Barry McNamara  |  Published November 17, 2021

Datlof Wins Twice in Moot Court

In his final year of Monmouth’s annual competition, senior from Las Vegas sweeps top awards.

THE FINALISTS: The final round of the 11th annual Monmouth College Moot Court competition was hel... THE FINALISTS: The final round of the 11th annual Monmouth College Moot Court competition was held Nov. 10. Pictured are the four student finalists and the three judges who presided over the competition. From left are Grant Miller ’22, Gabriela Peterson ’23, judges Andrew Stuckart, Andrew Doyle and Elisa Nelson, Matthew Datlof ’22 and Owen Mane-Davies ’23.MONMOUTH, Ill. – The past four winners of Monmouth College Moot Court are hoping for careers in law.

Next year, Matthew Datlof ’22 of Las Vegas, Nevada, plans to move that number to five by starting law school.

MATT DATLOF: The senior won not only the Top Advocate honor, but also the legal briefs writing co... MATT DATLOF: The senior won not only the Top Advocate honor, but also the legal briefs writing competition.Datlof took home both awards that were presented earlier this month at the College’s 11th annual moot court competition. He received the Top Advocate award for the oral arguments portion and also wrote the top legal brief.

“The brief writing competition is great preparation to prepare you for the oral arguments,” said Datlof, who is preparing to take his Law School Admission Test. “You have to consider both sides of the case when writing, and the errors you might commit in your writing are much more glaring. … It really was useful.”

“It is pretty rare that undergraduate schools have a moot court competition. … Our students take away a lot from it. They pick up a lot of really important skills in speaking, communication, being able to deliver an argument.” Andre Audette

Datlof has participated in moot court during each of his four years at Monmouth.

“The other three years I did fall short, so it does feel very good to win this year,” he said. “I worked very hard. It’s a fantastic opportunity that Monmouth College provides to its students.”

Rare undergrad opportunity

And it’s a unique opportunity, as well, said political science professor Andre Audette, one of the organizers of the competition.

“It is pretty rare that undergraduate schools have a moot court competition,” said Audette. “It’s something we’re especially proud to be able to offer. Our students take away a lot from it. They pick up a lot of really important skills in speaking, communication, being able to deliver an argument. On top of that, those who decide to pursue law school get a special advantage from this.”

This year’s moot court case was based on actual 2006 proceedings related to the 1996 Solomon Amendment.

“It addressed a constitutional issue of whether the government’s policy requiring equal access for military recruiters violates the rights of law schools as expressive associations and unlawfully compels their speech,” said Audette.

Four students advanced from a preliminary round to meet in the final, which was held Nov. 10. Three of the four are political science majors: Datlof, Owen Mane-Davies ’23 of Plainfield, Illinois, and Gabriela Peterson ’23 of Southwick, Massachusetts, who is also majoring in chemistry. Grant Miller ’22 of Aurora, Colorado, is a mathematics and computer science major.

Developing important skills

Datlof described the process of going from his first three years of competition to the top spot this fall.

“All the criticisms that you receive over the years, you start to implement them,” he said. “My public speaking has become better. That’s applicable for my career, but it’s also applicable for daily life. You have to speak to people. So being able to speak clearly in a concise manner and with a good cadence is something I’ve been working on for the last few years.”

The competition has also helped Datlof get his thoughts together.

“It’s been very useful to help me with my thinking,” he said. “You have a lot of things to process, so you have to think of the argument in a holistic way. It’s very easy to get down in the weeds and only think about your side of the case. Being able to write these briefs, argue these cases, you have to consider things very carefully.”

“It’s been very useful to help me with my thinking. You have a lot of things to process, so you have to think of the argument in a holistic way.” Matt Datlof 

Mane-Davies and Miller are also considering law school.

“Moot court has helped my public speaking,” said Miller. “It’s helped my ability to perform in high-pressure situations, and just generally helped me to control my nerves and learn about interesting topics.”

“I’ve learned a lot about handling the courtroom aspect,” said Mane-Davies. “I also think there’s a lot to learn about being in a high-pressure situation, which to me this is. I’ve developed from that last year, and now this year, as well.”

The final round was judged by Chief Justice Andrew Doyle, a judge on the 9th Judicial Circuit of Illinois; Justice Elisa Nelson, a managing member at Nelson & Associates; and Justice Andrew Stuckart, an attorney at Lucie, Bougher & Associates.

Preliminary round judges were three Monmouth alumni: Dan Cotter ’88, Kate Fitzsimmons Cross ’08 and Brad Nahrstadt ’89, as well as Nahrstadt’s wife, Debra. All are attorneys.

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