2022 Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Finals

finalists 2022


The Competitors 

After defeating all competitors in the graduating class, the final competition is a battle between two 3L teams. 

For Petitioner:

  • BA, magna cum laude, in economics and history, Gonzaga University
  • George Washington Scholar (top 1–15% of class)
  • Articles Editor, The George Washington Law Review
  • Drummer and avid 60s/70s rock-n-roll fan
  • After graduation, he will return to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Legal Division, Banking Regulation and Policy Practice Group, after spending this past summer as a law clerk there.
  • BA, magna cum laude, in advertising and public relations, Loyola University of Chicago; minors in psychology of criminal justice and leadership studies
  • Thurgood Marshall Scholar (top 16-35% of class)
  • Senior Managing Editor, Journal of Energy and Environmental Law
  • Interests include gumbo making and The West Wing
  • After working as a summer associate, she will return to Willkie, Farr, & Gallagher as a litigation associate in the D.C. office

For Respondent:

  • BA, summa cum laude, in political communication, The George Washington University; minor in criminal justice
  • George Washington Scholar (Top 1% - 15% of class)
  • Member, Public Contract Law Journal
  • Executive member of two GW Skills Board: Moot Court (Vice President) and Alternative Dispute Resolution (Treasurer)
  • Will work as an associate at Jackson Lewis P.C. in Washington, D.C., after graduation
  • Competed in national debate tournaments for nine years; coached middle and elementary school debate for four years  
  • Has traveled to 30 different states
  • BA, magna cum laude, in U.S. history, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Was a high school teacher after college, where he taught U.S. history, comparative politics, and mathematics
  • Thurgood Marshall Scholar (top 16–35% of class)
  • Staff Editor, American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) Quarterly Journal
  • An aspiring trial and appellate civil rights litigator
  • Will clerk for the Honorable Zack Hawthorn on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas after graduation

The Judges

Supreme Court of California

A native of the Los Angeles area, Justice Leondra Kruger attended high school in Pasadena. She received a bachelor’s degree with high honors from Harvard College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She received a JD from Yale Law School, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal. Following graduation, she served as a law clerk to Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and to Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court. From 2007 to 2013, she served as an Assistant to the Solicitor General and as Acting Deputy Solicitor General. During her tenure in the Office of the Solicitor General, she argued 12 cases in the Supreme Court on behalf of the federal government. In 2013 and in 2014, she received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, the department’s highest award for employee performance. Justice Kruger previously had been in private practice, where she specialized in appellate and Supreme Court litigation, and has taught as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Immediately before joining the Supreme Court of California, Justice Kruger served in the U.S. Department of Justice as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Judge Ryan Nelson earned a BA from Brigham Young University
and a JD with honors from BYU Law School. He previously worked
in Washington, D.C., where he served in all three branches of the federal government, including as Special Counsel for Supreme Court Nominations to the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Deputy General Counsel to the White House Office of Management and Budget; Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice; and a law clerk to Judge Henderson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He has argued in most of the federal courts of appeals and worked on dozens of Supreme Court briefs. He started in the Washington, D.C., office of Sidley Austin as an appellate lawyer, after clerking for Judges Mosk and Brower of the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal at The Hague and for now-Judge Tom Griffith, then- Senate Legal Counsel, during the impeachment trial of President Clinton. Prior to his confirmation, Judge Nelson served for nine years as General Counsel of Idaho Falls-based Melaleuca, Inc., a consumer goods company. Judge Nelson was confirmed to the Ninth Circuit in October 2018 as the youngest Circuit Judge to serve from Idaho, and he has chambers in his hometown of Idaho Falls.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Judge David Tatel earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a JD from the University of Chicago. Among other things, he has served as Director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Director of the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare during the Carter administration. Returning to private practice in 1979, Judge Tatel joined Hogan & Hartson, where he founded and headed the firm’s education practice until his appointment by President Clinton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in October 1994. Judge Tatel is currently co-chair of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Science, Technology, and Law, and he is a member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Problem

On March 29, 2021, the New Columbia General Assembly passed HB 1213 “The Protection of Minors Act,” which was signed into law April 1, 2021. The law prohibits professionals licensed by the state of New Columbia from performing certain irreversible surgical procedures on anyone under the age of 18 as part of their gender transition. The law also restricts access to hormonal drugs for the purpose of gender transition to minors: Doctors may prescribe hormonal drugs to minors at least 14 years of age but only with parental consent. As part of the law’s enforcement, the state of New Columbia’s Attorney General may seek injunctions and civil penalties against the doctor-plaintiffs and all other medical professionals who provide gender-affirming medical care to adolescents.

Plaintiffs filed their complaint challenging the law on April 15, 2021. One set of plaintiffs are parents of children who are under the age of 18 ,and the parents wish to honor the request of their children to begin transitional surgical procedures, if that is what their doctors recommend. The second group of plaintiffs are doctors who wish to be able to perform transitional procedures where they consider it appropriate. The doctor plaintiffs argue that transition-related surgical procedures are medically appropriate for each child, and the parent- plaintiffs have consented to having these procedures performed on their children.

The defendant, the Attorney General of New Columbia, moved to dismiss the case on May 3, 2021, which was granted by the District Court. The District Court found that no case supported the plaintiffs’ demand for heightened scrutiny. The court also ruled that it was up to the legislature, not the courts, to make determinations on medical matters such as the ones that are the subject of the litigation, and there was no basis for discovery or further proceedings. The Court of Appeals granted plaintiffs’ motion for expedited review on May 20, 2021 and affirmed the ruling of the District Court on July 27, 2021. On September 10, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari on two issues

Issue I

Whether the Protection of Minors Act discriminates in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause?

Issue II

Whether the Protection of Minors Act violates due process rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment?

About the Van Vleck Competition

Welcome to the final round of the 72nd annual Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition. This competition is our largest and longest running upper-level advocacy competition and is named for William C. Van Vleck, the longest-serving dean in the history of the law school. He joined the GW Law faculty immediately after graduating with a J. in 1912 and served as Dean of the law school from 1924 to 1948. Jake Stein, who graduated from GW Law during Van Vleck’s last year as Dean, described him as follows: “He was imperious. He would not invite you to speak with him after class. His idea was, you are here to learn and I am here to teach. He was all business.” This attitude was reflected in the law school’s recruitment brochure from that era, Studying Law in the Nation’s Capital: Advantages of the George Washington University Law School (1927), which read in pertinent part, “Examinations are graded severely with the purpose of weeding out the slothful, inattentive, and incompetent.” Until shortly after Dean Van Vleck’s retirement, moot court competitions or “Case Clubs” were run through the Student Bar Association. In 1950, the Case Club became a separate student organization now known as the Moot Court Board, and this competition was named for Dean Van Vleck.

Moot court competitions provide valuable opportunities for students to hone their oral and written advocacy skills by engaging in mock appellate litigation. This year’s competition began last September, when 64 upper-level law students started researching the problem. Each team of two competitors was required to submit a written brief and present an oral argument for each side. This was the first year that all rounds were held fully virtual. 

To earn the right to present their arguments before today’s distinguished panel of judges, the two teams competing in today’s final round advanced through five previous rounds, which—in honor of Dean Van Vleck—were used for “weeding out the slothful, inattentive, and incompetent.” To that end, all rounds were judged by practicing attorneys. The winning team of today’s competition will receive the Jacob Burns Award at the annual Awards Ceremony held the day before their graduation.