Appellate Legal Reasoning – Moot Court

The philosophy program provides philosophy majors as well as Millikin students more generally with the opportunity to participate in a high intensity and high quality performance learning experience: moot court. In order to participate, students must enroll in PH366, Appellate Legal Reasoning – Moot Court. This course is an experiential and collaborative learning experience in which students are taught the essential elements of appellate legal reasoning by Dr. Money and eventually perform their learning before third party stakeholders (e.g., legal professionals, pre-law faculty advisers, law students, etc.). Dr. Money teaches the course each spring semester.

Each year, students who enroll in this course are afforded the opportunity to participate in a state-wide moot court competition held as part of the Model Illinois Government simulation in Springfield, Illinois. At the competition, students work in two-person teams to deliver, based on their analysis of the closed case file materials, persuasive legal arguments before a panel of justices. Each team has a maximum of 30 minutes to present arguments. While team members can divide up the presentation of arguments as they see fit, competition rules require that each team member argue for at least 10 minutes.

During the presentation of oral arguments, justices – a combination of legal professionals from central Illinois, law school students, and college students who have had prior experience participating as attorneys in the competition:

  • Ask questions
  • Offer rejoinders
  • Propose hypothetical scenarios in response to the arguments made by student attorneys

Student attorneys must demonstrate listening skills and the ability to think critically on their feet as they work to respond to the justices. After a round of argument concludes, a formal rubric is utilized to assess student performance in five main categories: knowledge of the case, organization and reasoning, courtroom manner, forensic skills, and responding to questions. Teams advance in the competition based on their performance as assessed by the justices utilizing the rubric.

The on-campus classroom component of PH366 relies on a “simulation” model in which we replicate what will happen at the competition, including conducting oral arguments in class. The competition and, hence, the on-campus classroom component, employs the “closed case” method that is used at most moot court competitions. The closed case file is the file that serves as the basis of the Model Illinois Government Moot Court Competition held in early March. The case file includes numerous items: a statement of the facts of the case, the rulings by the lower courts, select court case precedents, relevant federal and/or state statutory provisions, and relevant constitutional provisions. The course and attached competition involve no research that goes beyond the materials provided in the closed case file. On the basis of this material and this material only, students complete a range of assignments designed to engage them in the central aspects of appellate legal reasoning and prepare them for the competition. This course prepares students for the competition by supervising analysis of the closed case file and by providing structured opportunities for students to develop and practice delivering their oral arguments on campus, before going to competition.

Students who participate in moot court draw on while developing further many of the key skills that are emphasized in our philosophy curriculum as well as our wider University Studies curriculum:

  • Critical-analytical reading
  • Critical-ethical reasoning
  • Oral communication
  • Collaborative learning, among others.

It is worth noting that students who participate in moot court represent a very diverse range of disciplines. This past year (2015) was typical. Student participants had majors or minors in the following disciplines:

  • Majors: acting, math, music, philosophy, political science, psychology, and sociology
  • Minors: biology, criminal justice, finance, history, political science, Spanish, and writing

Over the past eleven years, Millikin students have performed exceptionally well. The team and individual awards speak for themselves:

  • Team First Place Finishes (8): 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
  • Team Second Place Finishes (6): 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016
  • Team Third Place Finishes (7): 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
  • Team Fourth Place Finishes (3): 2012, 2013, 2015
  • Individual Award for Most Outstanding Attorney (5): 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016
  • Individual Award for Runner Up Most Outstanding Attorney (3): 2011, 2012, 2013
  • Individual student elected Chief Justice (3): 2005, 2006, 2015

The track record of success by our students – as judged by external evaluators, including legal practitioners and law school students – is clear evidence of the high quality of our program.

Ethics Bowl

The philosophy program provides philosophy majors as well as Millikin students more generally with the opportunity to engage in high intensity and high quality performance learning in the form of ethics bowl. Students wishing to participate must enroll in PH360, Ethical Reasoning – Ethics Bowl. This course is an experiential and collaborative learning experience in which students are taught the essential elements of ethical reasoning by Dr. Hartsock and eventually perform their learning before third party stakeholders (e.g., professionals from a variety of applied fields, academics, government and non-profit organizational leaders, etc.). It is a paradigmatic example of performance learning at Millikin University. Dr. Hartsock teaches the course every fall semester.

The following description taken from the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl (IEB) website enables one to see several points of intersection between the IEB competition and our institutional commitment to the value of performance learning.

The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowls (IEB) is a team competition that combines the excitement and fun of a competitive tournament with an innovative approach to education in practical and professional ethics for undergraduate students. Recognized widely by educators, the IEB has received special commendation for excellence and innovation from the American Philosophical Association, and received the 2006 American Philosophical Association/Philosophy Documentation Center’s 2006 prize for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs. The format, rules, and procedures of the IEB all have been developed to model widely acknowledged best methods of reasoning in practical and professional ethics.

In the IEB, each team receives in advance of the competition a set of cases which raise issues in practical and professional ethics. Each team prepares an analysis of each case. At the competition, a moderator poses questions, based on a case taken from that set, to teams of three to five students. Questions may concern ethical problems on wide ranging topics, such as the educational classroom (e.g., cheating), personal relationships (e.g., dating or friendship), professional ethics (e.g., engineering, law, medicine), or social and political ethics (e.g., free speech, gun control, etc.) A panel of judges may probe the teams for further justifications and evaluates answers. Rating criteria are intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness.

It is worth noting that the students who participate in ethics bowl represent a very diverse range of disciplines. This past year (2015) was typical. Student participants had majors or minors in the following disciplines:

  • Majors: Philosophy, English Education and Writing, Music, including Music Education and Performance, Theatre, and Math, 
  • Minors: Entrepreneurship, Finance, Dance, Biology.

Our students performed exceptionally well during our inaugural competition (Fall 2014).  Millikin was one of 4 teams in our region to qualify for the national competition.  One of our teams finished 3rd at the regional competition, and the other team finished in the top 50%. Students traveled to California in order to compete in the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl competition.