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Esteemed Alumni Serve as Judges in AYC Competition

November 14, 2012

California Supreme Court Associate Justice Ming Chin BA ’64, JD ’67 was among several esteemed alumni judges of the Advocate of the Year Competition that spanned several weekends in September and October. William Knox-Davies 3L won the competition finals on Oct. 19.

Top row, left to right: James A. Richman of the California Court of Appeals for the First District, Ming Chin of the California Supreme Court, and Saundra Brown Armstrong of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Bottom row: 2012–2013 USF Moot Court Board.

In addition to Chin, Saundra Brown Armstrong ’77 of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and James A. Richman ’65 of the California Court of Appeals for the First District served as competition judges.

“The AYC competition is a great opportunity for upper-division students to develop their written and oral advocacy skills while testing their mettle against fellow students,” said Derik Hilliard 3L, advocacy director of the 2012–2013 USF Moot Court Board. “This year’s competition was fierce, and I am pleased that participants gave it their all, culminating in a terrific final round that impressed our alumni judges and the audience as a whole.”

This year’s competition explored what standard the U.S. Supreme Court should apply when deciding whether a school district has the authority to discipline students for internet speech.

In the fictional scenario, a Zief Hills School District student, Petitioner Billie Fitzgerald who was represented in the competition finals by Alyssa Bussey 2L, wrote a blog post accusing a fellow student of cheating on an exam. When the allegations spread throughout the school several students engaged in a walkout and silent protest. School officials blamed the petitioner for the protest and suspended her for a week, among other punishments. In response the petitioner filed suit against the school district for a violation of her First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Knox-Davies, who served as the respondent, argued that the standard established in the U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District gives schools the authority to regulate off-campus speech when there is a sufficient nexus between the speech and the school. The court ruled in Tinker that while school administrators need to demonstrate constitutionally valid reasons for regulation of speech, they can punish students whose speech creates a substantial disruption of the school’s educational mission.

Knox-Davies said that a benefit of the advocacy competition is learning how to present an argument succinctly.

“When you go from making an argument as a paper to making an oral argument, you tend to slim down, organize, and make sense of the material in a way that you don’t when writing a paper,” he said.

Jeremy Koo 2L won best brief, and Megan Casebeer 3L won second best brief of the Advocate of the Year Competition.