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St. John’s Law Moot Court Honor Society Team Wins National First Amendment Competition

Monday, February 24, 2014

On the heels of taking first and second place at the William B. Spong Moot Court Tournament, a team representing the Law School’s Moot Court Honor Society has won the National First Amendment Moot Court Competition at Vanderbilt Law School. The St. John’s team included David Hommel ’14, Kelly Porcelli ’15, and coach Colleen Spain ’14. David and Kelly were also runners-up for Best Brief. Adjunct Professor Marilyn Filingeri ’06 served as a faculty advisor for the team.

Hosted by Vanderbilt Law and the National First Amendment Center, and recognized as one of the nation’s finest appellate advocacy competitions, the event drew 32 teams from law schools around the country. For the competition problem, the student advocates addressed whether personal solicitation bans on judicial candidates violated the First Amendment.

St. John’s argued through seven appellate-style rounds before panels composed of accomplished jurists, legal scholars, and practicing attorneys. They argued the competition’s final round before five distinguished federal judges:

  • Hon. Martha Craig Daughtrey, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • Hon. Bernice B. Donald, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • Hon. Julia Smith Gibbons, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • Hon. James C. Mahan, United States District Court for the District of Nevada
  • Hon. Jane Stranch, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

“Vanderbilt hosts one of the most prestigious appellate advocacy competitions in the country,” said David Hommel ’14, Executive Director of the Moot Court Honor Society. “This is a great victory for Kelly, Colleen, and me, but it’s an even bigger win for the moot court program that heralds its very bright future.” Kelly Porcelli ’15 agreed, sharing: “I’m so proud of my team and very grateful that I had the opportunity to represent St. John’s Law at this leading competition.”

Driving home how the victory at Vanderbilt was a collaborative effort of current students, faculty, and Moot Court Honor Society alumni, Coach Colleen Spain said: "This championship is the culmination of many hours spent practicing arguments and preparing answers to questions the judges might pose. I’d like to thank Professor Elyse Pepper, Cristin Connell ’02, Michael Mantovani ’13, Tara McDevitt ’09, and Brad Small ’12 for helping us secure this win. It’s amazing to see all our hard work pay off."

 The Moot Court Honor Society follows Vanderbilt with the National Appellate Advocacy Competition on March 6, 2014.