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For second consecutive year, Smithhisler named Top Advocate in Moot Court

Duane Bonifer
For the second consecutive year Hadley Smithhisler ’20, far left, won the Moot Court competition. Also pictured, front row, from left: Monmouth psychology professor Tara McCoy, Kaniesha Whatley ’20 and Mackenzi Lafferty ’19. Back row, from left: Monmouth Interim Dean of the Faculty Dean Mark Willhardt, Joe Doner ’21, and the Honorable Greg McClintock
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College student Hadley Smithhisler ’20 still has more than a year before she can begin law school. But judging by her success in the College’s Moot Court competition, she’s well on her way toward a successful career in law.

Earlier this month, Smithhisler was named Top Advocate in the College’s eighth-annual Moot Court competition. It’s the second consecutive year she’s received the honor.

A total of 14 Monmouth students participated in the competition. The preliminary round was held Nov. 10 in the Center for Science and Business and judged by a group of legal professionals, including alumni Daniel A. Cotter ’88 and Bradley C. Nahrstadt ’89.

Four students advanced to the final round, which was held Nov. 13 in the Morgan Room of Poling Hall and judged by a three member panel consisting of the Honorable Greg McClintock, Monmouth psychology professor Tara McCoy and Interim Dean of the Faculty Dean Mark Willhardt.

The students argued over the topic as to whether a baker had a constitutional right to refuse to make wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Smithhisler said she felt “a lot more comfortable this year.”

“The whole process felt a lot calmer this year,” said Smithhisler, who is a history and French major from Valley City, N.D. “I didn’t have to deal with that blind panic of not knowing what the process was like. So I felt a lot more comfortable, and I felt more comfortable with the case and the facts of the case this time around.”

Also qualifying for the final round were Joe Doner ’21 an international studies and environmental studies double major from Arlington Heights, Ill.; Mackenzi Lafferty ’19, who is a political science and international business double major from Canton, Ill.; and Kaniesha Whatley ’20 political science major from Nashville, Tenn.

In addition to developing a better grasp of legal terms, Smithhisler said she also learned this time around to have more faith in her own knowledge of the case.

“I’m more comfortable with trusting myself more, rather than just memorizing an outline of facts,” she said. “I’m a lot better about just knowing the facts and trusting that I know the facts so that I can dole them out as necessary as I get questions thrown at me.”

Doner, who also competed in the final round the for the second consecutive year, said Moot Court has improved his public speaking as well as knowledge of the law.

“Even though I dread it, I enjoy being up on the podium and arguing my position, because up there you are able to lay out your argument, interact with the judges, and either make yourself look really good or really bad depending on how things go.”

Whatley, who competed in the final round for the first time, said the competition also helped her develop public speaking skills, as well as appreciate the nuances and subtitles of a legal argument.

“In society we tend to think about these issues as black or white, but I learned through this competition that there are a lot of facts to consider and implications that have a lot of gray lines,” she said.

Lafferty, who was named Top Advocate in 2015, said participating all four years “has definitely helped me articulate my professional goals.” She originally planned to attend law school, but but now wants to attend graduate school to student international economics and work with international trade. She’s also become friends with the legal professionals who judge the event.

“I’ve loved the opportunity,” she said. “When we finished this year’s preliminary rounds, it was a little bittersweet to tell the attorneys who judged that round that this was my last year. It’s nice to know that I have that connection with alumni now.”