The 2016 Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition

Students will argue before bench including Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
Thu, 21 January, 2016 1:30pm
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The 2016 Van Vleck finals will feature 3Ls Julia Haigney & Jamie Noonan vs. 3Ls Kaitlyn Hobbs & Laura Withers. Finalists will be arguing before a bench featuring Justice Samuel Alito, Judge Debra Livingston, and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

A reception will follow in the Marvin Center Third Floor Grand Ballroom.

The Competition

The 65th annual Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition is GW Law's largest and longest running upper-level advocacy competition. This year’s problem involves the New Columbia Veterans Discount Program, which lowers the price of seats for combat veterans at major music concerts. The bench will include Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. of the U.S. Supreme Court; Judge Debra A. Livingston of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 3Ls Julia Haigney and Jamie Noonan will represent the petitioner and argue against 3Ls Kaitlyn Hobbs Demers and Laura Withers who will represent the respondent.

Problem Synopsis

Prepared by Competition Co-Chairs Natalee Allenbaugh and Michael Jones

On March 1, 2014 the New Columbia legislature enacted the Veterans Appreciation Act. The Statute gave the respondent Arts Board the authority and mandate to issue a regulation instituting a discount program of up to 20% of the seats for combat veterans at major music concerts. The resulting regulation created the New Columbia Veterans Discount Program (“the Regulation”).

On April 1, 2014, Petitioner, Niklaus Mikaelson, received a letter from the Arts Board notifying him, as an event producer, that the Arts Board was in the process of promulgating a new regulation pursuant to the Statute. The same information was posted on the Arts Board Website and the state government website. The notice included instructions on how to submit comments on the proposal through an online form. It also included information about a subsequent meeting on May 1, 2014, where event producers could give two minutes of testimony.

In response to the notice, Petitioner submitted a comment online through the established online form. The comment objected to the possibility of being forced to distribute free tickets and also criticized the lack of specific details in the notice’s proposal. Petitioner also attended the May 1 meeting and provided testimony reflecting his online comment. The Arts Board did not respond to either Petitioner’s comment or his testimony.

On May 15, 2014, the Arts Board held a public meeting to discuss, among other matters, the proposed regulation. Although the public was allowed to attend the meeting, the public was not permitted to participate in the Arts Board’s discussion of any matters. At the May 15 meeting, the Arts Board approved the regulation at issue here, with an effective date of May 15, 2016.

The approved regulation requires music event producers to reserve 20% of the seats for combat veterans when their shows are held at venues that have 5,000 or more seats, providing half of the 20% of seats for free and the other half at a 50% discount. The New Columbia Legislature mandated this program in order to provide a valuable benefit to returning combat veterans. Petitioner has produced over 25 events each year for the past several years. All of these events have been held in venues that seat 5,000 or more people, and the venues for these events are regularly booked years in advance. Petitioner claims that if the Arts Board’s discount program is not enjoined, it will likely cost him well over a million dollars in lost revenue next year alone. In the past five years, only two other event producers have held events at venues with over 5,000 seats.

Petitioner filed suit in July 2014 against the New Columbia Attorney General, Damon Salvatore, and New Columbia Arts Board (“Arts Board”) members, Elana Gilbert, Alaric Saltzman, and Caroline Forbes, in their official capacities. Petitioner seeks a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction against the discount program enacted pursuant to the 2014 New Columbia Veterans Appreciation Act (“the Statute”) that requires him, as a major producer of music events, to provide substantial discounts to combat veterans.

On December 1, 2014, the District Court of New Columbia found that Mikaelson failed to state a claim under the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendments and granted Respondents’ motion for summary judgment. On July 15, 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Thirteenth Circuit affirmed, with Judge Trotter dissenting.  The Supreme Court granted the Petitioner’s petition for Writ of Certiorari limited to the following questions: (1) Whether the discount program under the New Columbia Veterans Appreciation Act of 2014 violates the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment as incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and

(2) Whether procedural due process afforded by the New Columbia Arts Board violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.


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