Bulletin News

Moot Court Competes Against Legal Leaders


SUNY Cortland’s moot court team, in its second year under a new faculty advisor, flexed its legal muscles at the regional tournament in Fitchburg, Mass., on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20 and 21.

Two moot court team members, political science majors Sara Adams and Benjamin Hobbs, advanced to the single-elimination round on Saturday after consistently strong performances in the preliminary rounds.

moot court
The full moot court team, posing in Fitchburg, Mass., before competition, are, from the left: Lindsay Pope, Sara Adams, Benjamin Hobbs, Taylor Cain, Kevon Pile and Caitlyn Buckman. Above left are this year's superstars, Sara Adams and Benjamin Hobbs.

“It really was an amazing and exhilarating experience,” said Hobbs of Glens Falls, N.Y.

Unfortunately, the two were eliminated in the first round Saturday morning on a split decision. The win was awarded to the higher seeded team.

“I was incredibly proud of my teammate; Sara and I were the first SUNY Cortland students to ever experience the elimination round,” Hobbs said.

Moot court actually is a political science course, POL 489, offered at SUNY Cortland in the fall semester for three credit hours and is open to students in any major of at least junior status. The course offers students a chance to hone their public speaking and analytical skills while arguing a case that has or might have appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We started out with very limited knowledge on the subject matter and we were essentially experts by the end of it all,” Hobbs said. “Our team as a whole achieved so much over the course of the semester; it is really unbelievable to think about.”

Last fall, Timothy Delaune, assistant professor of political science and the College’s pre-law advisor, became the course’s new instructor after a two-year hiatus where the course wasn’t offered. It was the first year Delaune took a team to the regional tournament in Massachusetts. Four SUNY Cortland teams competed, but none progressed to the second-day single elimination round.

“This was my second year competing at the regional tournament and I was personally determined to do better this year,” Hobbs said. “I am proud to say I accomplished that goal.”

This year, three teams were brought to the regional tournament: Adams and Hobbs; Kevon Pile and Taylor Cain; and Caitlyn Buckman and Lindsay Pope. Pile and Buckman are criminology majors and Cain and Pope are political science majors.

The team’s trip was supported by The President’s Fund.

“All six students competed diligently and turned in strong performances,” Delaune said. “Students identified this as a transformative experience that imbued them with markedly stronger skills in oral presentation. They thought on their feet in response to incisive questions by judges and gained confidence in their legal reasoning and argumentation skills.”

The course provides an opportunity for two-person legal teams to compete in front of a panel of judges. Before each competition, the teams are presented with a real or fictional Supreme Court case. They are in charge of preparing arguments for both sides, based on real-life cases cited in the competition brief.

Everything about the class leads up to that final day in court, making it a valuable experience for the College’s students who aspire to become attorneys or another field that uses strong reasoning and oral presentation skills.

“As we continue to rebuild the moot court program here at SUNY Cortland, I am very proud of the efforts our returning student competitors and new members of the team have made this year,” Delaune said.

He noted that SUNY Cortland students achieved an important goal in bringing a team into the single-elimination round of the regional tournament.

“I look forward to continuing to improve upon those results as our students build their legal reasoning and oral argument skills in the years to come,” Delaune said.

“Moot court has definitely left an impact on my life, and I am confident that our group has left a mark on the SUNY Cortland campus through our achievements in this competition,” Hobbs said.

Prepared by public relations intern Jessica McFadden