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Bella Vista H.S. Team Wins 2024 Moot Court Competition

High School Students Present Oral Arguments Before Local Judges 

Bella Vista team holding plaques and posing with superintendent

Bella Vista’s Team 1 won the 2024 Gordon D. Schaber Moot Court Competition.

Starting in January, high school students across Sacramento County took on the roles of attorneys and judges, embarking on a deep exploration of constitutional law through the annual Moot Court competition. They engaged in rigorous analysis and debate over a complex mock appeal case: Spencer Owens v. The State of Placerado, focusing on pivotal legal issues that challenged their understanding of the justice system. This intricate case posed three critical questions, asking if the lower court's decisions regarding custody status, voluntary confession, and free speech rights were legally sound.

The Gordon D. Schaber Moot Court Competition simulates an appellate-level proceeding in which students prepare and argue a case before a panel of three judges. The judges evaluate the quality and persuasiveness of the students’ legal reasoning and presentation, and their unscripted responses to spontaneous questions from the panel of judges.

“The Moot Court competition provides students with opportunities to learn and grow,” said Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David W. Gordon. “It also provides students with the opportunity to sharpen invaluable life skills like critical thinking and effective communication.”

Third District Court of Appeal Justices Ronald B. Robie, Stacy Boulware Eurie, and Elena J. Duarte, presided over the final round, which was held on February 13, at the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building (3rd District Court of Appeal) in downtown Sacramento. Following oral arguments from both teams, each judge—in awe of the students’ performance—provided valuable, constructive, and inspirational feedback for each team member, which was met with great enthusiasm and appreciation.

After extensive deliberation, Justices Robie, Eurie, and Duarte ruled that the attorneys for Bella Vista High School (Team 1) made the most convincing arguments, winning the 45th annual competition. Mira Loma High School Bella Vista High School (Team 1) placed second.

2024 Sacramento County Moot Court Competition Results

  • 1st Place: Bella Vista (Team 1)— San Juan USD
  • 2nd Place: Mira Loma (Team 1)—San Juan USD
  • 3rd Place: Mira Loma (Team 5)—San Juan USD
  • 4th Place: Bella Vista (Team 2)— San Juan USD

About Moot Court

The Moot Court Competition is an appellate-level proceeding where legal arguments are presented. High school students prepare and argue a fictional case before a three-judge panel. Judges evaluate the students on the quality and persuasiveness of their legal reasoning and presentation, and their unscripted responses to spontaneous questions from the bench. The competition gives students the opportunity to learn about constitutional law and develop crucial public speaking and debate skills. A typical Moot Court team consists of three to six students.

Moot Court is sponsored by the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) in an effort to educate young people about the importance of civic participation in a democratic society.

About Gordon D. Schaber (1927–1997)

Gordon D. Schaber was a respected local attorney, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge, and the dean of McGeorge School of Law. While at McGeorge, Schaber developed an innovative education program called Moot Court, simulating an appellate-level court proceeding where students argue a case before a panel of three judges. Schaber was also known for his involvement with Mock Trial, both as a coach and a supporter. He became the director of the California Mock Trial Program in the late 1980s, serving for more than a decade. His contributions were recognized with many awards and honors, including the American Bar Association’s National Law-Related Education Award. The Sacramento Superior Court Building (the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse) is named in his honor.