Notre Dame College Students Litigate Fictional Court Case for Legal Experts, Constitution Day

Notre Dame College will once again have prelaw students present oral arguments in a simulated First Amendment court case before legal experts as part of its 2018 Constitution and Citizenship Day observance.

The College's Moot Court co-curricular team members will present the 2018-2019 American Moot Court Association (AMCA) case before a panel of esteemed attorneys led by Geoffrey J. Ritts, J.D., partner, Jones Day, and vice chair of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees, at 7 p.m. Monday, October 1, in the Performing Arts Center of the Administration Building on the College campus. The panel also will  feature Jason Fokens, J.D., legal counsel senior director at GOJO Industries, inventors of PURELL branded products; Walter J. Benson, J.D., a faculty member of the University of Akron School of Law and practicing attorney at the Benson Law Firm; and Sarah Manville West, J.D., Ph.D., assistant professor and director of graduate studies in professional education, at Notre Dame.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is expected to feature additional judges and attorneys from the State of Ohio yet to be announced and is followed by a reception in the Administration Building foyer.

The Legal Mentor

With Jones Day, Ritts focuses on defending corporations, officers and directors in securities, shareholder and derivative lawsuits. He litigates disputes involving mergers and acquisitions, Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), banking and accounting-related cases and assists companies with internal investigations.

He represented National City Corporation, now part of PNC Financial Services Group, in numerous securities, derivative and ERISA lawsuits arising from the subprime mortgage crisis. He represented KeyCorp in a multi-district litigation relating to the Bernard Madoff scandal.

In the College moot court demonstration, students will practice oral arguments for upcoming ACMA regional and national competitions and will be mentored by the legal professionals from the community. In these simulated appellate court proceedings, students must be prepared to argue both sides of the fictional ACMA case. AMCA is the largest intercollegiate moot court association in the country.  

The Simulated Case

The 2018-2019 ACMA case looks at whether a fictional public college law school’s admissions policy, which gives preferential weight to male applicants, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The hypothetical legal action also addresses whether an imaginary faculty member’s right to freedom of expression under the First Amendment, as applied to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, was violated when she was fired after speaking out publicly about the admission protocols, examining the relationship between freedom of expression as a private citizen and the rights of free speech as a public employee.

The Student Litigators

The four students selected to present the case before the legal panel on Constitution Day 2018 are: senior Meckena Hultin, a criminal justice major; juniors Athena Eli, criminal justice, and Jordan Mochko, business administration; and sophomore Katherine Esser, a biology major.

Other students participating in Notre Dame’s moot court program this year and their majors are: senior Madison Flareau, criminal justice; juniors Rico Blackman, criminal justice, Marina Mullins, political science, and Lukas Thompson, finance; sophomores Athene Goodman, history, and Alexis Nelson, communication; and freshmen Charles Andrews, prelaw, Jordan Benson, business administration, Joseph Catalano, business administration, Katie Petro, prelaw, Breanna Tolbert, prelaw, and Jade Williams, prelaw.

Flareau and Eli both competed in moot court and participated in the inaugural Constitution Day demonstration last year.

About the Attorneys

Geoffrey Ritts

Ritts has represented Cooper Tire, Macy's and Diebold, among others, in securities cases where courts dismissed complaints under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. Other representative clients have included Cardinal Health, U. S. Steel, Cliffs Natural Resources, Erie Indemnity, Lubrizol, Goodyear, Altisource Portfolio Solutions and FirstMerit.

He coauthored a treatise on complex litigation in state courts (Statewide Coordinated Proceedings: State Court Analogues to the Federal MDL Process, West Group) and has written numerous articles on securities law, class actions, and legal ethics, in publications such as Litigation magazine, National Law Journal, Journal of Corporation Law, and Defense Law Journal. He has been invited to testify before the Ohio Legislature on class actions.

In addition to his role at Notre Dame College, Ritts is a trustee of the Lake Erie Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

He also is an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, teaching complex litigation. He has been a faculty member at the Practicing Law Institute's annual securities litigation conference.

Ritts earned his law and bachelor’s degrees from Yale University, where he was senior editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Jason Fokens

At GOJO Industries, Fokens is responsible for leading the legal department, providing legal advice and business strategic direction, solutions and risk analysis to key business and executive stakeholders for both complex general and intellectual property (IP) legal matters.

Prior to joining GOJO Industries, Jason spent several years at Owens Corning as senior IP attorney and at Lubrizol Corp. in various roles including product management and patent lawyer.

His areas of practice include patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, commercial transactions, mergers and acquisitions and international law. His technology areas of experience cover chemical and mechanical engineering, chemistry, bio-chemistry, specialty chemicals, coatings, surfactants, additives, material science, glass composites, fiberglass, asphalt, foams and building materials.

Fokens is licensed to practice law in multiple states and licensed to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and his law degree both from Michigan State University.

Walter Benson

Benson is an experienced trial attorney in Summit, Portage, Medina, Stark and Wayne counties in Ohio.

For more than two decades, he has handled numerous serious cases, ranging from more than 20 murder cases, three of which involved the death penalty, to several DUI/OVI and other misdemeanor and traffic offenses. He has been interviewed by CNN, Good Morning America and several other national news organizations.

Benson previously worked as a magistrate in Akron Municipal Court and a judicial clerk and attorney in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in Media, Pa. He is a member of the Summit County, Ohio, Legal Defender Commission and the advisory board of Oriana House, a chemical dependency treatment and community corrections service in Northeast Ohio. He also has served on the Copley Township, Ohio, Zoning Commission.

He earned his law degree from the University of Akron, with study at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia, and his bachelor’s degree in business from Stockton University in Pomona, N.J., with study at Middlesex Polytechnic in London.

Sarah Manville West

In addition to her current role leading the Master of Education program at Notre Dame, West has served as a judge for Notre Dame-sponsored national moot court scrimmages at Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. 

A licensed seventh- through 12th-grade language arts educator, West has worked extensively with the Cleveland State College Credit Plus and First Year Experience programs, helping exploratory high school and undergraduate students learn their talents and find careers.

In addition to her law degree from Rutgers University, West holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and history from Walsh University, a Master of Arts degree in English from Kent State University and a Master of Education in educational research and a doctorate in urban education from Cleveland State.

About Constitution and Citizenship Day

Constitution and Citizenship Day is an American federal holiday honoring the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787, and recognizing all who have become citizens of the United States.

Congress established the American federal holiday in 2004. Since then, all institutions that receive federal funding have been required to provide educational programming related to the history of the U.S. Constitution on or around the day.

About Notre Dame’s Moot Court Program

Established in 2011, Notre Dame’s co-curricular prelaw moot court program has qualified for national competitions in four of its first six years of existence.

The College and its moot court students also partner with local law schools to host annual moot court oral argument scrimmage sessions each year that draw teams from universities across the country.

Moot court is a method of teaching law and legal skills by requiring students to analyze and argue both sides of a hypothetical legal issue using state and federal appellate court procedures.

September 2018

About Notre Dame College

For almost a century, Notre Dame College has educated a diverse population in the liberal arts for personal, professional and global responsibility. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, the College has grown strategically to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of students and the dramatic changes in higher education. But it has never lost sight of its emphasis on teaching students not only how to make a good living but also how to live a good life.

Today, the College offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines plus a variety of master's degrees, certification programs and continuing and professional development programs for adult learners on campus and online. Notre Dame College offers NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs for men and women and is located in a picturesque residential neighborhood just 25 minutes from the heart of Cleveland. Hallmarks of the Notre Dame experience include stimulating academics, personalized attention of dedicated faculty and staff, and small class sizes.

Notre Dame College is located at 4545 College Road in South Euclid. For further information contact Brian Johnston, chief communications officer, at 216.373.5252 or bjohnston@ndc.edu.

Events

Nov
13
November 13
11:30 AM
Tuesday November 13, 11:30am
Christ the King Chapel - Admin Bldg. 3rd Floor
E.g., 11/13/18
E.g., 11/13/18