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October 09, 2007

New Campbell Board to Create Permanent, Transparent Scoring System

By Austin Rice-Stitt

The Campbell Moot Court competition has tested the oral and written advocacy skills of Michigan Law students for over 80 years. Unfortunately, delays and an opaque, ever-changing scoring system in past years have tested the patience of competitors as well.

But this year’s changes to the Campbell Moot Court brief and oral argument scoring system may be the last, according to Director of Student Affairs Christine Gregory, whose office oversees the competition. This year Ms. Gregory gave the Campbell Moot Court Executive Board “a different assignment: to establish a scoring system that would, hopefully, become the permanent scoring system.” Ms. Gregory hopes this year’s board will be “as transparent as possible and create a scoring system that everyone understands and that doesn’t change much from year to year.”

The Executive Board, a group of current UM Law students charged with administering the competition, seems to have gotten the message. Board members Bradley Moore, chair, and Meghann Dunlap agree that “one of our mandates is to create a new permanent scoring system.” Though previous Boards were not required to explain their scoring methodology, Bradley emphasized this Board’s focus on “transparency.”

The Board handed out information packets to prospective competitors at informational meetings on September 17 and 18 that included detailed scoring sheets that will be used to evaluate briefs and oral arguments. “It was important to release the scoring packet at the first information session,” Bradley explained, “to show everyone exactly what they will be evaluated on.”

“It’s important to be transparent, especially when students put so much work in,” explained Meghann. “Competitors want to feel like they’re given a fair shake.”

To develop this year’s scoring methodology, “the Board put a lot of effort into talking to people at other schools who are involved with running moot court competitions,” Meghann said. The Board also drew on the expertise of its own members, many of whom have experience as moot court competitors. “The chance to develop a new scoring system is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity,” said Bradley. “When you get this involved with something, you want to see it be successful.”

This Year’s Board

While six students all had equal voice in last year’s Board, this year’s Board has seven members, including a designated chair. “It’s been great,” Meghann said when asked about having a chair. “It’s nice to have someone setting the agenda for the meetings and making snap decisions when necessary.” Chair Bradley Moore sees his role as being that of a facilitator: “I’m surrounded by great people, and everyone is stepping up and taking care of the things that they’ve been assigned. I’m just making sure that everything gets done.”

In addition to creating a chair position on the Board, Ms. Gregory emphasized that the criteria used to select this year’s Board was also a little different. “I think in the past the recruiting might have focused more just on GPA and faculty recommendations,” Ms. Gregory explained, “and now we’re taking a more holistic approach. The idea was to recruit board members that are comfortable with their classmates, have a good rapport with the student body, and who have experience in moot court competitions.”

Indeed, this year’s Board includes two semi-finalists from last year’s competition, Liz Polizzi and Stephen Oertle, and another board member, Sam Zun, participated in the competition last year as a timekeeper. Bradley confirmed that “it’s been really helpful this year to have input from Liz and Stephen, who did the competition last year, and also to have board members who bring a fresh perspective.”

First Round Scoring

Most of the delays and scoring irregularities in past competitions have occurred in the first round, when volunteer alumni judges are asked to score and return briefs by mail. This year’s Board hopes to avoid problems by starting early and by communicating with volunteer judges. Bradley, Meghann, and Ms. Gregory all emphasized that this year’s Board is focused on getting things done early, and the Board hopes to send first round briefs out, and get them back, sooner than in years past. Meghann also believes that the Board can urge scorers to return briefs on time through “constant communications with scorers to check in.” Bradley confirmed that the Board will rely on “consistent, professional follow-up” to get briefs scored and returned.

This year’s Board also plans to ask slightly less of each first round volunteer brief scorer. While scorers last year were asked to read and score six briefs, Bradley says that this year’s Board would like to keep each reader’s assignment to four or fewer briefs. Also, while last year’s Board tried to get each brief read six times (before eventually settling on four), this year’s Board is soliciting only three scores per brief.

The Campbell Moot Court competition is open to second- and third-year UM Law students. Registration closed on October 1st. The Board can be reached at campbellcompetition@umich.edu.