PUBLISHED:February 24, 2015

Showalter '16 and Mohs '15 win 2015 Dean's Cup; Showalter named best oralist

Dean's Cup 2015 winners Logan Mohs ’15 and Annie Showalter ’16 with judges and participants Dean's Cup winners Logan Mohs ’15 and Annie Showalter ’16 (far left) with Dean David F. Levi, the three-judge panel, and finalists Chantalle Carles '16 and Zharna Shah '15 (far right).

Logan Mohs ’15 and Annie Showalter ’16 prevailed before a panel of federal and state judges in the final round of the 2015 Dean’s Cup Moot Court competition on Feb. 23. The judges named Showalter best oralist. 

Framed as an argument before the Supreme Court of the United States, the Dean’s Cup problem challenged the constitutionality of a New Jersey law requiring citizens to demonstrate “justifiable need” before receiving permits to lawfully carry handguns in public. Mohs and Showalter represented New Jersey state officials, as respondents, following Zharna Shah '15 and Chantalle Carles '16, who put forward a facial Second Amendment challenge to the law on behalf of citizens who had been denied open-carry permits.

The Dean's Cup finalists argued before North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin, serving as chief justice, Judge Robert Hinkle of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, and Chief Judge R. Guy Cole Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The judges praised the outstanding advocacy of all four finalists. “The court was very impressed with everyone,” said Martin following the argument. “We would be happy to have your in our courts,” said Hinkle.

Shah and Carles argued on behalf of New Jersey citizens who met every requirement of New Jersey’s public carry law except one: They were not able to show the requisite “justifiable need” by proving they had, in the words of the contested law, “the urgent necessity for self-protection, as evidenced by specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life that cannot be avoided by means other than by issuance of a permit to carry a handgun.”

The petitioners argued that meeting the state’s other requirements, including a training course, allowed the state to meet its duty to ensure public health and safety, but that the justifiable need requirement is unconstitutional.

“Just as a state cannot ask a citizen to prove she has a need to speak or practice the religion of her choosing, New Jersey cannot require citizens to demonstrate that they have a need to exercise a constitutional right,” Shah told the judges. “The requirement squarely burdens conduct protected by the Second Amendment as determined by its text, history, and tradition.” 

Showalter and Mohs, a 2014 Dean’s Cup finalist, argued that New Jersey  met its public safety duties in a way that does not violate the Second Amendment. 

“Your Honors, this is a case about New Jersey’s ability to protect its citizens from deadly harm through regulation,” Showalter told the court. ‘It’s about the justifiable need requirement, which falls outside the scope of the Second Amendment for two reasons. The first is that the requirement is part of a tradition of public regulation that’s carved of the scope of the Second Amendment right. The second is that the justifiable need requirement in particular is a longstanding regulation.”

The Dean’s Cup, initiated in 1963 by Deans E.R. Latty and J.D. Johnston, is Duke’s premier oral advocacy competition. Held annually for second- and third-year students and organized by the Moot Court Board, the Dean’s Cup seeks to highlight the school’s best appellate advocates. The competition centers around a case taught in the Appellate Practice class offered every fall. 

Cole commended the finalists for their poise and composure in addressing the court, telling them they compared favorably to the top advocates that practice in the Sixth Circuit. “The four of you were every bit as prepared as those first-rate counsel are,” he said. “You had your arguments well-organized, you presented them effectively, you had good eye contact, you weren’t committed to your notes, you obviously reviewed your presentation extensively before today, and you were very comfortable with the arguments you made.” He also praised the way they addressed the frequent questions from the bench, stressing the importance of doing so.