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Moot Court tournament case explores vaccine mandates

mbruun | Fri Nov 12, 2021

The constitutionality of vaccine requirements will be under review when Fitchburg State University hosts the American Moot Court Association’s Eastern Regional Tournament on Friday, Nov. 19 and Saturday, Nov. 20.

The competition, in which students are judged on their oral and written arguments on opposing sides of legal principles, will be conducted online. The teams with the highest scores at the regional tournament will move onto the national finals in January.

Fitchburg State has a long and distinguished history with the tournament, sending students to nationals each year since the campus program’s inception in 2000. Earlier this year, the American Moot Court Association ranked Fitchburg State in its top 20 programs nationwide. Four Fitchburg State students will be competing in the regional tournament this month.

“This year’s competition is shaping up to be the strongest one yet,” said Fitchburg State Professor Paul Weizer of the Economics, History and Political Science Department, who founded and coaches the university's moot court team. “With 22 different universities competing from across the country, I am looking forward to seeing how our students match up with some of the best in the United States.”

“We have all been working tirelessly since the end of September to make the best possible impression on the courts, and all of us believe we have a chance to get to the highest levels of this competition,” said team member Anthony Marcella of Boxborough, a senior political science major. “Whether it be studying in passing time, using flash cards to refer to precedents and cases, or practicing oral arguments both outside and inside the classroom, I'm confident in myself and my peers’ abilities. I couldn't be any more honored to represent Fitchburg State at the upcoming tournament.” 

“Preparing for this moot court competition has been unlike anything I have ever done before,” said Maylynn Velazquez of Leominster, a senior majoring in political science. “Hours of arguing, practicing and reading with our classmates and amazing mentors has gotten us far and has prepared us to compete against fellow distinguished moot court teams. Representing the Fitchburg State University Moot Court team is something that I am very proud of, as we are continually ranked among the Top 20 programs within the nation. Working so closely with such a great group of individuals who strive to succeed within this association and beyond is something I am honored to be a part of.”

Benjamin Hill of Troy, N.H., a senior majoring in political science and history, said the teams were well-prepared for the tournament, having been composing their arguments since the beginning of the semester. “We constantly practice our arguments individually, as pairs, and as a class,” he said. “We are constantly asking tough questions and I think this makes us competitive.”

Hill, competing for the second year, said the program continues to challenge him. “I'm honored to represent a respected program such as Fitchburg State and I look forward to knocking down some giants,” he said.

This year’s hypothetical case will have students arguing whether a presidential vaccine requirement violates the U.S. Constitution. Teams of students will argue either side of a case in which a man refuses a federal vaccine mandate on the grounds it would violate his personal right to make life-shaping decisions and to preserve the privacy and integrity of his body, and that the mandate itself violates due process rights.

More than 200 Fitchburg State students have competed in the tournament since the local program was founded. Many graduates of the program return to campus each year for the regional tournament on the Fitchburg State campus. Their ranks include police officers, lawyers and court clerks, though the skills developed through moot court are applicable far beyond the legal profession.

The American Moot Court Association is the largest intercollegiate moot court organization in the US. The AMCA establishes the rules of competition and supervises regional and national tournaments that are open to all college and university students. Last year, 500 teams registered to compete in 15 qualifying tournaments to attempt to win a bid to the Championship Tournament that was held virtually for the first time in the history of the AMCA.