DENTON (UNT), Texas — Eryn Mascia loves to argue, but not for its own sake. The University of North Texas political science freshman argues for the love of law.
Mascia and partner Kendal Carnley, a senior from Texas Wesleyan University, won the Moot Court Champion title Nov. 2 at an invitational Texas A&M University School of Law tournament sponsored by the Texas Undergraduate Moot Court Association. Judges chose them based on their presentation, persuasion, interpretation and knowledge of the law.
Mascia, a 2013 Byron Nelson High School graduate from Trophy Club, and fellow UNT moot court students competed against undergraduates from across the state. They will next compete in the regionals tournament at Texas Tech University School of Law Nov. 15-16. Winners will advance to the national tournament at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in January.
“I love to argue, and I really enjoy public speaking,” Mascia said. “Moot court is an extracurricular activity that is perfect for me because it combines both of these things.”
In the fictitious case, Mr. Chester Comerford v. the United States, Mascia argued both as petitioner in favor of Comerford, an American citizen captured on U.S. soil with presumed affiliation to al-Qaida and illegal arms dealings, and as respondent on behalf of the government. The case concerned Article Two of the United States Constitution regarding whether or not, and under what circumstances, the president of the United States has the constitutional authority to indefinitely detain and try Comeford in a military tribunal instead of in a civilian court before a jury of peers.
Mascia learned only the day before the competition that she was to argue the case based on Article Two instead of the Fourth Amendment as originally assigned, due to an unexpected and last-minute change in partners. Mascia knew well the Fourth Amendment issues at stake — whether or not the government’s tracking of Comerford’s cell phone for 23 straight days was considered to be an “unreasonable search and seizure” of private property without a warrant. But she had to gain a solid grasp of Article Two and its case precedents in a short amount of time.
“I was terrified beforehand because I had to prep the entire case in a day,” Mascia said. “My partner calmed me down, and once we got into it, it was fun. The case is interesting and relevant to what’s going on in the headlines.”
Mascia credits the win in part to UNT team captain MacKenzie Dunham, a senior and double major in political science and history, who helped Mascia form her argument, make sense of legal issues and prior court cases and learn about courtroom procedures.
“This is truly a Cinderella story when you consider what Eryn and MacKenzie accomplished at the last minute,” said Kimi King, professor of political science, who has been preparing UNT students for moot court for 14 years as faculty advisor. “In the 26 years that the event has been in existence, the event has never had a tournament won by a hybrid team of students from two different universities.”
Dunham has served as captain of the UNT moot court team for the past two years and has competed in the past three, qualifying for the national tournament every year. Dunham, who will graduate from UNT in December 2013, said that moot court has prepared him for law school.
“Moot court is indicative of what I would be doing as an attorney,” said Dunham, who graduated from Aubrey High School in 2010. “It has allowed me to get in contact with attorneys and law school admission deans across Texas that I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to network with.”
The UNT moot court team is organized by the Department of Political Science and is composed of 11 students whose majors range from political science and history to economics and communications: Megan Altobelli, Dunham, David Garner, Blake Jackson, Jada Kent, Taylor Ledford, Mascia, Conor McElroy, Brandon Nwannunu, Brittany Pulley and Alex Schwind.
About the UNT Department of Political Science
The Department of Political Science is divided into four major areas with a strong focus on rigorous and careful research methods: American Government, International Relations, Comparative Politics and Political Theory. The department is the editorial home of the American Political Science Review, the premier political science journal in the world. It houses the Castleberry Peace Institute within its Peace Studies program, and the Human Security, Democracy and Global Development research cluster, a consortium of faculty experts focused on conflict resolution strategies, the protection of human rights and the promotion of economic development, health and neighbor relations.