It’s not every year that participants in the William E. McGee National Civil Rights Moot Court Competition need to understand the various nuances of federal trademark law.
Yet, with the Lee v. Tam case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, and Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act hanging in the balance, this was such a year for more than fifty competitors.
The weekend before last, yours truly had the distinct privilege of judging the final oral arguments in the McGee competition at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was ever so humbling to be part of a very distinguished panel of would-be U.S. Supreme Court Justices, hearing the oral arguments and probing the Constitutional issues in the Tam case.
The very distinguished portion of the panel included: The Honorable Peter M. Reyes, Jr. of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Esther Tomljanovich, Sharon Sandeen, Director of Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s Intellectual Property Institute, and Robert J. Gilbertson of the Greene Espel law firm.
The winning first place team hailed from Howard University (shown above), located in Washington, D.C., arguing in favor of the government’s position to uphold the Constitutionality of Section2(a). The second place finalist team came from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law, arguing in favor of Simon Tam’s challenge to strike down the disparagement clause of Section 2(a) on First Amendment and Void for Vagueness grounds.
The would-be Supreme Court Justices were not judging the merits of the case, instead we judged the teams based on the quality and organization of their oral arguments.
It was inspiring to witness such strong intellect, confidence, poise, grace, and decorum, from each of the finalists — there is no doubt in my mind, they will all make fine lawyers, and they should all be very proud of their performances and high achievement.
Learning after the event that only three of the four finalists had taken an intellectual property course before, made their mastery of the issues even more impressive, hearty congratulations!