The 46th Annual William E. Leahy Moot Court Competition

IMG_1090by Nora Li

On October 27, the much-anticipated final round of the 46th William E. Leahy Moot Court Competition was staged in the Hart Auditorium. The case argued by the contestants was State of Georgetown v. Grayson.

In the case, Officer Sullivan, who suspected the respondent was an under-aged drinker and was not old enough to be out past curfew, stopped Grayson for an ID check. When Grayson submitted an ID that’s frayed at the edges, Officer Sullivan relied on her experiences and determined the ID must be fake. Accordingly, Officer Sullivan recited Grayson’s information to dispatch for verification and to check for outstanding warrants. The ID was held by Officer Sullivan until dispatch responded, which showed that Grayson had two outstanding arrest warrants from California. Subsequently, Sullivan conducted a search incident to arrest. Grayson informed Sullivan that he had a handgun on his person. Sullivan removed the gun and matching ammunition from Grayson’s person. Grayson was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon.

Counsels for Petitioner State of Georgetown were Courtney Elgart and Jeffrey Thalhofer, who argued against the motion that Respondent Greyson’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when a police officer asked for his identification and ran a check for outstanding warrants.

Counsels for Respondent Grayson were Dennis D’Aquila and Peter Mackenna, who argued for the motion that Respondent Grayson’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when a police officer asked for his identification and ran a check for outstanding warrants, and also, the evidence subsequently discovered during a search incident to arrest should be suppressed.

In the list of Distinguished Judges sat Judges Stephen H. Glickman and Judge Roy W. McLeese III from District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Judge George J. Hazel from United State District for the District of Maryland, Professor Irv Gornstein, Executive Director of Supreme Court Institute and Ruthanne Deutsch, Senior Fellow of Georgetown Law Appellate Litigation Clinic.

Arguing for the petitioner, Peter Mackenna focused his argument on whether there was reasonable suspicion for Officer Sullivan to conduct the stop check. Dennis D’Aquila presented his arguments based on the question that in the lack of reasonable suspicion and that all the evidences were illegally obtained, whether the court is prepared to certify a blueprint that allows for Officer who effectuated a unconstitutional and illegal seizure to repair this seizure?

Arguing against the motion, Courtney Elgart argued there was reasonable suspicion for Officer Sullivan to stop Petitioner, and that it was permissible for her to run the warrant check as previous court decisions ruled unrelated investigative stops are permissible as long as they don’t extend the scope.

Jeffrey Thalhofer argued even if Officer Sullivan violated Grayson’s 4th Amendment rights, the handgun and ammunition discovered on this person should not be suppressed. As an initial matter, Brown and Attenuation test should apply in cases like this when an intervening circumstance led to the discovery of an arrest warrant.

Each contestant was given 15 minutes, during which time they were constantly questioned by the judges based on their respective propositions.

Dennis D’Aquila, one of the advocates who took a brief interview with us after the oral arguemnt, credited the event as an extremely well-run one. “It is a lot of time at the outset to get the brief done.” Dennis told Law Weekly, “After you pass the first round, you had to argue from the opposite side, which required a different mindset. And to be able to switch back was kind of hard.” When asked the largest reward for attending this competition, Dennis said the biggest benefits is to be able to practice skills you probably never got to practice. “You really got to be the subject matter expert for being able to answer all these cold calls, hypothetical questions, which is a kinda skill I don’t think you can get out of advocating.”

After a 15 minutes’ deliberation, the judges returned back to the court where they gave full credits to all the advocates for having clearly articulated the rules, and for being responsive to all the questions raised by the judges where the contestants were able to transfer affirmative points within the limited time given. After careful considerations, the judges unanimously awarded Peter MacKenna as the prevailing advocate i in the final.

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