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No. 2

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by David Halbrook
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National Moot Court Champs for Fourth Consecutive Year

Matched against the top 80 teams in the country, Patrick Henry College’s moot court program has, for the fourth consecutive year, won the American Collegiate Moot Court Association (ACMA) National Championship at Chapman University Law School in Orange County, California. Competing against the likes of Duke, the University of Virginia, the Air Force Academy, Holy Cross, Wheaton College, Baylor University, and the University of Texas, among many others, the college’s duo of J.C. Cartee and Andrew Ferguson won five rounds in a single day to defeat, by a two-to-one margin, a team from the College of New Jersey for the first-place trophy.

PHC/Art Cox
Delegates J. Randall Minchew and Joe May (far left) present PHC’s 2012 moot court team with a commendation from the Virginia General Assemby.

With six championships in the past eight years, PHC remains the only ACMA moot court participant to have won more than one title.

“Praise God and congratulations to our students,” said PHC founder and chancellor Dr. Michael Farris, coach of the moot court team. “Going in, I believed any one of our eight teams could have won the tournament. The bulk of activity in competition is answering the judges’ questions, and J.C. and Andrew both have that ability to understand and give concise, convincing answers delivered very smoothly. That was their key.”

“It’s a huge achievement,” offered moot court coach Dr. Frank Guliuzza, “and I don’t ever want it to be presumptuous, or get to the point where we think it’s mundane. How many schools can say they’re the best, or have been the best, at anything? I’m still in awe of what the Lord is enabling our students to do.”

Having qualified the maximum number of eight teams for nationals, PHC advanced seven teams to the round of 32 (octofinals), six teams to the sweet 16, four teams to the elite-eight round, and three to the final four. In addition to Cartee and Ferguson’s first-place trophy, two PHC teams tied for third place: Micah Walters/Kayla Griesemer and Logan Spena/Samuel Johnson. Ardee Coolidge/Josh Chamberlain made it to the elite eight, and PHC duos Blake Meadows/Bridget Degnan and Ben Williamson/James Compton advanced to the sweet 16.

“It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet that we won,” said Ferguson, a junior, “but it has been truly amazing. I have dreamed of winning nationals from before I attended PHC. For the Lord to bless us with victory has been both thrilling and humbling. All the members of the moot court team and their family members who were there were incredibly supportive. To have our names next to some of the PHC moot court greats is truly humbling.”

“It does feel surreal,” added Cartee, also a junior. “God blessed us with tremendous favor the whole tournament, and I’m glad that we could bring home another national championship for PHC. Both teams in the final round were on their game—it had the feel of a prize fight. It’s so exciting to feel the reward of victory after all these months of practice and preparation. I’m already looking forward to next year.”

Not unexpectedly, the college also filled the upper tier of the tournament’s Top Orator rankings, earning second through seventh Top Speaker Awards, which included freshman Ben Williamson (second place), sophomore Blake Meadows (third), freshman James Compton (fourth), freshman Samuel Johnson (fifth), senior Nicole Frazer (sixth), and senior Logan Spena (seventh). Junior James Nelson came in 11th. In the Brief Writing Competition, PHC teams Kyle Niewoehner/Nicole Frazer and Samuel Johnson/Kira Clark won third and fourth places, respectively. The team of Mackenzi Siebert/Tait Deems placed fourth in the Top Respondent Brief Competition.

While some may have expected a rebuilding year for moot court at PHC, with last year’s championship duo of Alex Harris/Brett Harris sitting out this season, the results proved anything but—PHC teams dominated all three regional tournaments heading toward nationals.

“Fortunately, our students weren’t complacent but were still hungry to win,” observed Dr. Guliuzza. “The quality of the entire team supports our success leading up to nationals. Those who wonder how we win should see how hard these students work throughout the fall. You can’t win in January if you haven’t put in the time in September, October, and November. As coaches, you have Mike Farris working with students as a constitutional practitioner, which is kind of like an expert chess player who sees moves three steps ahead. That’s pretty good coaching. And I put in 20 to 40 hours a week as well, working with students who want the coaching. It’s not like we have to drag them in. I put up a sign-up sheet and it’s full. Everyone pays the price through the fall semester.”

To bring PHC’s growing legacy into perspective, Dr. Farris cited a personal anecdote from this year’s nationals, accentuating the reputation of graduates who have come before.

“During the earlier rounds,” he recalled, “Kelsey Stapler Morris, a former PHC student, served as a judge. She was a top moot court competitor at PHC who received a full-ride scholarship from Pepperdine University School of Law. She now works for Akin Gump, one of the largest law firms in the nation. Kelsey is already on her way toward a very successful law career and was just a terrific judge. Just seeing her at that level of competence was, for me, the end product of what we’re looking for. It’s the reason our kids are so inspired to get involved and work so hard, because they’ve seen the fruit it has borne in our graduates.”

About the author

David Halbrook is PHC’s director of communications. This article was originally printed on the Patrick Henry College website on January 17, 2012.