Duke Law moot court teams shine in competitions

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Gray Chynoweth, left, Nita Farahany and Phillip Nelson, all from the class of 2004, won the 53rd Annual Sutherland Cup Moot Court Competition on April 5

The Duke Law Moot Court Board team of Gray Chynoweth, Nita Farahany and Phillip Nelson, all from the class of 2004, won the prestigious national Sutherland Cup Constitutional Law Competition, held April 4-5 at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Nelson was named Best Oralist in the competition.

The case they argued concerned a devout Muslim woman who challenged the constitutionality of a school board dress code that did not permit her to wear religious garb while teaching. The policy was challenged on the grounds of free speech, free exercise of religion, and equal protection under the law.

The Duke team argued against New York Law School in the final round (16 teams participated in the competition), judged by the Honorable Raymond Randolph of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; Art Spitzer, legal director of the Baltimore-Washington American Civil Liberties Union; and Kevin Hasson, president and founder of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The judges voted unanimously for the Duke team, which acted as respondent in the case and was coached by DongJu Song ’04 and Heidi Marcelo ’04.

During the same weekend, the Duke Law team of Matt Bonness, Nicole Rittenhouse and Maranda Whitener, all of the class of 2003 and coached by Andrew Tripp ’04, won second place at the Rendigs Products Liability Competition, hosted by the University of Cincinnati. The team also received the award for Best Respondent's Brief, and Rittenhouse was named Best Oralist.

The Duke Law team won the semifinal round of the Rendigs competition, decided by a federal district judge, a Mississippi State Supreme Court judge, and a Tennessee State Supreme Court judge. The team argued the subsequent final round before an eight-judge panel that included circuit court judges, federal district judges, and state Supreme Court judges in the courtroom of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Also receiving an award last weekend was John Fred ’04, named Sixth Best Oralist of approximately 40 competitors at the National Appellate Advocacy Competition, held by the American Bar Association in Chicago. Fred’s moot court teammates included David Almeling ’04 and Allyson Jones ’04. Lewis Schlossberg ’03 acted as coach. The team accumulated a 5-0 record at the previous regional competition in Washington, D.C., earning the chance to participate in the selective national competition in Chicago.