PUBLISHED:April 12, 2024

Casey Byrne ’26 prevails in Hardt Cup championship round


Byrne edged out William Allred ‘26 in a question over whether state psychologists are entitled to absolute immunity from civil liability

Casey Byrne Casey Byrne

Casey Byrne ’26 won the championship round of the 60th annual Hardt Cup Tournament held Thursday afternoon. 

Byrne and co-finalist William Allred ’26 argued a fictional appeal of a Ninth Circuit ruling in Gay v. Parsons before a Supreme Court panel of Sarah K. Campbell JD/MPP ‘09, a justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court; Robin Rosenberg JD/MA ‘89, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida; and Mary Scriven T ‘84, U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Florida. Scriven acted as Chief Justice.

The two advocates argued the issue of whether psychologists preparing risk assessment reports for the California Board of Parole Hearings are entitled to absolute immunity. In Gay v. Parsons, Omar Sharrieff Gay, an African American Muslim man in the California prison system, claimed that the state psychologists who evaluated him in his bid for parole asked racially and religiously biased questions during a risk assessment, leading to their conclusion that he posed a high risk of committing future violent acts.

Board of Parole psychologists argued they are covered under the doctrine of absolute immunity; in a March 13, 2023 ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s rejection of their claim. 

Byrne represented the psychologists in the fictional appeal to the Supreme Court, and Allred argued for the respondent. In the end, Byrne's advocacy won out. 

“Both of you did a fantastic job. You were both very professional, very responsive,” Scriven said, announcing the panel's decision. Despite ruling in favor of Byrne, Scriven praised Allred’s advocacy. “In terms of the style and the delivery and the work, and the knowledge of the case and of the case law, I thought it was very well done.”

Rosenberg advised both Allred and Byrne to stick with their own differing styles and learn to maximize them. 

“I think you have to go with what style works best, but at the end of the day, you both were extremely composed, respectful, and knew your materials very, very well,” she said. “It’s amazing as 1Ls that you've achieved this level of confidence and eloquence, so just continue to grow, because you have so much time to grow as law students and then as lawyers.” 

Allred and Byrne
Allred and Byrne

Campbell called both advocates “exceptional” and singled out Byrne’s smooth transitions, nimbleness, and the substance of her argument, particularly her focus on a historical common law analog test.

“I was sharing with some students that I had breakfast with that my Hardt Cup performance my 1L year was nothing of this caliber so, great job to both of you,” Campbell said. 

“We've all heard from a number of people that the pool of talent in this 1L class is deep and it's really something to behold."

Allred, of Plano Texas, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2018 and served in the Marine Corps Infantry until 2023. He is an ACLU 1L representative and participates in the International Human Rights pro bono project.

Byrne, from Arlington, Virginia, graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2020. Prior to law school she worked as a paralegal for the Department of Justice’s fraud division. She is the incoming president of the Women Law Students Association and a member of the Mock Trial Board.

The Hardt Cup is an annual competition for first-year students established by the Duke Law class of 1964 in honor of A. Lee Hardt, a classmate who died after completing his first year. The tournament is organized by the Duke Law Moot Court Board each spring and begins with a first round that is a mandatory component of the 1L Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing curriculum. Seventy-six 1Ls opted to enter the competition this year. 

The Moot Court Board president is Margaret Kruzner ’24 and the intramural chair is Meghna Melkote ’25, winner of last year’s Hardt Cup. This year’s Hardt Cup coordinators were Maggie Ash ‘25, Brandon Bishop ‘25, Rachel Gu ‘25, and Miranda Campbell Kerrigan ‘24. Twenty-six of this year’s competitors accepted invitations to join the Moot Court Board.

Mary Scriven, William Allred, Casey Byrne, Robin Rosenberg, and Sarah K. Campbell
Mary Scriven, William Allred, Casey Byrne, Robin Rosenberg, and Sarah K. Campbell