Karli Strom’s last-minute decision to participate in this year’s Monmouth College moot court turned out to be a wise one.
At Wednesday night’s final round, a three-judge panel named Strom top advocate in the College’s annual legal competition.
“I am a little bit shocked,” said Strom, a communication studies and political science junior from Monmouth. “I only started a week before the preliminary round. I did a lot of prepping beforehand, and I was still shocked when they told me I was a finalist. So I am really surprised when I got all the way here.”
The top legal brief was written by Payton Crims ’27 of Alsip, Illinois. Cameron Shook ’25 of Morton, Illinois, placed second, and Maya Dickerson ’26 of Galena, Illinois, was third.
The preliminary round of the College’s 13th moot court competition was held Nov. 4 in the Center for Science and Business as 13 students competed for four spots in the final round, which was held in Hewes Library.
This year’s moot court case involved an establishment clause challenge to the practice of legislative prayer. The clause prohibits the government from supporting any religion. The case also questioned whether taxpayers have standing to bring the suit against the government.
Strom said she spent about six hours a day reviewing the case.
“Originally, I just looked at the establishment clause, then once I got into the final round I had to learn the whole argument of standing,” she said.
The benefits of moot court
Moot court is sponsored by the Monmouth Political Science Department and the Wackerle Center for Career, Leadership & Fellowships.
“We’re very proud of our moot court competition,” said political science professor Andre Audette. “It’s something that most law schools have, but it’s not something that many undergraduate institutions have.”
And Monmouth’s moot court benefits students in numerous ways.
“We’ve had many students who go on to legal careers or to law school cite moot court as one of the most important activities that they participated in at Monmouth,” said Audette.
He said that one of the factors that makes Monmouth’s moot court so strong is a network of “dedicated alumni judges.”
The preliminary round judges were Dan Cotter ’88, Brad Nahrstadt ’89, Debra Nahrstadt, Kate Fitzsimmons Cross ’08 and Hadley Smithhisler ’20. The judges for the finals were Judge Heidi Benson of the 9th Judicial Circuit of Illinois, who served as chief justice, and justices Mary Alexander Corrigan ’82 and Sarah Billington, both of whom are attorneys with Howard & Howard Attorneys of Peoria, Illinois.
“Every year we have judges come in and tell us that our students are competing at really high levels, and that sometimes they are outcompeting lawyers that are actually in the courtroom,” said Audette. “So to be able to see our students do this at such a high level makes me very proud of the hard work that they put in for the competition.”
A 2021 graduate of Monmouth-Roseville High School, Strom transferred to Monmouth from Carl Sandburg College. She said she decided to double major in communication studies and political science because the two programs complement one another. And while Strom is still mapping out her post-college plans, she said that moot court competition is but one advantage she’s received as a Monmouth student.
“I have had so many opportunities, both in the classroom as well as outside of the classroom,” she said. “Had I not come to Monmouth, I wouldn’t have had the experiences I would have been so lucky to have had.”
Founded in 1853 and affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Monmouth College provides a transformative educational experience within a caring community of learners. A residential liberal arts college that is the birthplace of the women’s fraternity movement, Monmouth College empowers students to realize their full potential, live meaningful lives, pursue successful careers, and shape their communities and the world through service and leadership.
***Courtesy of Duane Bonifer, Monmouth College***