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May / June 2005

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Patrick Henry College dominates moot courts
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PHC dominates moot courts

Students Thrive in National & International Tournaments

Virginia Supreme Court Justice Donald W. Lemons (left) and Senior Justice Harry L. Carrico (center left) offer their congratulations to the winning team—PHC's Rayel Papke (center right) and Matthew du Mee (right).
Long a staple of law school education, moot court competitions are becoming increasingly common at the undergraduate level. Also becoming more common is Patrick Henry College's domination of these competitions.

In moot court (debate competitions patterned after appellate court proceedings), teams of two students, or co-counsels, stand before a panel of judges in a simulated courtroom setting to argue one side of a legal matter. Then, in later rounds, the same team stands before the same judges to defend the opposite position.

Under the direction of Patrick Henry College President Michael P. Farris, PHC's moot court team travels across the country and even overseas. One of the most stunning victories came with PHC's first international debate. In an outcome that grabbed headlines, PHC teams traveled to Oxford University in England and argued cases according to the British legal system using British contract law. They were judged by some of Great Britain's most prominent lawyers and judges (some of whom are the British equivalent of U.S. Supreme Court justices). In the end, the PHC team returned to Virginia victorious. The Washington Times ran the story on the front page (see the January/February 2005 Court Report).

In a March rematch, PHC was again victorious. After preliminary rounds at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia, the competition concluded at the Virginia Supreme Court in Richmond. A three-judge panel—Virginia Supreme Court Justice Donald W. Lemons, Senior Justice A. Christian Compton, and Senior Justice Harry L. Carrico—unanimously selected the same team that beat Oxford last year, PHC students Matthew du Mee and Rayel Papke. Papke was also chosen as best individual speaker.

The two British teams attend Balliol College at Oxford University. Desmond Ryan, a graduate law student, and Angela Daly, an undergraduate law student, represented Oxford in the final round. David J. Shaw and Kyle Pousson also competed for Patrick Henry in the tournament's early rounds.

At the end of 2004, PHC placed in three different competitions around the country in one weekend. At Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts and California State University at Long Beach, Patrick Henry College took home first-place awards. At the College of Wooster in Ohio, PHC placed eighth in the team awards division and fourth in the speaker division.

This January, PHC's moot court squad beat 63 teams from 20 colleges in the 2005 National Moot Court Tournament at the University of Texas at Arlington. Our students brought home 14 of the 32 trophies awarded, including the top award, the team national championship.

In part, the success of the college's forensics teams is a direct result of its approach to education. At PHC, students are challenged to synthesize and use vast amounts of information in a clear and convincing manner. They learn to think, analyze, and speak compellingly in defense of what they know to be true—a skill that prepares them well not only for debate and moot court, but also for the Christian life.

For more information about Patrick Henry College, visit