Counsels Voss & Prochnow and Collins & Krouse Face Off at the Moot Court Finals
Counsels Isabella Voss and Hannah Prochnow from Millikin University argued as Respondents in favor of Cade Beasley religious and speech freedoms, while counsels Ella Collins and Ellie Krouse from Eastern Illinois University (EIU) were the Petitioners that defended Madison County’s school board position to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations in the final session of the MIG Moot Court on Saturday evening.
Participants in the Moot Court are facing the legal intricacies of having to balance the wellbeing of the school community with preserving the individual constitutional rights of high school Senior Cade Beasley to not get vaccinated and express his political thoughts at his school’s football game.
Mari’Sol Johnson, a participant from EIU, said that the most difficult part of arguing the case was “relating it with all its precedents and getting ready for the tough questions.” She advanced to the semifinals with Gillian Beginski from Millikin University.
In the preliminary rounds participants had feedback from the judges that helped them improve their performances. But in the semifinals, counsels had it tougher. Collin Budd, one of the semifinalists from Millikin University, said, “it’s getting harder, we had to put a greater effort mentally to answer questions that are tougher and get deeper in the case.”
Some of that had to do with Brandon J. Powell being among the judges on Saturday. The Missouri based lawyer redacted the “Cade’s Beasley case” specifically for MIG 2022 and challenged participants with case scenarios, references to precedents and corrections to their oratory both during their presentations and feedback sessions.
He said in one of his comments to a finalist who doubtfully defended their position that, “you need to believe in your case, you need to hammer and hammer more your argument, do not be doubtful.”
The Beasley case is a fictional filing made on behalf of Madison County School Board before the Illinois Supreme Court to dismiss a previous ruling from an appellate court that gave Beasley the reason in both issues presented: that school infringed his religious and freedom of speech rights.
Since all the teams were petitioners or respondents during the preliminary rounds, finalists tossed a coin to pick sides. The EIU team won, and they chose to be petitioners.
Ella Collins established for the Petitioner -Madison School Board- that Cade Beasley’s freedom of speech rights, the first issue in consideration before the court, were not violated since court precedents, Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L and the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Cmty. Sch. Dist., stated that schools have a reasonable authority to discipline a student for speech expressed out of school premises if said speech is deemed to be disruptive for the educational process.
On the weekend before the first day of class, Beasley attended a school sanctioned football game in which he displayed during the whole game a sign that read “Dunnigan [the school’s principal] is a dictator. Avoid the Jab and Save your Soul.”
Collins argued that Beasley’s actions during the game caused disruption the next school day after the game as some students were repeating in classrooms that the principal “is a dictator,” and 42 more students had to leave the school for not complying with the Covid19 vaccine mandate. She also argued that the event was a school sanctioned event and that this gave the school authority to penalize Beasley.
Judge Powell tried to debunk Collins’ arguments by changing the scenario of Cade Beasley’s actions, but the EIU competitor was able to keep herself in her argument.
Isabella Voss, who took the defense of Beasley’s position in issue No.1, rebuked Collins’s argument by questioning the school’s authority to discipline her client because he was making his speech in a public space, during a public activity, not in school grounds.
She forcefully advanced the idea that Beasley did not affect the educational process during the first day of classes with his previous actions in the football game since any “disruption” to school activities did not account for more than 15 minutes.
Ellie Krouse from EIU tackled issue number two, regarding the right of Cade Beasley to ask for a religious exemption to get vaccinated in order to attend in person lessons at Griffin Preparatory Academy. He said that the school was putting the public’s well being over other considerations, and that the school board considered that “Covid makes no religious distinctions'' and that this was the reason for not including philosophical or religious exemptions to the vaccine regulation that was implemented by school’s authorities before the start of the school year.
Krouse argued, after being questioned by Powell, that the school board’s regulations passed a Rational Basis Test for neutrality, meaning that the rules did not make any distinction that could infringe on protected rights.
Hannah Prochnow disagreed with the petitioners. She said that the treatment of her client by the school board was unfair, since it considered only medical but not religious exemptions. She said that her client had expressed his concerns with the mandate in a school board meeting and he was brushed off by the board.
She also said that, “the Constitution protects religious rights over any other secular consideration regarding policy” and that this should have been the standard followed by the Madison County school board when enacting its policies.
Krouse responded in his rebuttal that “medical and religious rights are not comparable” and reaffirmed the school’s authority to discipline students for their political speech during school sanctioned events by reminding the judges that the school personnel oversaw the event which make it something like a school trip and asserting to the judges that Cade Beasley rode to the game in a school bus.
As the gavel came down for the last time in the MIG Moot Court, Prochnow and Voss from Millikin gently closed together the binder containing all their paperwork for the case, briefly hugged and held hands. All the work of two months of preparation had taken them to this intense, final moment.
The moot Illinois Supreme Court will give its final ruling, and the correspondent awards, on Beasley’s case on Sunday at 1:30 pm during the MIG 2022 awards ceremony.
By Erwin Lopez Rada