CSU, Chico News

Border Searches Debated in 33rd Moot Court Competition

Date: 04-24-2014

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs
Dane Cameron, Professor
Department of Political Science

California State University, Chico’s long-standing moot court competition begins next week with 32 student teams debating the controversial topic of border control searches.

The single-elimination tournament gets underway Monday, April 28, and culminates in the final two teams arguing before judges at 6 p.m. on May 2 in the Chico City Council chambers. The event is open to the public.

Now in its 33rd year, CSU, Chico’s moot court competition was founded by political science professor Dane Cameron, who is moot court adviser and a practicing Chico attorney. The event is the culminating assignment in his upper-division trial and appellate advocacy course.

About 50 local judges and attorneys serve as judges in the contest; many serve year after year.
This year, eight of the judges are moot court program alumni, Cameron said. During the contest, teams try to convince judges that their side is correct, and judges may interrupt, ask questions and challenge presenters.

“You’re mixing students and the community at an intellectual level,” Cameron said. “It’s a great experience for students thinking of becoming trial lawyers; they get a sense of the flow of the courtroom and the intensity of trial.”

Participating students must write an appellate brief and be prepared to cite up to 10 cases in making their arguments. The quality of briefs and arguments determine if teams win or lose. “They put more pressure on themselves here than I ever would,” Cameron said of the students.

CSU, Chico is the only campus in the CSU to have its own moot courtroom, he said. Located on the third floor of Glenn Hall, the recently renovated room includes video and audio recording equipment so students can evaluate themselves as part of the learning process.

The moot court topic is typically a hot-button issue that has not yet been decided by the Supreme Court, Cameron said.

The 2014 case students received at the start of the semester is based on a dispute over the present practice by border authorities of confiscating personal electronic devices during searches. The 9th Circuit Court has ruled that officials need reasonable suspicion of criminal activity in order to seize laptops, mobile phones and other personal electronic devices for forensic examination off site. That is currently under appeal.