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And the Marden Moot Winner Is…

Robert Fitzpatrick (’04) triumphs in 18th Annual Marden Moot Court Competition

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The judges were real, even if those arguing in front of them weren’t actually lawyers yet. Presiding over this year’s Orison S. Marden Moot Court Competition were the Honorable Judith Smith Kaye (LL.B. ’62), chief judge, New York State Court of Appeals; the Honorable Pierre N. Leval, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; and the Honorable Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Playing the part of lawyers were finalists Robert Fitzpatrick (’04), Kristina Medic (’05), Lauren Stark (’05), and Christopher Pelham (’05).

The case was about a police officer who stopped a possible drunk driver who was on his way to deliver jewelry to a retailer. As the officer searched the driver’s van, he stole some of the jewelry. He then let the driver go after taking a bribe. Two legal issues were in play before the moot court: First, can the bribe be charged as a federal crime since the policeman is an agent of a state organization that receives federal funds? Second, how should the stolen property be valued, by its wholesale or retail price? The answer to that question could determine the length of a sentence the officer might receive. The answer was hardly clear cut, as Judge Kaye conveyed when she asked Pelham, “Mr. Pelham, honestly, does anyone ever pay full retail price for diamond earrings?”

Although Medic, Stark, and Pelham performed well, each making their points articulately, it was Fitzpatrick who won over the judges. Arguing for the appellant (defendant), he said the crime could be considered a federal offense only if there were a connection between the crime and the funds received from the government. Anything else, he insisted, “threatens to expand the federal government’s prosecutorial powers.”

The judges awarded him the prize of Best Oralist. That was quite an honor, considering that Judge O’Scannlain ended the afternoon by remarking, “The quality of performance that we saw here today is well above the average quality I see on the Robert Fitzpatrick (’04) looking the part. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”