Moot Court

Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, #06-157 (ultimately decided by the Supreme Court on June 25, 2007) was the case selected for the final moot court of the spring term in American Constitutional Law (PS 24).

Four students volunteered to argue the case before the bench and were divided into two teams; students did not necessarily argue the side of the case with which they agreed. Five students served as justices and one or two other students conducted research for a specific side, identified and assembled readings that all members of the class would read, and helped their team prepare a brief that was delivered to all students a couple of days prior to oral arguments. There were two cases heard during the semester, and every student in the class performed as counsel, justice, or researcher for one case. Some members of the Constitutional Law honors seminar came to observe moot court the day of oral arguments.

Hein involved a challenge to expenditures by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives on Establishment Clause grounds. The students participating in moot court had to decide whether they would emphasize the question of standing: did the Freedom from Religion Foundation have sufficient stake in the issue to have the Court examine the merits of the case? The participants from PS 24 wanted to reach the merits so that the Court could at least hear, and hopefully consider, arguments about the constitutionality of certain executive branch expenditures; they decided collectively to argue the merits of the case (though counsel for Hein would briefly raise the standing argument in an attempt to stop the Court from reaching a decision on the merits).