The team of Kristin Gummoe and Camille McKnight are the oral argument winners of the 2016-2017 Honorable James Hunter III Moot Court in a case about employment discrimination under Title VII.
Gummoe and McKnight were among 16 teams that competed through five rounds of competition from March 6-April 5 at the federal courthouse in Camden, presenting arguments before volunteer judges from private practice, state and federal government, in-house counsel, and the state and federal judiciary.
“Every panel of judges is different and they all have different concerns as far as the issues of the case,” said McKnight, a 3L from West Windsor, N.J. “The issues that we thought were the most important were not always that important to judges, so we had to know the facts and the law inside and out in order to be able to answer the questions that were asked of us.”
The competition is the culmination of the fall and spring semesters’ work in the course “Appellate Advocacy: Hunter Moot Court Program.”
“You’re doing in this course what you would be doing in a real life case,” said Gummoe, a 2L JD/MBA candidate from Folsom, N.J.
In the fall, guided by Barbara Gotthelf, a professor of practice and director of externship, Gummoe and McKnight were among 32 students who partnered with a classmate to write an appellate brief. In the spring semester, students focused on preparing oral arguments for the competition.
Gummoe and McKnight argued the fictional case on behalf of the plaintiff/appellant, Katherine Laredo, a former sales representative employed by the defendant/appellee Galaxy City, Inc. Laredo sued Galaxy City for both sex-based discrimination and pregnancy discrimination. Ms. Laredo was removed from her position as a “Galaxy Girl” when she returned from maternity leave with a six-inch Cesarean-section scar on her abdomen. That scar was visible in Laredo’s “smokin’ hot” two-piece outfit, which all Galaxy Girls were required to wear while promoting Galaxy’s party supplies and planning services in convention halls.
“We were arguing that was playing into offensive stereotypes that over-sexualize a woman to sell paper plates, and kazoos, and confetti,” said Gummoe. “Why does a woman have to wear a crop top and a miniskirt, and thigh high boots to sell these items?”
The case involved the application of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“To prepare for the competition, I was essentially breaking down each element as much as possible in order to have the clearest possible understanding of the law,” said McKnight.
Part of the way through the month-long competition, McKnight and Gummoe were not sure if they would advance to the next round.
“It’s just a matter of taking each round as it comes,” said Gummoe. “I didn’t want to think too far and jump into thinking, ‘tonight went great and we’re going to the finals.’ It was, ‘tonight went well, let’s go on to the next round.’”
In the final round, Gummoe and McKnight competed against Alison Keating (2L) and Brandon Pugh (2L). Each team presented arguments to Jaynee La Vecchia, a New Jersey Supreme Court justice; Cheryl Ann Krause, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; and Robert Kugler, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Gummoe and McKnight also participated in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, a law school course and community civics education endeavor in which law students teach Camden public schools students about the U.S. Constitution.
“I think that experience, though quite different from arguing in court, helped both Kristin and Camille to develop their public speaking skills,” said Gotthelf. “Both of these women were incredibly poised in court, and spoke in the natural, conversational manner that judges want. We tell students that they should jump on every opportunity they can get to speak in public, and Kristin and Camille are evidence of the payoff that comes from that kind of repeated practice.”
Hunter students are also recognized for their exceptional writing skills. “Best Brief” awards were presented to Jeffrey Ragone (2L) and Matthew Yost (2L) (plaintiff/appellant), and Amanda Moscillo (2L) and Ed Corma (2L) (defendant/appellee).
“All of the students demonstrated tremendous grace, composure, and skill in a very intimidating and very public setting,” said Gotthelf.