73rd Annual Van Vleck Competition Recap

January 27, 2023
Anastasia Foley, The Honorable Matthew Fader, Jimmie Reyna and Florence Pan, and Lauren Arquette

Anastasia Foley, The Hon. Matthew Fader, The Hon. Jimmie Reyna, The Hon. Florence Pan, and Lauren Arquette

Congratulations to 2Ls Lauren Arquette and Anastasia Foley for winning the 2023 Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition, and thank you to The Honorable Jimmie Reyna, Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; The Honorable Florence Pan, Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; and The Honorable Matthew Fader, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Maryland for presiding over the Finals. 

"It's gratifying to see some of the work you all are doing…We would all agree that all four of you would do a great job appearing before courtrooms. You all did better than some of the litigants we see in courts, and you all work here for free!" The Honorable Jimmie Reyna, Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

The Problem

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.


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?

The 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.D. in 1912 and served as Dean of the law school from 1924 to 1948.

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