Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Moot Court focuses on practical writing and oral argument exercises common in appellate venues in modern litigation. In the fall, students work on portions of, and then a full, appellate brief. This work is followed by two oral arguments. In the spring, students continue to work with the same law and facts. They rewrite the appellate brief and advocate in two rounds of oral arguments, including one round in front of a panel of skilled Twin Cities attorneys.
The course focuses on topical and timely developments in civil rights and civil liberties law. Last year’s problem involved constitutional challenges to a potentially racially discriminatory disenfranchisement provision and two constitutional challenges to a re-enfranchisement provision that may have discriminated on the basis of wealth and was also potentially an illegal poll tax. Other recent topics include First Amendment rights in public schools, a gay-straight alliance’s ability to organize under the Equal Access Act, constitutionality of law school affirmative action programs under the Fourteenth Amendment, and search and seizure of student cellphones.
Students work in eight to ten small sections of about 8-10 students, each taught by an experienced attorney and a third-year student director. After participants complete the required writing and oral arguments (usually by the first week in March), directors nominate the “Best Brief” from each section for the best brief tournament. Similarly, the “Best Oralist” is selected from each section for the Maynard Pirsig Honors Oral Competition, a bracket tournament that culminates in a final arguments before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and then in front of justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Moot Court typically fields the ABA/NAAC Competition Team and the Thurgood Marshall Competition Team.