Distinguished Panel Judges Final Rounds of ASL’s Intraschool Moot Court Competition


This November, Appalachian School of Law (ASL) held its annual Intraschool Moot Court Competition on its campus in Grundy, VA. The competition lasted three days and involved 26 second year students (2Ls) from two classes: Professor Mark “Buzz” Belleville’s Appellate Advocacy – Natural Resources and Priscilla Harris’s Appellate Advocacy.

Finalists argued their cases before a distinguished panel of judges including:

The Honorable Edward B. Atkins, United States Magistrate Judge, US District Court, Pikeville, Kentucky. Judge Atkins was appointed on August 24, 2006. He received his law degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1990;

The Honorable Larry G. Elder, ASL’s Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law. Judge Elder currently teaches Legal Process and Current Issues of Constitutional Law. Elder completed more than 22 years of service as a judge on the Court of Appeals of Virginia;

The Honorable Elizabeth A. McClanahan was elected by the Virginia General Assembly as a Justice on the Supreme Court of Virginia in 2011. A Buchanan County native, McClanahan graduated from Garden High School; and,

Thomas R. Scott, Jr., Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at ASL where he teaches Trial Advocacy, Legal Process I & II, Criminal Law, Evidence, Professional Responsibility, as well as Insurance Law and Insurance Law Practice. Professor Scott is a partner with Street Law Firm in Grundy. He serves as ASL’s general counsel.

Students argued one of two cases. Case one was Chase Mullins v. United States. This case raised the questions: (1) Does the Fourth Amendment permit law enforcement officers to conduct a protective sweep of a home without a warrant when the sweep is not incident to a lawful arrest? And (2), May law enforcement agents incorporate specialized experience and knowledge in determining if a container has illegal contraband, thereby justifying a lawful warrantless search under the plain view doctrine?

Case two was Virginia Rural Communities v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This case raised the questions regarding FERC’s actions: (1) Within its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), must they consider the “cumulative impacts” of other pending pipeline proposals? (2) Must they consider the “indirect effects” caused by the downstream combustion of natural gas? (3) Must they conduct a programmatic EIS that includes the entire pipeline or energy infrastructure in the regions? And (4) Must they consider the particular impact of the Trans-Commonwealth Pipeline (TCP) Project on “environmental justice” communities (poor and/or minority communications that have historically not had a voice in such matters.)

Moot court members researched their respective sides, wrote appellate briefs and presented oral arguments in front of judges. Finalists were: W. Grant Back, John Beamer, Gregory Harrison, Jeremy Hurley, Danielle Jessee, Laken King, Ryan Lopez, and Kimberly Smith.

At the end of the competition held November, 17, Ryan Lopez was named the ultimate winner. W. Grant Back and Kimberly Smith tied for second place. Lopez is from Virginia Beach, VA and said about winning the competition, “It was an excellent learning experience that gave me a new found confidence in my argumentative abilities, and it was a lot of fun.” Back said about the competition: “The Moot Court Competition required a lot of hard work and preparation. Facing the judges was intimidating, but all of the research and rehearsal done in advance of the competition helped to stifle the nerves. All of the students who competed owe a debt to Professors Belleville and Harris for ensuring our preparedness and contributing to our knowledge of the legal system and the law. I personally wish to congratulate all competing students for a job well done.” The Moot Court experience, according to Smith, was: “. . . my first experience of handling a “case” all on my own. Of course, the case I argued was made up for purposes of the class, but it was based off of natural resource issues that are occurring in this area in the real world. I am thankful to have these types of experiences at ASL!”