Dean's Cup Intramural Competition


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.

The case to be argued by the competitors in this year’s Dean’s Cup is in the process of being decided. Preliminary rounds will be argued before a circuit court. Semifinal and Final rounds will be argued to the Supreme Court. 

Those wishing to compete in this year’s Dean’s Cup should complete the online registration form linked below by a date TBD. Please read the competition rules before registering. Once you register you are honor-bound to compete. You may only withdraw under extreme circumstances.

Registration Form  |  2016 Rules


The 2014 Dean’s Cup will follow the format used last year. In the preliminary rounds, students will compete individually, each arguing twice for the Appellant and twice for the Appellee in front of faculty and alumni judges. Oral advocacy will be scored on fluency, command of the legal issues and the record, ability to answer questions, persuasiveness of argument, courtroom demeanor, and adherence to appropriate protocol.

The sixteen competitors with the highest oral advocacy scores will qualify for the round-robin Semifinals. Competitors will be power-matched into eight two-person teams based on their standing in the preliminary rounds. Four teams will be assigned to represent the Petitioner and four teams will be assigned to represent the Respondent. Each team will argue four times—once against each team representing the opposite side—in front panels of faculty judges. In addition, each team must submit a full-length brief to be graded by three faculty members. Briefs will be graded based on persuasiveness, writing style, legal reasoning, logical organization, citation format, and adherence to the brief requirements.  Brief scores will account for twenty percent of the final ranking and oral argument scores accounted for the remaining eighty percent.

The highest rated team on each side will advance to the Final Round. The Semifinal teams receiving the highest scores on their written briefs will also be recognized at the Final Round.

Moot Court Board Membership

The Dean’s Cup also provides an opportunity for competitors to qualify for membership on the Moot Court Board. Competitors seeking to qualify for the Board must submit a single-issue brief in the preliminary round in addition to participating in the oral arguments. The oral argument scores will account for sixty percent of their grade and the brief scores constitute the remaining forty percent. The top four to eight competitors seeking to qualify for Board membership will be extended invitations to join the Board.


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.), 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.), David Sentelle (D.C. Cir.), Dennis W. Shedd (4th Cir.), Sonia Sotomayor (then on the 2d Cir.),Richard C. Tallman (9th 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), Henry Frye (Chief Justice, North Carolina Supreme Court) (ret.), Mark Martin (Chief Justice, North Carolina Supreme Court).