By Rachel Gobep
Members of Youngstown State University’s nationally ranked moot court team had the opportunity to present arguments for a case problem as part of a Constitution Day celebration in front of a jam-packed audience in Tod Hall on Tuesday afternoon.
The team is ranked fifth in the nation in the American Moot Court Association behind the United States Air Force Academy and the University of Chicago.
Moot court is a simulated argument in front of the Supreme Court of the United States where participants are given a fictional case each year with a set of real supreme court and federal circuit court opinions.
Participants have about 15 to 20 cases to work with divided among two issues. The teams consist of two partners that address one issue on both sides and act it out in front of the Supreme Court.
Samantha Fritz argued along with her partner, Jacob Tomory, in front of various Ohio judges from the Ohio Supreme Court, federal district court and the Seventh District Court of Appeals.
Tomory and Fritz are both senior philosophy and political science majors, and Fritz said she is fortunate to have the opportunity to present arguments to judges of such high caliber.
“That it is probably one of the coolest things that I’ve ever been able to do as an undergrad, being able to have access to these resources … I don’t think that I would be able to have this opportunity if I didn’t come [to YSU],” she said.
This is her fourth year on the moot court team, and she said when it comes to personal growth, the forensic activity has helped her deal with nerves and anxiety.
Moataz Abdelrasoul, a senior political science pre-law major, has been on the team for three years and said it has been his most rewarding encounter at YSU because of the life skills that are taught.
“The communication skills, the ability to handle questions from individuals and be able to craft your argument. Those are all skills that are transferable to any career that you want to go into, specifically law school,” he said.
Abdelrasoul had the opportunity to argue in front of the judges with his teammate, Michael Factor, a sophomore political science major.
Ron Slipski, the team’s coach and a lecturer in the department of politics and international relations, said through arguing on Constitution Day, students had the opportunity to answer tough questions.
“They’re all top-notch jurists. So, in preparing for competition, that’s what you want. You want the tough questions,” he said.
For Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine, it was the second time he judged moot court students. DeWine said when he came to the university two years ago, he was impressed by the students’ abilities.
“It’s really impressive … You watch the quality of some of these students. Quite frankly, they can stand up with many of the lawyers we have in front of us in the Supreme Court,” he said.
In DeWine’s opinion, the students have composure, a strong work ethic and the ability to think on their feet.
“I think if they choose to, they’ll be tremendous lawyers, litigators and oral advocates,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Benita Y. Pearson said she wanted to be a part of the Constitution Day celebration to help “further the pursuit of justice.”
She said the team’s national ranking tells her she will see some of them in future courtrooms.
“They’re real litigators in the making,” she said.
Abdelrasoul said being ranked fifth in the nation is a lot of pressure for the team, but it is motivating.
“I think it has kind of lit a fire under us,” he said.
Abdelrasoul said he believes Slipski is the best moot court coach in the nation.
“What he does for our team is remarkable, and he really deserves all the credit. I would be nothing without him,” he said.
Slipski said the team’s ranking makes him emotional, and it has everything to do with the students’ work ethic.
“I’m a YSU grad. Youngstowners have this bad attitude about themselves, and this proves that attitude wrong,” he said.