Hey there, everyone!
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an update as to how things have been going over here! This past week, our entire class participated in a mandatory “moot court tournament.” I forget if I explained this in a previous post, so I’ll do it again briefly.
Over Christmas break, our professors released a case file containing depositions, exhibits, charts, a complaint, and an answer all in a nice package. Since the beginning of the semester, we’ve been working on putting together memorandums either in support or against the defendant’s “motion for summary judgment.” Complicated terms, I know.
Essentially, the facts of the case was that a tavern owner served a patron several shorts of alcohol – this patron later became severely intoxicated as evidenced by his .20 BAC level taken at the scene of a car wreck that he later became involved in. There were two issues that were addressed in this tournament – actual knowledge and proximate cause.
The Indiana “Dram Shop Statute” essentially states that if a sever of alcohol has actual knowledge that a patron is visibly intoxicated at the time of service AND that patron’s intoxication is a proximate cause of the death or injury complained, then that server is liable.
Really, it came down to two issues:
First, whether the server, John Daniels had actual knowledge of Ed Hard’s visible intoxication at the time he served him, as according to the record, Hard never showed the requisite visible signs of intoxication. However, actual knowledge, while it is judged by a subjective standard, can be proven by circumstantial evidence, (i.e. his BAC level, his “staggering,” etc.)
Second, there was uncertainty as to whether Hard’s intoxication was the proximate cause (i.e. the natural and probable) result of Mr. White’s death and Mrs. White’s physical injuries or whether Hard’s act of colliding with their car was a criminal act, which would then be a superseding, intervening cause, breaking the “causal chain,” and ultimately removing the bartender’s liability.
In a given round, there were four participants, each arguing a particular issue for a specific party – so, for instance, I would represent the plaintiff and argue the “actual knowledge” position, another classmate would represent the defendant and argue the “actual knowledge” position from their perspective … and the same thing for the “proximate cause” issue.
Not only do you present your argument, but you must also respond to questions that the panel of judges (three in preliminary rounds) would ask you and still be able to smoothly continue your argument. Every round is different – sometimes you’ll get a “cold” bench (i.e. very few questions asked) as opposed to a “hot” bench (lots of questions) … while you do get to speak for 12 minutes, the goal is to have about 8-9 minutes of content, as you’re banking on the fact that you’ll be asked at least a few questions. In both of my preliminary rounds, I never got to get to my conclusion and parts of my points as there were just too many questions.
Thursday evening rolled around and the top 32 competitors were announced as they would move onto the quarterfinal round. Well, my name was called! It was pretty exciting. The quarterfinal round was a lot of fun … it was with fellow classmates from my section, and while we all wanted to move on, we weren’t so competitive to the point where we would try to “win at all costs.” Once our quarterfinal round was over, we all gathered in the “Supreme Courtroom” to hear who would move onto the semifinal round … and to my surprise, my name was again called!
This time, however, we literally only had 20 minutes to prep and unfortunately, the way things worked out, I had to argue an issue I hadn’t really worked on. When we wrote our brief, I wrote it in support of the defendant and during the tournament, I was assigned the issue of “actual knowledge,” meaning during the two preliminary rounds, I argued for the plaintiff and then for the defendant, each on the subject of actual knowledge. However, in the semifinal round, I had to argue plaintiff, proximate cause. Not only was it an issue that I hadn’t argued and prepared for doing the tournament, but I wrote my brief for the defendant … so, it was incredibly confusing – I had no clue what I was doing, haha. I got four outlines from my classmates, so I at least had something to talk about, but my mind was still kind of in a jumble when I walked up to the podium to speak in front of a panel of five judges … still, they were awfully nice to me, even though it was clearly my worst performance of the tournament.
In the final round, they had a panel of nine judges, and each were “real” judges … quite the impressive lineup and each one of the competitors did a superb job. I know I definitely wasn’t at the caliber to compete in that round … I learned a lot and really had a lot of fun last week. I was grateful for all of my classmates who really pulled together and helped each other out, sharing outlines, spending time to do practice rounds and pepper each other with questions while the other was speaking, etc. I definitely don’t regret coming to Liberty!
Now that the moot court tournament is over, it’s time to buckle down and begin prepping for final exams. We’re less than two months away from completing our first year of law school. It’s crazy to think about – it’s gone by so quickly!
Have a wonderful Sunday, folks!