April 02, 2019

Moot Court Competition

The 12th Annual First Amendment and Media Law Diversity Moot Court Competition

Presented by the ABA Forum on Communications Law

Click here to apply for the 2019-20 Competition.

Deadline to apply: Friday, August 30, 2019 - Extended Deadline

The annual First Amendment and Media Law Diversity Moot Court, now in its 12th year, is designed to introduce minority law students to the practice of media law and to many of the lawyers who are active in the media law bar.

Competition Overview

The moot court Hypothetical Case involves timely issues of national significance in the field of media law.  The Hypothetical Case for the 2018-19 Competition focused on whether a website operator is shielded from liability for copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for an unflattering copyrighted video regarding a fundamentalist Christian pastor who was a candidate for the local school board that was produced and uploaded by an unpaid contributor on the website operator’s site, and whether the “fair use” defense shielded the website operator from liability for publishing a meme that added commentary to a single still frame taken from the copyrighted video for both journalistic and parodic purposes.  

Past competitions have posed issues relating to: whether an online media platform which encouraged the uploading and sharing of user-created content through a downloadable application violated the Video Privacy Protection Act by providing user information, including that of both account holders and general users of the application, to an external data analytics and advertising company which used the information to maximize the media platform’s profits by directly marketing products and videos to viewers; whether an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act allows for a governmental agency in possession of a report detailing the findings of an investigation into instances of high lead levels in residents of a community with a contaminated water supply to withhold the report when the report was prepared by a third-party who provided the report to the agency under a confidentiality agreement; 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; 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.  There is NO FEE TO APPLY.  All applications are due and must be received no later than Midnight PDT.  From the application submissions, up to twelve 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.  Past mentors have included 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 Ballard Spahr in Washington, D.C.; S. Jenell Trigg, a partner with Lerman Senter in Washington, D.C.; Ashley Messenger, Senior Associate General Counsel at NPR; Mark J. Prak, a partner with Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Herschel Fink, Legal Counsel at Detroit Free Press to name a few.  Each quarter-finalist also will receive complimentary registration to attend (and all meals during) the Forum’s 25th Annual Conference, which will take place at at the Hilton Austin, 500 E. 4th Street, Austin, TX 78701, from February 6 through February 9, 2020.  (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 awarded “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 during the Annual Conference.)  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 judgesFor 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 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 was a remarkable experience at every stage of the competition. From developing my research and writing skills while writing my brief as well as mooting with my incredible mentors, S. Jenell Trigg and Ari Meltzer, to arguing in front of some of the most distinguished panel of practitioners, I was thrilled to participate… Overall, this was an unforgettable experience and I look forward to becoming an active member of the Forum on Communications Law in order to make an impact on another law student’s legal career the way this competition made an impact on mine."

April Jones, The George Washington University School of Law, J.D. Candidate 2016

Pictured above are the 2018-19 Competition Finalists Diana Lee (Yale Law School), Stephen Scott (West Virginia Univ. College of Law), Catherine Martinez (Yale Law School), and David Davis, Jr. (Duke Law School) with Judge Carla Wong McMillian, Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals, Judge James E. Graves, Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, Chief Justice, Michigan Supreme Court.

Applications, Briefings, & Oral Argument

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 by Friday, August 30, 2019.  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 twelve (12) teams to advance to participate in the quarter-final round of the Competition.

The quarter-final round of the 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 9, 2019. 

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 6, 2020.  

The two finalist teams will present their oral arguments on the first day of the Annual Conference, Friday, February 7,  2020, 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

Competition Administration and Sponsors

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 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 Competition Co-chairs, James Carlos McFall at jmcfall@jw.com; Rachel E. Fugate at rfugate@shullmanfugate.com; and Frank D. LoMonte at flomonte@ufl.edu; Esther Clovis at Esther.Clovis@hklaw.com; Al-Amyn Sumar at al-amyn.sumar@nytimes.com; and Sommer Ingram Dean at sdean@splc.org.

2019-2020 Committee Co-Chairs & Committee Members

James Carlos McFall
Jackson Walker LLP
Dallas, TX

Rachel E. Fugate
Shullman Fugate PLLC
Tampa, FL

Frank LoMonte
Professor and Director, The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information
University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications
Gainesville, FL

Esther D. Clovis
Holland & Knight LLP
New York, New York

Al-Amyn Sumar (Co-Chair Elect)
First Amendment Fellow
New York Times
New York, New York

Sommer Ingram Dean (Committee Member)
Student Press Law Center Attorney
Washington, D.C. 

Carolyn Y. Forrest (Past Competition Co-Chair)
Vice President Legal Affairs
Fox Television Stations, LLC
Atlanta, GA

Robin Luce-Herrmann (Past Competition Co-Chair)
Butzel Long
Bloomfield Hills, MI

2018-2019 Acknowledgements 
2018-19 Judges, Mentors, and Drafters of Hypothetical

The Committee would like to thank the distinguished jurists who judged the final found of oral arguments:

  • Judge James E. Graves, Circuit Court Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, Chief Justice, Michigan Supreme Court
  • Judge Carla Wong McMillian, Judge, Georgia Court of Appeals

The Committee would also like to thank the following attorneys for judging the as semi-final round of oral arguments:

  • Jennifer Dukarski, Shareholder, Butzel Long
  • Susan Grogan Faller, Partner, Frost Brown and Todd
  • Jennifer Mansfield, Partner, Holland & Knight
  • Mickey Osterreicher, GC, National Press Photographers Association
  • Steven Zansberg, Partner, Ballard Spahr
  • Leslie Pedernales, Counsel, Moore & Van Allen

The Committee would also like to thank:

  • Frank LoMonte with The University of Florida’s Brechner Center for Freedom of Information  for drafting the hypothetical for the 2018-19 Competition
  •  Eric Wong, an associate with Jackson Walker LLP in Dallas, Texas, for serving as the 2018-19 Competition Court Clerk

The attorneys who served as mentors for the 2018-19 Competition participants.

2018-19 Sponsors

The Forum would  like to thank the following sponsors for their generous support of the Competition:

  • NBCUniversal
  • Scripps Howard Foundation
  • Shullman Fugate
  • Tantalo & Adler LLP
  • Univision

Sponsor the 2019-2020 Moot Court Competition

Sponsorship Form

2018-19 Competition Winners

Congratulations To The Winners Of The 2018-19 Competition!
  • Best Oralist: Catherine Martinez, Yale Law School
  • Winning Team: Catherine Martinez,  Yale Law School and David Davis, Jr., Duke Law School
  • Best Brief: Catherine Martinez and Diana Lee, Yale Law School

Pictured above is the Best Oralist of the 2018-2019 Competition, Catherine Martinez (Yale Law School), with Judge Carla Wong McMillian, Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals, Judge James E. Graves, Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, Chief Justice, Michigan Supreme Court.

Pictured above is the Winning Team of the 2018-2019 Competition, Catherine Martinez (Yale Law School) and David Davis, Jr. (Duke Law School), with Judge Carla Wong McMillian, Judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals, Judge James E. Graves, Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, Chief Justice, Michigan Supreme Court.