Posted: April 23rd, 2014
Lauren Emery (’16) won the 43rd annual George K. Walker Moot Court Competition final round held at Wake Forest University School of Law on Thursday, April 17.
The final round showcases the top two first-year law students in the moot court competition. Arguing a fictitious case about whether a university’s refusal to field a women’s golf team violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Emery was representing Plaintiff Pamela Powell.
Alexis Iffert (’16) represented the Defendant Dobson Technical University.
The distinguished panel of judges included Christine Bishoff (’04) of the North Carolina Justice Center and formerly of the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, Judge Jim Gale of the North Carolina Business Court and Professor Rhoda Billings (’66), a retired Wake Forest Law professor who became Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1985 and served as the first female president of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA). Billings received the university’s highest honor, the Medallion of Merit, during the Founders’ Day Convocation on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.
The judges were highly complimentary of both finalists.
“We asked some very hard questions and I was very impressed,” Bishoff said before the decision was announced. ”Overall you both did a great job.”
Gale added, “That you did well in this case is extraordinary. I hope you have a true appreciation for the process and I hope you have tremendous respect for each other. It’s also difficult for us as judges to feel like we gave you a fair opportunity. We’re intimated when we see the quality of the students when we come here.”
Billings said, “This was a hot bench with all three of us trying to ask you questions at once. Your ability to be composed and responsive under these circumstance means no bench is going to trip you up.”
The competition came down to less than a one point difference, according to Billings.
The summary of the case that was at issue follows:
Plaintiff Pamela Powell, a sophomore at Dobson Technical University (“DTU”), contacted Matthew Grover, the athletic director at DTU, via letter, requesting the creation of a women’s varsity golf team. DTU is a four year, accredited educational institution and a recipient of federal funding. There are 4,010 students enrolled at DTU, with female students comprising 52% of the student body, and 47.06% of DTU’s 408 student-athletes are female. Currently, DTU has nine men’s athletic teams and eight women’s athletic teams. DTU surveys all of its students “every couple of years” regarding various aspects of its athletic program. Prior to Ms. Powell, no DTU student had ever expressed interest in a women’s varsity golf team. After receiving Ms. Powell’s letter, two other students contacted Mr. Grover by phone to inquire about a women’s varsity golf team. Mr. Grover stated that these two students did not provide enough information for him to determine whether they would be able to compete on the intercollegiate level, although he described one of the students as similar to Ms. Powell in terms of experience. Mr. Grover also stated that DTU does not have enough funding for the addition of women’s varsity golf, and that the only way DTU could free up the funds to add a women’s golf team would be to cut a men’s athletic team. Ms. Powell and her personal coach believe she has the potential to play golf on the LPGA if she has the opportunity to develop her game through playing on a women’s varsity team.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 provides that federally funded education programs or activities cannot exclude from participation, discriminate against, or deny benefits to any person on the basis of sex. On November 19, 2013, after Mr. Grover informed Ms. Powell that DTU had decided not to field a women’s varsity golf team, she filed a Title IX action in the District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The Court found, as a matter of law, that the 5 percent disparity between male and female student-athletes enrolled at Defendant establishes a lack of substantial proportionality between the sexes. Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment.
The question before the Court is whether DTU’s refusal to field a women’s golf team violates Title IX. The first issue is whether DTU has fully and effectively accommodated its female athletes. If DTU has not, the second issue is whether DTU can prove an affirmative defense of a history and continuing practice of program expansion.
The event, which is held each spring for first-year law students, fielded 111 initial competitors. Each student wrote a brief and argued twice, once “on-brief” and once “off-brief.” After two weeks, 21 students were invited to join Moot Court, and the top 16 competed in the following week in an elimination tournament leading up to the final round.
Emery was not the only student to take home an award. Distinctions for Best Brief, Best Oralist, including runners up, and the Debbie Parker Memorial Moot Court Service Award were also awarded.
Elissa Hachmeister won the Best Brief award, while Lauren Emery was the runner-up. The Best Oralist award went to Alexis Iffert, with Catherine Law earning runner-up. The Debbie Parker Moot Court Service Award went to Michael Bixby (’14).
The 2014 Walker Moot Court Competition co-chairs are Jasmine Pitt (’15) and Stephen Frost (’15).
Other new first-year members of the Moot Court Board are Anastasia Bond, Joshua Bussen, Carrie Daniel, Meredith FitzGibbon, Kayla Frederickson, Alicha Grubb, Elissa Hachmeister, Cheslie Kryst, Catherine Law, Ryan McIntyre, Daniel Menken, Blaydes Moore, Kaitlin Price, Elizabeth Ruocco, Mackenzie Salenger, Rachel Shields, Ashley Sims, Emily Singer, and Olivia Stidham.
For more than 40 years, the Wake Forest Moot Court Board has conducted a moot court competition for first-year law students. In 1998, the Moot Court Board named this competition the George K. Walker Moot Court Competition in honor of Professor George Walker’s long-standing support of the Wake Forest Moot Court program.
The Debbie Parker Moot Court Service Award is an honor granted to either a member of the Moot Court Board or a participant in the Walker Moot Court Competition who exemplifies throughout the competition a spirit of dedication and service to Wake Forest University School of Law, as well as compassion and cooperation with his or her fellow students.
Dean Blake D. Morant added that “here at Wake Forest Law students are at the center of what we do. I am so proud of our oral advocates and the job they did today. The Moot Court Board also did an awesome job. There are no losers today, there are only winners.”