Three-L wins moot court competition


Last week Harvard Law School 3L Melani Griswold won the McBaine Moot Court Competition, which is open only to Boalt Hall students. Griswold is a participant in the Berkeley Exchange Program and has spent the last academic year studying at Boalt Hall.

“Wow, I can’t believe the news has traveled,” Griswold said. “I feel kind of honored.”

There were approximately forty students who competed and each one was his or her own team, Griswold says. “The process was that we were assigned a particular side and we briefed it fully, and then went through several rounds.” Each round scored the brief and oral argument differently, with the final round based completely on an individual’s oral argument.

“The process of going through so many rounds was instructive, especially since we prepared everything from the briefs to the oral arguments without any feedback from anyone else,” says Griswold. “In each round, the judges would give comments, and I would go back and alter my oral arguments to address their feedback, which made for a better final. . . .”

The competition was based on a Sixth Circuit case that was denied cert. by the Supreme Court. In the actual case, Johnson v. Cincinnati, Cincinnati had sough to curb drug abuse in one of its neighborhoods by enacting an ordinance that banned people who had been arrested or convicted of a drug-related charge from residing or even visiting that neighborhood.

The two plaintiffs in the case had both violated the ordinance. The first plaintiff was arrested for visiting her grandchildren and the second plaintiff, a homeless man, was arrested 44 times for being in the excluded neighborhood, for which he spent over a year in jail. The homeless man’s lawyer resided in the excluded neighborhood. In a 2-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit struck down the ordinance on the grounds that it violated the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Specifically, Griswold says, the Court wrote that “there is a right of intrastate travel which the ordinance unconstitutionally violates by barring access to public roadways and streets within the . . . neighborhood; secondly, the ordinance violates both plaintiffs’ right to intimate association by preventing [the first plaintiff] from participating in childrearing activities with her grandchildren, and not allowing [the second plaintiff] to visit his attorney of choice in that attorney’s office.”

The lone dissenting judge held that this was an unwarranted expansion of substantive due process and that the Supreme Court has never recognized a right of intrastate travel, a right of a non-residential grandparent to visit her grandchildren, or a right to a specific attorney.

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