Universities battle it out in mock court competition

By Cory Ray, @coryray_DE

Law students put their skills to the test this weekend in a competition that forced them to consider real-world issues. 

The SIU School of Law hosted its annual National Health Law Moot Court Competition on Saturday and Sunday, a two-day mock court competition in which students from universities across the nation compete against each other. 

While SIUC students do not participate, they do host and organize the event. 


This year, 29 teams of two to three students each represented 23 universities at the competition.

Gene Basanta, a professor of law emeritus who has worked with the event since 1992, said it is beneficial for students because the hypothetical case is relevant issue in U.S. law. 

In the mock case, a state discontinued religious exemptions for vaccinations and required non-vaccinated children to view an informational film about the consequences of being unvaccinated. A set of parents filed a suit claiming their constitutional rights have been violated. The teams then composed arguments based on the case facts.

“Where there are laws that are passed that require, as in this case, students to be vaccinated …  That’s something that I think is important,” Seth Granda, a third-year law student participating in the moot court, said. “I think it’s really good that the competition has picked something that is that relevant and forced us to take it head on and address it.” 

Every team assembled arguments for both sides of the case.

“I think any good lawyer has to be able to dissect an issue,” Basanta said. A lot of these times, they are issues that do have two sides to this story and there are two different viewpoints, or multiple different viewpoints expressed … You’re also forced to think about the way that someone else who believes things very differently than you thinks.”

Vaccinations were discussed at the second Republican president debate earlier this year. During the debate, candidate Ben Carson argued no correlation between autism and vaccinations against Donald Trump’s accusations linking vaccinations to the disorder.


“It’s a very timely issue,” Basanta said. “Students who come from [these] schools want to argue cases that have a dose of reality to them.”

In addition to arguing the case, teams also prepared briefs reviewed by a panel and included in overall team scores. 

The law school depends on local and state attorneys and judges to volunteer to judge the competition.

Students competed in two rounds Saturday, and the top 16 teams competed Sunday in a tournament-style format until one team is declared the winner. 

Rebecca Harris, a third-year law student from Albion and member of the Moot Court Board, previously participated in a moot court in Albany, N.Y., that focused on family law. She said she finds the event beneficial and she devoted a lot of time in preparation.

“We did practice rounds about five days a week for a couple hours,” Harris said. “We started out with a script — basically our whole argument — and, eventually, we would work down to where we got to no notes.”

Cory Ray can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @coryray_DE