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Inside Moot Court

Attorney Paola Ascencio presents a case at a previous year's MIG

By Tamas DiLorenzo and Sam Sundell

Many who attend Model Illinois Government come as legislators in the House or Senate, where they debate bills, amend them, and either pass them by constitutional majority or not. But many others come as delegates of Moot Court, an exercise for pre-law students to practice prosecuting or defending a case at the Supreme Court level. These students are judged by a volunteer board of law students and a smattering of legal professionals. Delegates work together in teams of 2 to analyze and argue the case, making use of their knowledge of the case fact, presentation skills, legal forensic skills, and logical reasoning.

These teams compete against each other in a simulation of the Illinois Supreme Court and are eliminated every day by the panel of legal experts, until there is a "winning" team. This team is presented one of three awards by the Chief Justice at the Awards Banquet on Sunday afternoon: Outstanding Moot Court Team, Outstanding Moot Court Attorney, and Top Novice.

This year the (entirely fictional) case that delegates must analyze and argue is one of Aiden Jeffries. Jeffries, the Plaintiff, a high school student at Hinchcliffe Preparatory High School in Vanderburgh County, Illinois argues that his rights under the United States Constitution and the Illinois State Constitution were violated when school officials and a law enforcement officer searched his phone and his residence without warrants for either. During this search, a police officer entered the residence without the Plaintiff's or homeowner's permission and confiscated a weapon from the Plaintiff's home. Moot Court delegates must argue one of two points, which read:

"1. Whether, under the facts of this case, school officials may search a student’s personal cellular phone pursuant to the Supreme Court’s holding in New Jersey v. T.L.O, 469 U.S. 325 (1985).

2. Whether a law enforcement officer may enter a private residence without a warrant or exigent circumstances, but pursuant to the special needs doctrine, under the facts presented in this case."

The MIG Journal interviewed Albiona Veliu, a first-year delegate from Millikin University. Veliu shared her goals and aspirations, as well as those of her colleagues. According to Velio, the majority of the Moot Court delegates are pre-law students who are seeking to enhance their skills in the legal field in preparation for their future careers as attorneys. Despite challenges, Veliu expressed confidence in her team's ability to succeed due to their hard work and exceptional public speaking abilities.

In addition, Aly Mishal and Isabelle Bucia, two students from Northeastern Illinois University, shared their experiences as delegates who joined the program in January. They noted that although there is also a significant number of Political Science majors, most of the delegates are also pre-law students. Mishal and Bucia found the experience to be rewarding, as it required them to anticipate and address the opposition's arguments while presenting new and relevant information.

Overall, the MIG Journal's interviews with these three delegates provide insight into the diversity of students who participate in the program and the benefits they gain from the experience.

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