The constitutionality of drone surveillance and the fairness of lengthy prison terms for juvenile offenders will be under review when Fitchburg State University hosts the American Moot Court Association’s Eastern Regional Tournament on Friday, Nov. 18 and Saturday, Nov. 19.
The competition, in which students are judged on their oral and written arguments on opposing sides of legal principles, will be conducted in-person for the first time since 2019. The teams with the highest scores at the regional tournament will move onto the national finals in January, to be held at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Fitchburg State has a long and distinguished history with the tournament, sending students to nationals each year since the campus program’s inception in 2000. Earlier this year, the American Moot Court Association once again ranked Fitchburg State in its top 25 programs nationwide. Six Fitchburg State students will be competing in the regional tournament this month.
“Moot Court competitions have finally returned to an in-person format this year,” said Fitchburg State Professor Paul Weizer of the Economics, History and Political Science Department, who founded and coaches the university's moot court team. “We are excited to provide our students with the opportunity to compete against top programs from across North America and even more excited to be hosting the event once again. Our students have worked very hard this year. I expect that they will be highly competitive in this event.”
Fitchburg State senior Maylynn Velazquez is competing in the tournament for the second time this fall. “Having the opportunity to compete on the Fitchburg State Moot Court team one last time before graduation is both rewarding and exciting,” she said. “This year is a totally different playing field as we will be competing in person instead of the online format provided the past two years. The amount of time and effort poured into the understanding of case law and our record is reflective of our teams’ performance level this semester.”
Velazquez, who is preparing to apply to law school after she graduates from Fitchburg State in December, said she was proud of Fitchburg State’s track record in the tournament, where students have demonstrated the skills to compete against distinguished competitors. Last year she and teammate Benjamin Hill placed second in the nation in the brief-writing portion of the tournament. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to represent such an amazing university and I am confident we will do well in the 2022 regionals.”
Lydia Palmer of Ashby is in her first year of competing in moot court. She transferred to Fitchburg State last year and was inspired by Professor Weizer’s constitutional law course. “I’m a very competitive person, so I like the opportunity to put in a lot of effort and see the results of that,” she said. “I also welcome a challenge.”
Palmer, majoring in interdisciplinary studies with a pre-law track, plans to pursue law school after graduating from Fitchburg State next year.
This year’s hypothetical case will have students arguing whether the warrantless use of a drone with optical sensors violates the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizure and whether a life sentence with the possibility of parole only after 50 years of incarceration for juvenile offenders for a non-homicide offense violates the Eighth Amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Teams of students will prepare arguments for both sides of the case.
More than 200 Fitchburg State students have competed in the tournament since the local program was founded. Many graduates of the program return to campus each year for the regional tournament on the Fitchburg State campus. Their ranks include police officers, lawyers and court clerks, though the skills developed through moot court are applicable far beyond the legal profession.
The American Moot Court Association is the largest intercollegiate moot court organization in the US. The AMCA establishes the rules of competition and supervises regional and national tournaments that are open to all college and university students. Last year, more than 500 teams registered to compete in 15 qualifying tournaments to attempt to win a bid to the Championship Tournament.
The Eastern Regional tournament will include Fitchburg State as well as Bentley University; Boston University; Bridgewater State University; California State University, Fullerton; California State University, Long Beach; College of the Holy Cross; Emerson College; Framingham State University; Liberty University; Merrimack College; Patrick Henry College; St. Thomas University; Suffolk University; University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Wheaton College Massachusetts; and Williams College.
In addition to Velazquez and Palmer, Fitchburg State’s moot court participants include Rebecca Bombard of North Chelmsford, Margaret A. Mambro of Methuen, Ashley Greene of Winchendon, and Joseph J. Czajkowski of Hadley.