Lots of Prep, and a Little Luck, Help Ashwin Shandilya and Reedy Swanson Win 87th Lile Moot Court
Losing a coin toss turned out to be a stroke of luck for third-year University of Virginia School of Law students Ashwin Shandilya and Reedy Swanson, who won the 87th William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition on April 9.
Representing the appellee in the Law School's annual competition, the team bested fellow third-years Nick Carullo and Jack Welch, who represented the appellant in a fictional scenario that involved the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Swanson and Shandilya co-authored the winning brief, and Shandilya won best oralist.
Because both teams had previously been on the same side of the argument during the semifinals, one team had to switch. Which one was decided by a coin toss, which Shandilya and Swanson lost.
"Switching sides really made me understand all the intricacies they put in the problem," Shandilya said.
In the scenario, written by third-year student Tyler Badgley, the plaintiff had applied for a permit to carry a gun in his fictional state of residence (the "state of Lile"), was denied the permit under a law that required he show “extraordinary and necessary” need for the permit, then arrested and charged for carrying a concealed weapon after he successfully stopped a mugging.
The moot appeals court — presided over in the final round by actual judges Morris S. Arnold of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Roger L. Gregory of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and Amul R. Thapar of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky — was asked to decide if plaintiff could challenge the statute after having previously pleaded guilty, and if so, if the statute was constitutional.
"The problem was based off of real statutes, so there were a lot of opportunities to pick at it and argue different points," Shandilya said. "Originally when I saw it, I thought it was one-sided. In the end, re-writing the brief helped us."
But Swanson said the switch added increased difficulty to an already challenging problem.
"Normally you have two weeks to write the brief and two weeks to prep the oral argument," Swanson said. "So we just did it all over again for the final round, on the opposite side of the same case. For my part of the problem, it was immensely frustrating to brief, which is to say [it was] a perfect moot court problem. The reason for that is the courts are just all over the map on the subject."
Each year, the competition starts with a field of about 80 students in two-person teams, writing briefs and arguing student-written problems before a mock federal bench, which in later rounds includes actual state and federal judges. Over the course of the participants' second and third years, the field is whittled until two teams meet in a final round in April. The four finalists become co-recipients of the James M. Shoemaker Jr. Moot Court Award. The winning team takes home the Kingdon Moot Court Prize, and the best oralist receives the Stephen Pierre Traynor Award.
This year's winning teammates, who met their first year as fellow Section G members, said they enjoyed working together for the many hours it took to prepare for the competition.
The students said their experience will serve them well as they prepare to clerk for judges after law school. Shandilya will clerk for Judge Albert Diaz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Swanson will clerk for two judges: Leonie Brinkema of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, then Judge David S. Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.