Colonel Mustard with a knife in the conservatory commits murder.”

Mason’s teams were coached by Adjunct Professor Brandy Wagstaff, who said she was

impressed by the dedication and hard work of both teams. ASLS continues to elevate the level of competition at these events, and this contest was no exception. Our students' exceptional preparation and strong oral advocacy skills never go unnoticed at these competitions. ASLS’s moot court program continues to stand out.