FIU team crowned winner of Elon Law’s 2023 moot court competition

Two students from Florida International University won an annual contest hosted by the Moot Court Board that required this year’s teams to answer the question: does a ban on talking with minor patients about conversion therapy violate a doctor’s First Amendment rights to free speech?

Where do you draw the line between speech and conduct if you’re a doctor who wishes to discuss with his patients conversion therapy – the controversial practice of attempting to alter sexual orientation and gender identity – and the state where you’re licensed prohibits doctors from even having the conversation?

It’s a topic that involves issues of speech and religion likely to appear soon before the Supreme Court of the United States.

And for nearly three dozen teams representing law schools across the country, it was the question at the heart of fictional problem posed to entrants of the 14th Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition hosted this fall by Elon University School of Law’s Moot Court Board.

Katie Miesner and Alejandro Tori’s from Florida International University College of Law.

Teams gathered in downtown Greensboro for oral arguments that led to a final round before four of the biggest names in North Carolina’s judiciary. By the end of the evening, Alejandro Torvis and Katie Miesner from Florida International University College of Law had prevailed over Arielle Leake and Joshua B. Davis from Liberty University School of Law.

Torvis was also recognized as Best Oral Advocate in the Final Round based on the quality of his arguments and response to questions from judges.

The problem for Elon Law’s tournament from October 19-21, 2023, was inspired by a case decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit based on challenges brought by a family therapist agains the State of Washington.

“This year’s problem presented competitors with challenging free speech and freedom of religion issues that will likely be before the United States Supreme Court in the near future, and they did a phenomenal job of presenting their arguments and responding to judges’ questions,” said Senior Associate Dean Alan Woodlief, director of Elon Law’s Moot Court Program. “I am proud that our Moot Court Board could provide such a great competition experience and learning opportunity to these aspiring attorneys from law schools all around the country.”

From left: Joshua B. Davis and Arielle Leake of Liberty University School of LawLiberty University School of Law; Judge John Tyson; Judge James “Jim” Exum; Judge Phil Berger, Jr.; Judge Allegra Collins; Katie Miesner and

The winning team from Florida International University will receive a replica of Elon Law’s Chief Justices’ Cup and have its school name engraved on a permanent trophy that resides at Elon Law. Each individual member of the first-place team will also receive a plaque.

“We recognize the dedication and hard work that has gone into preparing your briefs and honing your oral argument skills, not to mention the considerable effort required for your journeys to Greensboro,” said Michelle Aguilar L’23, one of three competition committee co-chairs from the Moot Court Board, in welcoming teams to a Saturday awards program. “Some of you traveled just a short distance from Winston-Salem, while others came from as far as California, South Dakota, and Texas, demonstrating the remarkable diversity of talent present in this room.

“The quality of competition we witnessed this weekend was nothing short of exceptional. Our esteemed panel of oral argument judges consistently expressed their awe at the level of preparation and legal prowess they observed from all of you.”

Final Round Judges

The Honorable James “Jim” Exum (retired)
North Carolina Supreme Court

The Honorable Phil Berger, Jr.
North Carolina Supreme Court

The Honorable John Tyson
North Carolina Court of Appeals

The Honorable Allegra Collins
North Carolina Court of Appeals

Semifinal Round Judges

The Honorable James Gale (retired)
North Carolina Business Court

The Honorable Juliana Theall Earp
North Carolina Business Court

The Honorable Richard Doughton
North Carolina Superior Court

The Honorable Sarah N. Lanier L’10
North Carolina District Court

The Honorable Barron Thompson L’09
North Carolina District Court

The Honorable Carrie Vickery L’09
North Carolina District Court

Gregg Schwitzgebel (retired)
Associate General Counsel, North Carolina League of Municipalities

Elon Law Moot Court Board Committee Co-Chairs for the 14th Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition

Overall Competition Chairs: Michelle Aguilar L’23, Matthew Carter L’23 and Zachary Kovach L’23

Judge Committee Chairs: Matthew Ferris L’23, Alex Long L’23 and Timberly Southerland L’23

Bailiff Committee Chairs: Meghan Edwards L’23, Sydney Rimmer L’24, Chelsea Roseman L’23

Scoring Committee Chairs: Todd Bowyer L’23, Kaylee Faw L’23 and Andrew Slaughter L’23

Team Hospitality Committee Chairs: Lauren Jones L’23, Campbell Kargo L’23 and Abby Robertson L’23