Official Rules

On Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, 2018, the Seigenthaler-Sutherland Cup National First Amendment Moot Court Competition will take place in Washington, DC. The Competition will be co-hosted by the Freedom Forum Institute’s First Amendment Center and Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law Moot Court Association. The rules governing the Competition are:

I. Organization of Competition, Responsibilities of Management and Participants

A.  The Vice Chancellors of the Seigenthaler-Sutherland Cup First Amendment National Moot Court Competition (“Vice Chancellors”) will apply and enforce these rules with due consideration for the teams and the competition. The Vice Chancellors shall be responsible for the management of the competition. Any and all questions concerning the Competition shall be brought to the attention of a Vice Chancellor as soon as possible. The Vice Chancellors for the 2018 competition are David Brzozowski and Callan Smith. Questions should be directed to the Vice Chancellors at

B.  Each team shall designate one representative (“representative”) to whom information and briefs may be sent and with whom questions and concerns may be discussed.

C.  All competitors must abide by the Rules of this Competition. In addition, all competitors are bound by their law school honor codes with respect to their conduct under the Rules of this Competition. Violation of either is punishable by disqualification.

II. Distribution of the Record and Rules

A.  At least one copy of the Problem and the Competition Rules will be distributed to each team representative.

B.  The Vice Chancellors will accept written questions regarding the Problem or Competition Rules until January 23, 2018, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Logistical questions concerning the competition will be taken until March 10, 2018, at 8:00 p.m. EST. All of these questions will be answered within 3 days of their receipt. Each team will receive a copy of all questions asked and corresponding answers. In order to best facilitate the question and answer period, the Vice Chancellors request that ALL questions be e-mailed to Answers will be forwarded along with the question asked to all teams via e-mail. Please refrain from asking substantive legal questions about the problem, questions about judging criteria, strategy or tactics as advice on those subjects is not permitted. Doing so constitutes soliciting outside assistance and is punishable as listed below.

III. The Competition

A.  Rounds

1.  Structure.  The Competition will conduct preliminary rounds on Friday, March 23, 2018 at Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.
Quarter-final and semifinal rounds will take place at the Newseum, on the morning of Saturday, March 24, 2018. The Final Round will take place at the Newseum, on the afternoon of Saturday, March 24, 2018.

2.  Preliminary Rounds.  The schedule for the preliminary rounds of the competition will be emailed on or about February 20, 2018. Teams will be divided into “flights.” For a 24-team field, Flight 1 consists of Team Numbers 1-4. Flight 2 consists of Team Numbers 5-8. Flight 3 consists of Team Numbers 9-12. Flight 4 consists of Team Numbers 13-16. Flight 5 consists Team Numbers 17-20. Flight 6 consists of Team Numbers 21-24. However, flights will be used for organizational purposes only in the preliminary rounds.

A final schedule for competition rounds will be sent in advance of the competition dates, but competitors should prepare for the first preliminary round on Friday, March 23, 2018, to begin at approximately 9:00 a.m. EST.Each team should be prepared to represent both parties to the litigation. Each team will compete at least once representing the party for which a written brief was prepared (on-brief), and at least once for the party opposite the written brief (off-brief). Please note that participants are responsible for making a timely appearance at each round once the time is set. Late arrivals may be penalized at the discretion of the Vice Chancellors.

3.  Quarterfinal rounds.  Schedule will be updated in advance of competition, but currently the schedule is as follows:The first Quarterfinal Round will commence at 8 a.m. EST., Saturday, March 24, 2018, at the Newseum; the second Quarterfinal Round will commence at 9:30 a.m EST.., Saturday March 24, 2018, at the Newseum.

4.  Semifinal rounds.  Schedule will be updated in advance of competition, but currently the schedule is as follows:The first Semifinal Round will be from approximately Noon to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, 2018, at the Newseum. One of the winning teams of Quarterfinal Round 1 will face one of the winning teams of Quarterfinal Round 2.  The other winning teams from will face off in the second Semifinal Round, which will be from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, 2018,at the Newseum. These match-ups will be determined by a coin toss.

To the extent possible, teams will be allowed to argue on-brief, but no guarantees are made. If any team will be required to argue off-brief, then, in the interest of fairness, the teams will draw to determine their side designation. The two teams with the highest scores, as determined solely by their oral argument scores in the semifinal round, will advance to the final round.

5.  Final Round. Schedule will be updated in advance of competition, but currently the schedule is as follows: The final round will be held at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, 2018. To the extent possible, the two teams advancing to the final round will argue on-brief. The winner of the final round will be determined solely by the final round judges, based on the final round oral performances of the participating teams. There will be no numerical scoring of the final round.

B.  Teams

Each team shall consist of not more than three (3) student members. Team members must be students enrolled in a full or part-time program at the law school they represent. Only candidates for a Juris Doctor at an ABA-accredited law school may participate in this Competition. All team members may participate in the writing of the brief and may present oral argument. However, in any single round, only two team members must argue. No substitution of team members will be permitted after the team has submitted its brief, except upon written consent of the Vice Chancellors.

Side Designations, team numbers and communication.  Reserving the right to distribute the following earlier, on November 12, 2017, the teams will be provided with the following via e-mail: (1) a randomly selected team number and; (2) the party that they will represent for the written brief. The side designations are randomly assigned and are not subject to alteration. The team number provided will be used to identify the participating school until the completion of the competition. Revealing your school name at any point after team numbers are assigned may result in disqualification of a school’s team.  Any communication relating to the competition between schools and between team members of different schools is prohibited. All communication about the competition should be made directly to the Vice Chancellors via e-mail.

C.   Written Briefs

1.  Submission and Delivery of Briefs.

Each team must submit, via e-mail, one (1) copy of the brief by 5:00 p.m. EST on January 31, 2018. Please note that the briefs must be sent electronically to:

Please be sure that the electronic copy contains only the team number and not the school’s or competitor’s name. The brief submitted via email must be the same as the hardcopy. The subject of the email should be name “[School Number_Respondant/Petitioner_Final Brief].”

Upon receipt of each team’s electronic brief, the briefs will be posted on the Competition Website on February 15, 2018.  The subject of the email should be name “[School’s Name_Confirmation of Receipt of Team Briefs].”

2.  Format of Briefs.

i. Briefs must be submitted in PDF or Microsoft Word format.

ii. The typeface used to produce the brief must be Times New Roman, 12 point font. Characters must produce a clear black image on white paper.

iii. Briefs must have one-inch margins on all sides and the text must be double-spaced.

iv. Footnotes must be single-spaced and use characters the same point size as the text.

v. Briefs must be on paper not exceeding 8 1/2 by 11 inches.

vi. Briefs will be in the format required under the Rules of the Supreme Court of the United States,[1] which will apply insofar as they do not conflict with Competition Rules. All briefs should contain the certificate discussed below.

vii. No brief shall exceed twenty-five (25) pages, including footnotes and citations. The following materials are not to be included when calculating the number of pages: cover page; table of contents; table of citations; appendix containing relevant statutory and constitutional provisions; and the certificate required by these Competition Rules.

vii. The relevant text of all statutes and constitutional provisions may be placed in an appendix instead of the body of the brief. It is not necessary to attach the Record to the brief.

ix. Citations will be complete and in the format prescribed by The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (18th ed.). The typeface and abbreviation conventions will be in accordance with Rules 2.1 and 2.2 of The Bluebook. Underscoring may be used to indicate the use of italics, in accordance with B2 and B8.1.

3.  Brief Certificates.

In addition to the briefs, each team shall submit a certificate containing the following information:

i.  A statement that the work product contained in all copies of the team’s brief is in fact the work product of the team members;

ii. A statement that the team has complied fully with their school’s governing honor code;[2] and

iii. An acknowledgment that the team has complied with all Rules of the Competition.

4.  Scoring of Briefs.

i.  Brief scores shall constitute fifty percent (50%) of each team’s score in Preliminary Round One and fifty percent (50%) of each team’s score in Preliminary Round Two.

ii. A panel of judges will score the briefs. Briefs will be evaluated anonymously and graded on a scale of one (1) to one hundred (100) points. After a team’s brief score has been determined, penalties for formatting and citation errors, as well as any penalties for rule violations, will be subtracted from the initial score given.

iii. The following chart provides the point deductions for format and citation errors:

Non-one inch margin 2
Non-double spaced text and single spaced footnotes 2
Non-12 point Times New Roman font including footnotes 2
Non-8 ½ x11 paper 2
Non-Compliance with Rule 24(1)(a)-(j) of the Rules of the United States Supreme Court 2/per error
Pages in excess of 40 not including those pages discussed in Rule III(D)(2)(h) 1/page
Competitor names or name of team including law school on any location except on front cover of measuring brief 1/per occurrence
Late submission of briefs to Vice Chancellors 5/day
Submission of wrong side brief 10
Failure to include brief certificate to Vice Chancellors (Includes: 1) A statement that the work product contained in all copies of the team’s brief are the work product of the members of the team only; 2) A statement that the team has complied fully with its law school honor code; and 3) An acknowledgment that the team has complied with all the Rules of the Competition). 1
Failure to submit Measuring Brief to Vice Chancellors (Includes: 1) Typewritten names of all team members; 2) Their signatures; 3) Team number assigned by the Vice Chancellors and; 4) The name of their law school on the front cover page of the brief) 1
Minor Citation Errors – does not impair the ability of the reader to identify or find the authority and that does not misrepresent the material. ½ point/per error
Major Citation Errors – affects the ability of the reader to find or identify the authority or misrepresents the material. 1/per error

D.  Oral Argument

1.  Locations.

The first day of the Competition will be held at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, 3600 John McCormack Road, N.E. Washington, D.C. 20064. The second day of the Competition will be at the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001.

2.  Scoring.

i.  Each team will argue once for the Petitioner and once for the Respondent during the preliminary rounds.

ii. The teams’ score for the preliminary rounds will be based on the score for the brief and the score for the oral argument. In Round 1 and Round 2, the brief will constitute fifty percent (50%) of the score.

iii. For the quarterfinal rounds, the competition Vice Chancellors will randomly determine which teams argue for Petitioner and Respondent.  For the semifinal and final rounds, there will be a coin toss to decide which teams argue for Petitioner and Respondent.

iv. The teams’ score for the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final rounds will be based entirely on oral argument performance.

v.  In the quarterfinal round the two teams with the highest score before each of the two panels of judges will advance to the semifinal round.  In the semifinal round the two teams that win the arguments will advance to the final round.

vi.  All scoring will be judged on a scale of 100 in whole numbers.

If a judge provides a score other than a whole number, the number will be rounded to the nearest whole number. Each preliminary oral round will consist of three oral scores. There will be a minimum of two oral judges in each room. In the event that only two judges are present, the third score will be computed by averaging the two scores to create the third score.  If there are three judges in the room then one score will be taken from each judge.

vii. In the event of a tie in determining the top two teams, the following procedures will be used by the Vice Chancellors in the following order:

(a)  The higher place will be awarded to the team with the higher final brief score. That team will advance to the final round.

(b)  If a tie still remains, an average of the three oral argument scores from the three rounds (two preliminary rounds, one semifinal round) will determine the higher place.

(c)  In the event that either of the top two teams has not been determined, the higher place will be awarded to the team with the higher score from the “Knowledge of Key Facts” and “Use of Authorities” section of the oral competition score sheets. That team will advance to the final round.

Third place will be determined by calculating the third highest score in the semifinals

3.  Format of the Oral Arguments.

i. Each team will be limited to thirty minutes of oral argument, to be divided among its members as the team wishes, but only two members may argue in any one round. Each of the two team members must argue for at least seven minutes for each round in which they participate. At their discretion, judges may interrupt arguments to pose questions and may allow additional time for the advocates’ response. Petitioner may ask to reserve up to six minutes of its team’s allotted time for rebuttal. Prior to oral argument, the Petitioner must notify the Bailiff of its intention to request rebuttal time.  Failure to do so will result in the Petitioner waiving the right to rebuttal time.

ii. One Bailiff will be provided for each room during the oral competitions. The Bailiff will only advise each team when they have fifteen minutes, ten minutes, five minutes, and one minute remaining in the total thirty minute allocation and that the thirty minutes has not been exceeded. It is each team’s responsibility to keep track of its own time allocations, between team members. Bailiffs will not assist teams in allocating time between team members.

iii. All judges, both brief and oral, will be provided in advance with a bench memorandum. The bench memo will contain brief summaries of the major cases as well as explanations of the issues presented and discussions of what are anticipated to be some of the major arguments from both sides. In addition, copies of the competitors written briefs by team number will be available in the judges’ lounge prior to each preliminary round.

iv. Judges will be encouraged to critique all advocates after the completion of each of the three preliminary rounds of oral arguments.

4.  Identity of Law Schools.

i. The identity of the law schools represented by the participating team members must not be revealed to the judges at any time before, during, or after the oral arguments. Identities may only be revealed upon final scoring of the entire competition.  Team members should avoid sharing their law school name with anyone at the competition, to prevent judges from accidentally overhearing and inadvertently learning team identities.

ii. A team member shall notify the Vice Chancellors immediately if that member knows a judge before whom that team member arguing. Failure to do so could result in the disqualification of that member’s team.

iii.  Judges are also advised to notify the Vice Chancellors immediately if they recognize a competitor individually or the competitor’s school.

iv.  Penalty for disclosure: Disclosure of the team member’s school name, at any time before the completion of the final round, may result in disqualification.

5. Guidelines for Judging Briefs and Oral Arguments.

The problem, a bench memorandum, and a copy of these Rules will be provided for the use of those judging team briefs. Competitors’ briefs will also be made available to those judging oral arguments.

6.  Attendance at Oral Arguments.

All rounds are open to be viewed by the public. Competitors, and their coaches or other affiliates, are not permitted to viewing any opponents prior to that argument.

All teams are encouraged to attend the final round of arguments, and any others they wish to.

7.  Announcements and Awards

The team that wins the final round will be designated the Best Team. The Best Team, the team that wrote the Best Brief (as determined by the final brief scores) and the Best Oralist (based solely on the competitor’s preliminary round oral argument scores) will be announced following the conclusion of the final round of the Competition. All other awards will be awarded at that time.

All participants and judges are invited to attend the second day of the competition, and the awards event following final argument.

IV. External Assistance.

One of the purposes of this Competition is to develop the skills of appellate advocacy. Accordingly, the team members themselves must write their own briefs and prepare their own oral arguments. Faculty members, fellow students, attorneys or other individuals must not review, edit or otherwise assist in the preparation of a team’s brief. Likewise, such individuals may not prepare the team members’ oral arguments for them. Participants may discuss issues and ideas relating to the Competition problem with faculty, fellow students, or others, and may use the assistance of such individuals to prepare for oral arguments in the form of mooting, question and answer sessions, etc. However, no other form of external assistance may be provided to the competitors.

V. Interpretation of the rules

  1. The Vice Chancellors will issue an interpretation of these Rules upon request. All Rule interpretations will promptly be provided to each team.
  2. Upon consultation with the Moot Court Chancellor, the Vice Chancellors of the Competition has the discretionary authority to modify or waive any of these Rules as required.
  3. The Vice Chancellors will accept questions and requests for clarification of the problem until January 23, 2018, at 8:00 p.m. EST. Logistical questions concerning the competition or traveling to Washington will be accepted until March 10, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Absent extenuating circumstances, all such requests must be received by the Vice Chancellors by these dates at All requests for clarification must be sent via e-mail. All clarifications provided by the Vice Chancellors will be sent to each participating team. In the event of any ambiguity or conflict, these Rules and/or written communications or interpretations provided to the participants will govern.
  4. The Sutherland Cup Vice Chancellors, in conjunction with the Moot Court Chancellor, reserve the right to penalize teams through a deduction of points for any unprofessional conduct not consistent with the Rules, their spirit and the norms of professional conduct.

[1] Copies of these rules are available at

[2] Only identify yourself and your school by team number, not school name.