Nov. 13, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Maurer School of Law’s annual Sherman Minton Moot Court Competition will conclude Friday, Nov. 14, with a distinguished panel of judges hearing oral argument in the competition’s final round.
The program will begin at 5 p.m. in the Law School’s Moot Court Room and will run until 7 p.m., followed by a reception. The public is invited to attend.
Serving as judges for the finals are Deborah Lynch, U.S. magistrate judge for the Southern District of Indiana; retired Monroe County Circuit Judge and Sagamore of the Wabash recipient Viola J. Taliaferro, a 1977 graduate of the law school; Mary Ellen Diekhoff, a 1986 graduate, Monroe County circuit judge, presiding judge of the Monroe County Drug Treatment Court and adjunct professor in the IU Department of Criminal Justice and at the Maurer School of Law; Bryan Babb, a 1999 graduate, chair of the Appellate Services Group, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP; and Maurer Dean and James H. Rudy Professor of Law Austen L. Parrish.
This year’s case, Pataki v. Lark Valley School District Board of Education, raises questions about the proper constitutional balance between public employees’ First Amendment rights to speak out on controversial issues, on the one hand, and the interests of elected officials in implementing their policies without obstruction on the other.
Marcia Pataki, an employee of the Lark Valley school system, was fired after writing an op-ed in the local newspaper on the topic of vaccinating children against contagious diseases. The op-ed was published during a contentious school board election cycle, and in it Pataki noted that one of the board candidates had claimed a religious exemption to avoid vaccinating her children. The school board fired Pataki, who then sued the district for violation of her free speech rights. Complicating matters, three potential jurors -- members of a sect opposed to vaccinations -- were struck from the jury pool by one of the parties, apparently solely because of their religion. The Supreme Court has long held that jurors may not be struck on the basis of race or gender but has not yet decided whether that rule applies to religion.
Arguing the case Friday will be second-year Maurer students Ian Bensberg, Morgan Davenport, Riley Floyd and Samuel Hofmeier, who advanced to the finals out of an initial field of 151 competitors.
“This competition has been one of the strongest in recent memory, with more than three-quarters of our second-year class participating,” said professor Seth Lahn, the moot court faculty advisor. “The opportunity to argue a hypothetical case before distinguished advocates and real judges, who hear these types of issues on a daily basis, is an invaluable opportunity for students. We couldn’t be more proud of the work our students have put in, or more appreciative of the time and resources our alumni and volunteers have dedicated to make this event possible.”