Baldacci, Patton Win 93rd Lile Moot Court Competition

Teammates Met During National High School Competitions
Michael Patton and Chris Baldacci

Teammates Michael Patton and Chris Baldacci were also undergraduate moot court teammates at Patrick Henry College. Photo by Julia Davis

November 10, 2021

Third-year students Chris Baldacci and Michael Patton won the 93rd William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition at the University of Virginia School of Law on Tuesday.

The appellants bested fellow classmates Abigail Burke and Bolton Smith, the appellees, to take home the Kingdon Moot Court Prize.

In addition, Baldacci won the Stephen Pierre Traynor Award for best oralist. All four finalists received the James M. Shoemaker Jr. Moot Court Award.

Presiding over the competition were Judge Pierre Bergeron ’99 of the Ohio First District Court of Appeals, Judge Britt C. Grant of the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

This year’s scenario involved an issue being contested in real-world courts: legal requirements for the adoption of Native American children under the Indian Child Welfare Act. The problem asked whether the District Court erred in applying strict scrutiny to assess the act’s preference for placing such adoptees with Native parents. It also asked whether a federal court hearing an individual action possesses the authority to enter an injunction regulating the defendant’s conduct with respect to parties other than the plaintiffs in the suit at hand.

Held annually, the competition starts with a field of about 50 individual competitors, who write briefs and argue student-written problems in a mock federal or state appeal. Students form two-person teams upon advancing to the quarterfinal round.

In preparation for the final round, Baldacci and Patton said they spent hours reviewing relevant statutes, case law and secondary sources prior to outlining arguments. They also brainstormed ideas together and were honest with each other when they thought that a particular argument wasn’t convincing.

“Moreover, we had a lot of fun throughout the preparation process,” Patton said. “Both of the topics in this year’s problem were fascinating, and I felt grateful for the opportunity to learn more about these developing issues.”

Baldacci, who is from Chicago, and Patton, who is from Kansas City, Missouri, knew each other from high school debate and speech tournaments before competing on the undergraduate moot court team together at Patrick Henry College. They teamed up for the Lile Moot Court after advancing past the preliminary rounds.

“Moot court is very different from debate,” Patton said. “In moot court, advocates are supposed to have a conversation with the judges about the law. In debate, speakers can present their arguments as if they are speaking to a large audience.”

Both men said they were thankful for their wives’ and families’ support, and for classmates who volunteered their time to help practice.

“We are both in the strange subset of people who enjoy everything about appellate practice, from the technical aspects of brief writing to the pressure of oral advocacy,” Baldacci said. “It is so much easier to put in the extra hours of preparation when you truly enjoy it.”

After graduation, Baldacci will clerk for Judge Jerry E. Smith of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and then U.S. Judge Neomi J. Rao of the District of Columbia Circuit.

Patton will clerk for U.S. Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the Middle District of Florida and then Judge Barbara Lagoa of the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In addition to the Lile Moot Court Competition, UVA Law students also compete in other appellate moot court and trial advocacy competitions nationwide.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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