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Hildebrand named moot court Top Advocate

Barry McNamara
Pictured from left are faculty member Mike Connell, students Jared Hankinson and Emma Hildebrand, Illinois State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride, students Haldey Smithhisler and Joe Doner and faculty member Sara Kitsch.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – Three Monmouth College students with plans to enter law school and one who will join the Peace Corps made up the field of four finalists in the College’s Ninth Annual Moot Court Competition, held Tuesday evening in the Morgan Room of Poling Hall.

Emma Hildebrand ’21, a political science major from Mendon, Ill., was awarded Top Advocate.

Hildebrand plans to attend law school, as do finalist and two-time Top Advocate Hadley Smithhisler ’20 of Valley City, N.D., and finalist Joe Doner ’21 of Arlington Heights, Ill. Communication studies major Jared Hankinson ’20 of St. Louis, the fourth finalist, plans to serve in the Peace Corps following his graduation next May.

A preliminary round on Nov. 2 whittled a field of 13 students down to the final four. In both rounds, the students debated the legality of states’ and cities’ attempts to enact gun control measures.

The case juxtaposed the right of an individual to own a gun with the right of a city to place reasonable restrictions on the use of dangerous weapons.

Monmouth political science professor Andre Audette said Monmouth’s Moot Court Competition provides “a unique opportunity for students.”

“Most law schools have a moot court team, but it’s uncommon among undergraduate institutions,” said Audette, who coordinated the event with Wackerle Center for Career, Leadership & Fellowships Director Marnie Dugan. “Aside from a deeper knowledge of the law, students who participate develop skills in public speaking, argumentation, persuasion, teamwork and many other skills that translate well to law school or careers in many other fields.”

Doner said participating in moot court helped him learn more about the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

“I learned a lot more about the history and the rulings of the Second Amendment and how the Second Amendment has been treated in the past,” he said. “As always, I learned a lot more about how to argue a legal case and how to treat a legal case when you’re preparing to talk about it.”

The three students headed for law school are interested in different areas: Doner plans to pursue international law; Hildebrand wants to use a background in law to be a legal counsel for a political office holder and perhaps hold an elected office herself; and Smithhisler plans to use a law degree to help open doors in social justice and advocacy work.

Another benefit of moot court is the opportunity for students to interact with the legal professionals who serve as judges for the competition.

The judges for the final round included two Monmouth faculty members – Mike Connell of political economy and commerce and Sara Kitsch of communication studies – as well as Illinois State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride, who previously served as the court’s chief justice.

The preliminary round was judged by three Monmouth alumni in the legal world – lawyers Dan Cotter ’88, Kate Fitzsimmons Cross ’08 and Brad Nahrstadt ’89 – as well as Brad’s wife, Debby, who is also a lawyer.

“In my view, moot court is one of those activities that exemplifies the best of the liberal arts at Monmouth College,” said Audette. “I'm always extremely proud of the hard work that students put into the competition and how much we all learn in the process – students, judges and organizers alike.”