Moot Court Competition

First Amendment and Media Law Diversity Moot Court Competition Presented by the ABA Forum on Communications Law

The application deadline for the 2015-16 Competition has passed.


The moot court Hypothetical Case involves timely issues of national significance in the field of media law.  The Hypothetical Case for the 2015-16 focuses on whether a statute making it illegal to eavesdrop is unconstitutionally overbroad when applied to a citizen’s surreptitious recording of a police officer conducting a traffic stop. 
2015-16 Hypothetical. Past competitions have posed issues relating to whether journalists have a privilege under the First Amendment or federal common law not to reveal sources in response to a government subpoena and whether or not the public and the press have a qualified First Amendment right of access to attend an internal employee disciplinary proceeding at a public university.

Law students interested in the competition submit short written applications and a short essay on a media law question posed in the application. From the application submissions, up to eight teams (“quarter-finalists”) are selected to submit an appeal brief. Each quarter-finalist will be paired with a practicing media law attorney in a city close to their law school for career advice, mentoring and networking.  Mentors also will review and comment upon one completed draft of their quarter-finalist’s brief. Last year’s quarter-finalists were mentored by attorneys such as Chip Babcock, a partner with Jackson Walker LLP in Houston, Texas; Robb Harvey, a partner with Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP in Nashville, Tennessee; Laura Prather, a partner with Haynes and Boone in Austin, Texas; Chuck Tobin, a partner with Holland & Knight in Washington, D.C.; and S. Jenell Trigg, a partner with Lerman Senter in Washington, D.C. to name a few. Each quarter-finalist also will receive complimentary registration to attend (and all meals during) the Forum’s 21st Annual Conference in Naples, Florida, which will be held from February 4-6, 2016.  (Transportation to the Annual Conference and hotel are not provided for quarter-finalists.) Click here for the Moot Court Rules.

“I loved having the mentors. Please, please, please, please continue this! Having my mentor, Chip Babcock, was a huge help in calming my nerves and preparing me for the competition. Chip and my partner's mentor, John Edwards, were incredibly gracious to allow us to come to their offices and to take time from their busy schedules to help us practice. I enjoyed talking to Chip both about the competition and about my legal and non-legal interests. I hope that you continue this program because it was a highlight of the competition for me.”

Carolyn Ng, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, 2013-14 Competition

The four teams with the highest brief scores will receive coaching from their mentors to prepare for the semi-final round of oral arguments.  The quarter-finalist team with the highest-scoring brief will be deemed “Best Brief” and each team member will receive $1,000.  (The team with the Best Brief will be announced following the final round of oral arguments.)  The four teams will compete in the semi-final round of oral arguments during the Forum’s Annual Conference.  (In addition to complimentary registration to attend the Forum’s Annual Conference, all semi-finalists also will receive round trip transportation and four night’s hotel stay during the Annual Conference.)  The four students with the highest combined brief and semi-final oral argument scores (without regard to team assignment) will compete in the final round of oral arguments during the Annual Conference before a panel of sitting appellate judges. For the final round of oral arguments, the finalists will be randomly assigned to represent appellant or appellee (resulting in new team assignments) and will be randomly assigned an issue to argue.

The team with the highest-scoring highest score for the final round of oral arguments will be the winner of the Competition.  Each member of the winning team will receive $750.  The finalist with the highest score for the final round of oral argument will be deemed “Best Oralist” and will receive $1,500.  All students who attend the Annual Conference will have the opportunity to network with practicing media law attorneys from across the country and attend engaging and informative panels.

“Participating in the ABA First Amendment and Media Law Diversity Moot Court Competition has been one of the best experiences we have had in law school. Through the competition, we had the opportunity to enhance our legal research and brief writing skills, and learn more about the dynamic field of media and communications law. Furthermore, we were able to practice our oral advocacy skills in front of a distinguished panel of judges and practitioners. Participating in the Competition was an opportunity of a lifetime, and one that we will never forget.”

Sarmili Saha, Fordham Law 2011 & Elba L. Bermudez, Fordham Law 2012

Judge Hurwitz with finalists Jacquelyn DeVore and Hannah Becker


Students from any ABA-accredited law school are encouraged to apply to participate in the competition. Students must be members of a chapter of the National Black Law Students Association; the National Latino/a Law Student Association; the National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association; the National Native American Law Students Association; or a comparable minority law student organization at their school.

To apply, each student must submit a resume; a short (pre-existing) writing sample; and a response to a short essay hypothetical on a media-related topic. A short registration form also must be completed; one for each team or individual student applying. There is no fee to apply. The Competition Committee will partner students who enter individually and are selected to advance to the quarter-final round.

The Competition Committee will select up to eight (8) teams to advance to participate in the quarter-final round of the Competition.

The quarter-final round of competition requires each team to submit an appeal brief of up to 30 pages, based on the Moot Court Hypothetical. The Moot Court Hypothetical will be announced Friday, August 14, 2015. 2015-16 Hypothetical

The submitted briefs are reviewed and judged by practicing media law attorneys.  The four teams with the highest-scoring briefs will participate in semi-final arguments during the Annual Conference on Thursday, February 4, 2016.  

The two finalist teams will present their oral arguments on the first day of the Annual Conference, Friday, February 5, 2016, before prominent sitting judges.

“I would highly recommend law students to enter the Diversity Moot Court Competition, particularly those of you interested in media and communications law. The chance of winning a trip and attending the ABA Media Law Conference is reason enough to enter. After last year's competition, I was able to meet some of this country's leading attorneys practicing in the area of communications law for private law firms, media companies, the federal government, and nonprofit organizations.

The Competition also provides a valuable opportunity to sharpen legal research, writing, and oral advocacy skills. Working collaboratively with my partner on the brief on last year's creative and challenging hypothetical case was both fun and a great learning experience. The feedback I received during the oral argument rounds was also very helpful, and I was able to put this advice to immediate practice.

Overall, the Diversity Moot Court Competition was an extremely rewarding, challenging, and enjoyable experience.”
Matthew Maddox, Yale Law School, 2011


The First Amendment and Media Law Diversity Moot Court Competition is administered by the American Bar Association Forum on Communications Law. The Competition Committee, which is comprised of media lawyers, in-house counsel at national media companies, and tenured and visiting law school faculty, will oversee the administration of the Competition.

The Forum would like to acknowledge and thank Diana Palacios, an associate with Davis Wright Tremaine and Tina Salvato, an associate with Mandell Menkes for drafting the hypothetical for the 2015-16 Competition.


The more than 2,500 members of the American Bar Association Forum on Communications Law regularly represent media and telecommunications companies in litigation and regulatory and transactional matters, among other things. The principal objectives of the Forum are: (1) to encourage discussion of issues relating to the legal counseling and representation of the print media, the telecommunications industry, and the electronic media; (2) to support and promote research, forums and publications focusing on communications and media law; and (3) to keep abreast of developments in communications and media law. In addition, the Forum understands and appreciates the value of a diverse legal profession. It is committed to diversifying its membership and to participating in activities and programs that expand opportunities for minority students and attorneys to become active members of the legal profession and the media bar in particular. The Competition is designed in part to facilitate these objectives.

For any questions about the competition, or to reach the Competition Committee, please contact Carolyn Forrest.  

See photos from the 2011 Oral Argument Competition held in Rancho Mirage, California