Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Anything but moot

Wheaton seniors will compete in national moot court championship

Two Wheaton College seniors will be arguing for the national intercollegiate moot court championship.

Brian Jencunas ’14 and Kristin Mulvey ’14 won a bid to the American Collegiate Moot Court Association (ACMA) annual championship on January 17, hosted this year by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at the University of Arizona, Tempe.

The two students earned their spot after a strong performance at the ACMA’s eastern regional tournament at Fitchburg State University.

“The Eastern regional competition is the largest in the country featuring 65 teams,” said Jenna Wechsler, assistant professor of political science and the coach of Wheaton’s moot court teams. Wheaton fielded two teams: Jencunas and Mulvey, and Melanie Collins and Brad Mattocks.

“Brian and Kristin qualified for nationals by winning four mock oral arguments in a row,” she said. “They lost their fifth round to the team that was ranked number one on day two of the competition. Brian and Kristin placed 12th out of 65 teams.”

The college’s moot court teams are guided by Wechsler, and receive help from Professors Jay Goodman, Adam Irsh and Stephen Mathis. The teams also were counseled by Judge Stephen Ostrach, an associate justice of the District Court Department of the Trial Court of Massachusetts and the husband of Wheaton Provost Linda Eisenmann.

Jencunas and Mulvey are looking forward to the national tournament, but they say that they are already enjoying the benefits of moot court.

Mulvey said that the competitions have improved her research and analytic skills, and  demonstrate how facts can be used to advance either side of argument. “However, it mostly teaches you public speaking skills and how to think quickly to respond to rapid questioning,” said the American history major who intends to go on to law school.

She credited Professor Wechsler with getting her involved in the organization and helping the teams to be successful. “Professor Wechsler is amazing and provides us with a lot of support,” she said.

Moot court cases typically reflect current constitutional questions and this year is no different. The case concerns Fourth Amendment issues raised by warrantless tracking of cell phone data and the detention of citizens based upon War Powers assigned to the executive branch.

Jencunas said their study has deepened his understanding of the issues, but not changed his mind.

“A legal argument is very different from a practical argument,” the political science major said. “In an appellate argument, the merits of widespread surveillance aren't an issue. All we are concerned about is whether they are constitutional according to prior precedent.”