Each spring, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law hosts the Dean Dunmore Moot Court competition, in which students enrolled in Appellate Practice compete. Preliminary rounds are typically held at a local courthouse, with the semifinals and finals in the law school’s moot courtroom.
For obvious reason, the Dunmore could not proceed as it had in the past, but it did proceed. the Dunmore Moot Court Board (which is made up of students) figured out how to place the entire competition online, using Zoom not only for the courtrooms, but for chambers in which the judges could confer and deliberate and waiting rooms for competitors and spectators. I participated as a judge and the format worked exceedingly well.
This morning, the Dunmore held its final round, with Judge Chad Readler, Senior Judge Alice Batchelder, and Justice Michael Donnelly presiding, and second-year students Ali McKenna and Dillon Brown arguing. The round was excellent. The advocates were able to present their arguments and the judges were able to engage with probing questions, all before an online audience that would have filled the moot court room.
Live arguments are certainly preferable most of the time, but the experience of the Dunmore Moot Court Board shows that online arguments can be very effective. Some courts have discovered this, but unfortunately some courts (including SCOTUS) have put their oral arguments on hold. In most cases, this is wholly unnecessary. If our students can successfully transfer an in-person moot court competition to Zoom without any need to postpone the proceedings, appellate courts (at the very least) should be able to do so as well.