WOOSTER, Ohio — Arguing legal issues in front of veteran judges and trial attorneys requires thorough preparation, critical thinking, and nerves of steel — especially when those making the case are college students.
At The College of Wooster, such attributes are plentiful among undergraduates who are members of the school’s nationally acclaimed Moot Court team, which has enjoyed unprecedented success, particularly in the past decade.
Under the guidance of Head Coach Mark Weaver, professor of political science, and Assistant Coach John Rudisill, associate professor of philosophy, Wooster’s students are drilled, grilled, sliced, and diced — often for 5-8 hours a week in the fall — but by tournament time they are as well prepared as any other collegiate team in the country.
Late fall is the peak season for Moot Court proceedings, and once again, Wooster students distinguished themselves in regional competition, highlighted by the performance of seniors Mae Manupipatpong and Eric Petry, who qualified for nationals with a third-place finish at the Midwest Regional, which was held Nov. 22-23 at Wooster.
Manupipatpong, a political
science and philosophy double major from Bangkok, Thailand, and Eric Petry, an economics major and political science minor from Worthington, Ohio, demonstrated their legal acumen by defeating teams from Ohio Wesleyan, Denison, the University of Chicago, and the University of Central Florida.
Joining Manupipatpong and Petry at the national tournament will be the team of Janet Zahorsky and Benjamin Taylor, a senior and a sophomore, respectively, who finished fourth at the Midwest Regional. Several Wooster students also finished among the Top 10 orators, led by Petry in first place and Manupipatpong in second, followed by Zahorsky in third, junior Mallory Kruper in eighth, and Taylor in ninth place.
In all, six Wooster teams qualified for the national tournament, which will be held January 17-18 at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Tempe. Rachel Myers and Erica Rickey, both seniors, won the championship of the South Atlantic Regional in Orlando, where senior Daniel Cohen and sophomore Abigail Helvering also qualified for nationals. Meanwhile, Andrea Patton, a senior, and Alexi Ehrlich, a junior, finished second, and Tyler Hoff, a senior, and Luke Tonat, a junior, finished in third place at the Great Lakes Regional in Saginaw, Mich., also qualifying for nationals.
In the quarterfinal round at Wooster, Manupipatpong and Petry, who are in their third year together, showed the value of experience in a victory over David Moosmann and Christian Chambers of Central Florida during a case involving 4th amendment rights to privacy and the power of the President to detain American citizens before a panel of five judges.
Working without notes, Manupipatpong spoke first, developing her argument that an individual’s rights had been violated by excessive surveillance measures on the part of local law enforcement agencies. During the course of her presentation, she was peppered with questions from the five judges, but she managed to stay on course and state her case in the allotted 10-minute period.
Petry, also speaking without notes, made a similarly strong case while fielding a host of questions from the judges, which both Manupipatpong and Petry say helps to show the depth of their knowledge and preparation.
The team from Central Florida countered that the law enforcement agencies acted within the limits of the law because of the individual’s alleged ties to terrorists. Petry wrapped up the proceedings with a three-minute rebuttal, after which the judges convened to render their decision, which turned out in favor of Manupipatpong and Petry.
The Wooster duo came up short in the semifinal final round, but both were pleased with their performance and thankful for the opportunity to benefit from the experience.
“Moot Court is one of the reasons I chose Wooster,” said Manupipatpong, who is planning to pursue a career in international environmental law. “I’ve grown a lot. I’ve learned how to think on my feet, and my public speaking skills have improved immensely as a result.”
Petry, who is interested in public policy, shared similar sentiments. “Moot Court has been one of the most formative experiences of my time at Wooster,” he said. “It has guided my interest in law and public policy. It has also helped me to develop a diverse skill set, from public speaking to legal research to writing.”
Both agreed that the roles of Weaver and Rudisill have been critical to the team’s success. “ We wouldn’t be able to accomplish what we do with out them,” said Manupipatpong.
“Professor Weaver really drives us,” added Petry. “He lets us create our own arguments and facilitates independent thinking. He is also especially good at putting the teams together. He mixes the strengths and style of each student very well, and that’s why the program is so successful.”
Weaver praised the performances of Manupipatpong, Petry, and the other seniors on the team. “The leadership of the seniors has been outstanding this year,” he said. “They have kept the team working together despite some serious setbacks in the regional competition. In particular, Weaver expressed frustration with the rule change that forces teams from the same school to face each other in elimination rounds: “We had at least three more teams that had the talent and had done the necessary work to go to nationals, but these teams were eliminated in head-to head competition with other Wooster teams.” Weaver noted that the placements of sophomores Madeleine O’Neill (second-place orator) and Savannah Glidewell (fourth-place orator) at the Great Lakes Tournament, as well as sophomore Alexander Downs (third-place orator) at the South Atlantic Tournament, were examples of the excellent performance of the team members who are not going to nationals this year.
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