2023 Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Finals

Four students with suits standing in front of a George Washington University Law School sign

The Competitors

This year’s competition is the first time in our recorded history that all eight semi-finalists were female. Emerging from those semi-finals is a classic battle between 2Ls and 3Ls.

For Petitioner (representing the Class of 2024):

 

Lauren Arquette

 

  • BA, magna cum laude, Political Science (with departmental honors), French minor, Kalamazoo College
  • Thurgood Marshall Scholar (top 16-35% of class)
  • Member, The George Washington International Law Review
  • Dean’s Fellow
  • Summer Associate, Crowell & Moring, Washington, DC

 

 

Anastasia Foley

 

  • BA, magna cum laude, English and American literature (with high honors) and Economics, College of Arts and Science, New York University
  • Thurgood Marshall Scholar (top 16-35% of class)
  • Member, The George Washington Law Review
  • Writing Fellow
  • Next summer, she will be a summer associate at Schulte Roth & Zabel, New York.

 

For Respondent (representing the Class of 2023):

 

Kathryn Belkin

 

  • BA, summa cum laude, Political Science with Criminal Justice minor, George Washington University
  • George Washington Scholar (top 1-15% of class)
  • Notes Editor, The George Washington Law Review
  • Writing Fellow
  • After graduation, she will be a labor and employment associate at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Washington, DC

 

 

Julia Dacy

  • BA, summa cum laude, Strategic Communication and Legal Studies, University of Denver
  • Thurgood Marshall Scholar (top 16-35% of class)
  • Editor-in-Chief, Federal Communications Law Journal
  • Presidential Merit Scholar
  • After graduation, she will work as a media litigation fellow at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The Judges

The Honorable Jimmie Reyna

Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Judge Jimmie Reyna was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit by President Barack Obama in 2011. He was confirmed by the Senate 86 to 0. Prior to his appointment, Judge Reyna was an international trade attorney with Williams Mullen and a member of its board of directors. Before that, he was an associate and partner at the Washington law firm of Stewart & Stewart (1986–98). Prior to locating in Washington, Judge Reyna was a solo practitioner in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and, before that, an associate at an Albuquerque law firm.

The Honorable Florence Pan

Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Judge Florence Pan was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on September 28, 2022. Prior to joining the Court, Judge Pan served as a U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia from September 2021 until her appointment to the D.C. Circuit. Judge Pan received two undergraduate degrees summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree with distinction from Stanford Law School.

The Honorable Matthew Fader

Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Maryland

Matthew J. Fader is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland. He joined the court, then named the Court of Appeals of Maryland, in April 2022. He was previously a member of Maryland’s intermediate appellate court, now named the Appellate Court of Maryland, where he served as an Associate Judge beginning in 2017 and as Chief Judge beginning in 2018. Before joining the bench, he was the Chief of Civil Litigation with the Office of the Attorney General of Maryland, where he served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Litigation Division from 2010 to 2017; an attorney in private practice with K&L Gates, LLP from 2002 to 2010; and a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch, from 1999 to 2002. He clerked for the Honorable Leonie M. Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia from 1998 to 1999. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a law degree from Yale Law School.


The Problem

Factual Summary

In the days leading up to the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, Representative Sean Oshagnessy, member of Congress from the 6th District of the State of New Columbia, is alleged to have provided tours of secure areas of the U.S. Capitol to individuals who later invaded the building. The day of the attack, he tweeted the following message to his 108,000 followers: “The fate of our nation lies in the balance, so let’s show those swamp monsters that we are a force to be reckoned with! It’s time to fight!! Join us!” In early 2022, Representative Oshagnessy won his party’s renomination for his congressional seat and registered with the Superintendent of Elections for the State of New Columbia in order to get his name on the ballot for the general election in November.

However, a group of registered voters from Representative Oshagnessy’s congressional district filed a challenge to his candidacy under N.C. Gen. Stat § 107-18.3, a New Columbia statute which permits qualified voters within a congressional district to assert that a candidate does not meet the constitutional requirements to become a member of Congress. They alleged that Representative Oshagnessy is ineligible for having violated the insurrection clause in the 14th amendment. This case does not seek to adjudicate whether such a violation occurred, but only when and who has the legal authority to make that determination. The statute provides that, once a challenge has been made, the Superintendent of Elections must conduct a hearing on the challenge and the supporting evidence that the candidate is not fit to be a member of Congress. After the hearing, the superintendent has seven days to render a decision that has the capacity to disqualify the candidate from running for Congress. The statute allows for one appeal as of right to the New Columbia Supreme Court, which is expedited.

Procedural Summary

After learning that the challenge had been filed, but before the Superintendent of Elections could hold a hearing, Representative Oshagnessy filed a complaint in Federal District Court, asking the Court to enjoin the state proceedings and find the statute unconstitutional under Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution. The defendant, the Superintendent of Elections for the State of New Columbia, moved to dismiss the case, and the representative continued to campaign. The District Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, determining that plaintiff’s claims were not ripe because he had yet to suffer an injury in fact because there is no injury until the state proceedings have progressed. Moreover, even if the case were ripe, the Court determined that it was inappropriate for the federal court to interfere with a state elections integrity proceeding pursuant to the Younger v. Harris doctrine of federal abstention.

Issues

Issue I

Do the federal courts have jurisdiction under Article III of the U.S. Constitution and pursuant to the Younger Abstention Doctrine to adjudicate the constitutionality of the New Columbia Challenge Statute at issue in this case?

Issue II

Does the New Columbia Challenge Statute violate Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution by allowing the State of New
Columbia to determine whether a candidate is eligible to hold the office of U.S. Representative?


About the Van Vleck Competition

Welcome to the final round of the 73rd annual Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition. The competition, our largest and longest-running upper-level advocacy competition, 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 JD in 1912 and served as Dean from 1924 to 1948. Jake Stein, who graduated from GW Law during Dean 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 108 upper-level law students started researching the problem. Each team of two competitors was required to submit written briefs and present oral arguments for each side.

To earn the right to present their arguments before today’s distinguished panel of judges, the two teams competing in this 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, and the semifinals were held before benches consisting of current deans and professors. The winning team members of today’s competition will receive the Jacob Burns Award at the annual Awards Ceremony held the day before their graduation.