The Ames Competition is one of the most prestigious competitions for appellate brief writing and advocacy in the country. The students participating in the Semi-Final Round started the competition in fall of this year, and rose to the final four spots through their strong research abilities and excellent written and oral advocacy.

Semi-Final Round oral arguments will be held in the Ames Courtroom in Austin Hall at 6:15pm on March 9th and 10th. Teams competing in the Semi-Final Round are below, as well as the case record and the briefs submitted for the Semi-Final Round.

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Finley v. Commonwealth (March 9th, 6:15pm)

The Ames State Police discovered the body of Victor Malone beneath the Botany Bay Bridge.  After a quick investigation, the police concluded that Mr. Malone had died when he jumped off the bridge above, the victim of suicide.  During their investigation, the police discovered leaflets at the top of the bridge that, much to their shock, actually encouraged people to commit suicide.  These leaflets listed a telephone number belonging to the defendant, Patrick Finley.

When police contacted Mr. Finley, he readily admitted that he had spoken to Mr. Malone the night he jumped to his death.  The investigation revealed that Mr. Malone called Mr. Finley that evening after seeing one of Mr. Finley’s flyers at the bridge.  Mr. Malone explained that he was feeling depressed and suicidal.  Mr. Finley explained his philosophical beliefs to Mr. Malone: that death was a path to enlightenment, that only through suicide could people end their mortal suffering and ascend to a higher plane of existence – to become “shining lights.”  Mr. Finley recognized that his beliefs are highly controversial, inflammatory, and unpopular.  Yet that evening, Mr. Finley repeatedly urged Mr. Malone to commit suicide.  In addition to their telephone call, Mr. Finley even sent several text messages admonishing Mr. Malone to jump off the bridge.

Mr. Finley was ultimately charged with having violated a state criminal statute that outlawed encouraging another person to commit suicide, except in the case of a medical provider.  Mr. Finley interposed a First Amendment defense to this prosecution, arguing that this statute either was an impermissible restriction on his free speech or the free exercise of his religion.  The trial court denied these requests.

During trial, the prosecution used a peremptory strike to remove a Catholic nun from the jury pool.  During juror voir dire, this potential juror expressed some reticence about serving on the jury due to her religious beliefs.  She was concerned that her beliefs about suicide and her beliefs about worldly punishment may impact her views on the case.  Nonetheless, the court rejected the Commonwealth’s attempt to strike the juror for cause.  As a result, the prosecution used a peremptory strike to eliminate this juror from the venire.

The defendant raised a Batson objection to the use of this peremptory strike, alleging that the prosecution’s use of this peremptory on the basis of the juror’s religion violated the defendant’s fair trial rights.  The Court overruled this Batson challenge, finding that Batson did not apply to situations where a juror was removed for her religious beliefs.

After trial, Mr. Finley was convicted of having violated the statute at issue, and he was sentenced to jail.

The questions presented by this appeal are:

  • Whether the First Amendment protects Defendant’s actions that are the subject of the indictment, or whether the Commonwealth’s criminal statute, Ames Gen. Laws ch. 265, § 60, is unconstitutional?
  • Whether the Commonwealth’s use of a peremptory challenge on Juror 1 during the second trial of this matter was a violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986)?

Presiding Judges
The Honorable Richard Taranto of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
The Honorable Rachel Kovner of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
The Honorable Rowan Wilson of the New York Court of Appeals

The Justice Robert H. Jackson Memorial Team (Appellant)

Matthew Arons*
Max Bloom
Taylor Custer*
Dustin Fire
Colleen O’Gorman
Sam Stratton

The Soia Mentschikoff Memorial Team (Appellee)

Julia More
Elizabeth MeLampy*
Leah Weiser
Matthew Disler
Aaron Henricks*
Rebecca Tweedie

* Oralists

Record
Appellant Opening Brief
Appellee Brief
Appellant Reply Brief

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In re United States of America (March 10th, 6:15pm)

Ezekiel Adams brought a lawsuit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-33, seeking to recover millions of dollars for the United States that a group of construction contractors allegedly stole through bid-rigging. As permitted by the statute, the United States government investigated Adams’s claim and then declined to intervene and take over the lawsuit. This gave Adams “the right to conduct the action.” 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(4)(B). If Adams succeeds against the defendants, the United States will recover triple the damages it suffered, plus monetary penalties, and Adams would keep a percentage of the recovery.

Almost a year later, the government decided that, actually, it did not want the lawsuit to proceed at all, and so it filed a motion to dismiss the action under 31 U.S.C. § 3730(c)(2)(A), which provides that in a False Claims Act case, “[t]he Government may dismiss the action notwithstanding the objections of the person initiating the action if the person has been notified by the Government of the filing of the motion and the court has provided the person with an opportunity for a hearing on the motion.” In support of its motion, the United States argued that if the lawsuit were to proceed, the government would be subject to burdensome discovery. The government also argued that the lawsuit was not in the government’s interests because the suit might undermine the government’s relationships with important contractors. The government did not argue that the case lacked merit.

The district court denied the government’s motion for two reasons. First, it held that the government was required to intervene in the case before filing a motion to dismiss. Because the government had initially declined to intervene, it could only intervene “upon a showing of good cause,” which the district court held the government had not made. See 31 U.S.C. § 3730(c)(3). Second, the court held that the government had not adequately justified its dismissal decision because it had not provided any non-speculative explanation for how the costs of the suit might outweigh the benefits.

This decision was at odds with other cases involving similar motions. The government therefore asked the district court to certify its order for interlocutory appeal. The district court refused to do so because it was not of the opinion that there was a “substantial ground for difference of opinion” about the controlling legal questions. 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).

The United States accordingly petitioned for mandamus relief from the Ames Circuit. The petition presents two questions:

  1. Whether the district court was required to dismiss Adams’s lawsuit under 31 U.S.C. § 3730(c)(2)(A).
  2. Whether the district court was required to certify its order denying the government’s motion for interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).

Presiding Judges
The Honorable Leondra Kruger of the California Supreme Judicial Court
The Honorable Britt Grant of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

The Marsha P. Johnson Memorial Team (Petitioner)
Gavriel Schreiber
Matthew Summers*
Vanessa Rodriguez
Mackenzie Arnold*
Stephany Bai
Izzy Jensen

The Lloyd Gaines Memorial Team (Respondent)

Jason Bell*
Ameze Belo-Osagie
Lauren Bilow
Davis Campbell
Travis Fife*
Michael Torcello

* Oralists

Record
Petitioner Opening Brief
Respondent Brief
Petitioner Reply Brief

For more information, please email ameshls@gmail.com.