Dean's Cup

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The Dean’s Cup, initiated in 1963 by Deans E.R. Latty and J.D. Johnston, is Duke’s premier oral advocacy competition.

The Moot Court Board hosts the Dean’s Cup annually for second- and third-year students. The competition centers around a case taught in the Appellate Practice class offered every fall, and it seeks to highlight the school’s best appellate advocates.

This year, the competitors will moot Speech First, Inc. v. Sands, 69 F.4th 184 (4th Cir. 2023). Speech First is a national organization that seeks to protect the free-speech rights of college students. Speech First sued Virginia Tech to challenge the legality of two policies: (1) a policy that allows students to report “bias incidents” to a panel of university administrators, and (2) a policy that regulates leafletting and soliciting signatures on campus. The Fourth Circuit ruled for Virginia Tech, and Speech First is appealing as the Petitioner in the case. At issue in the competition is (1) whether Speech First has Article III standing to challenge Virginia Tech’s policy on reporting incidents of bias, and (2) whether Virginia Tech’s regulation of leafletting and signature solicitation violates the First Amendment.


The 2024 Dean’s Cup includes the following rounds:

  • Preliminary Rounds: These rounds consist of oral arguments. Competitors will argue individually. Each competitor will argue two rounds and will argue once for each side. Competitors arguing for the Petitioner may present a rebuttal. Arguments will last ten minutes per side (including the Petitioner’s rebuttal time). A panel of two faculty, alumni, or local practitioners will serve as judges and score oral arguments based on fluency, command of the legal issues, ability to answer questions, persuasiveness of argument, courtroom demeanor, and adherence to appropriate protocol. Competitors will only argue the first issue on Article III standing.
  • Semifinals: The top eight competitors will advance to the Semifinal Rounds. Each semifinalist will be assigned a side (Petitioner or Respondent) and will submit a brief for their side of the argument. Briefs must comply with any formatting and word limit requirements provided by the Coordinators. Semifinalists will compete in four oral argument rounds. Competitors will argue on-brief and argue once against each competitor on the other side. Competitors will speak for ten to fifteen minutes each (including the Petitioner’s rebuttal time). A panel of three faculty judges will score oral arguments based on fluency, command of the legal issues, ability to answer questions, persuasiveness of argument, courtroom demeanor, and adherence to appropriate protocol.
  • Final Round: The final round will be judged by 3 federal judges on Tuesday, February 20, 2024. Finalists must edit their briefs and have them reviewed by a professor before submitting them. For the final oral argument, each finalist will argue for fifteen to twenty minutes (including Petitioner’s rebuttal). The Coordinators will provide the finalists with the scoring process for the final round before the finalists submit their briefs.


Recent judges of the Final Round of the Dean’s Cup have included U.S. Supreme Court Justices, federal court of appeals judges, U.S. district court judges, and state supreme court justices:

U.S. Supreme Court: Justice Scalia, Justice Alito.

U.S. Courts of Appeals: Thomas Ambro (3d Cir.), Rosemary Barkett (11th Cir.), Marsha Berzon (9th Cir.), José A. Cabranes (2d Cir.), Michael Chagares (3d Cir.), R. Guy Cole, Jr. (6th Cir.), Andre Davis (4th Cir.), Allyson Kay Duncan ’75 (4th Cir.), David Ebel (10th Cir.), Emilio Garza (5th Cir.), Roger Gregory (4th Cir.), Robert Henry (10th Cir.) (ret.), Jeffrey Howard (1st Cir.), E. Grady Jolly (5th Cir.), Allison Jones Rushing ‘07 (4th Cir.), Brett M. Kavanaugh (D.C. Cir.), Jane Kelly (8th Cir.), Carlos Lucero (10th Cir.), Blane Michael (4th Cir.), Karen Nelson Moore (6th Cir.), Diarmuid O'Scannlain (9th Cir.), Rosemary Pooler (2d Cir.), Reena Raggi (2d Cir.), Marjorie Rendell (3d Cir.), Robin S. Rosenbaum (11th Cir.), David Sentelle (D.C. Cir.), Dennis W. Shedd (4th Cir.), Sonia Sotomayor (then on the 2d Cir.), Richard C. Tallman (9th Cir.), Justin R. Walker (D.C. Cir.), James A. Wynn, Jr. (4th Cir.).

U.S. District Courts: Timothy Corrigan (M.D. Fla.), Catherine Eagles (M.D.N.C.), Robert Lewis Hinkle (N.D. Fla.), James P. Jones (E.D. Va.), David F. Levi (E.D. Cal.) (ret.), Kimberly J. Mueller (E.D. Cal.), William H. Pauley ’77 (S.D.N.Y.), Gene Pratter (E.D. Pa.), Lee H. Rosenthal (S.D. Tex.), Frederick Stamp (N.D.W. Va.).

State Supreme Courts: Christine M. Durham ’71 (Chief Justice, Utah Supreme Court), Anita Earls (Associate Justice, North Carolina Supreme Court), Henry Frye (Chief Justice, North Carolina Supreme Court) (ret.), Goodwin Liu (Associate Justice, California Supreme Court), Mark Martin (Chief Justice, North Carolina Supreme Court).