Would Congress exceed its authority under the Commerce Clause by authorizing the president to order compulsory vaccinations? And would that vaccine mandate violate people’s right to liberty and privacy, protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause?
Those questions were at the heart of a fictional case argued by Emily Gubin ’24 (above, left) and Alice Wanamaker ’25 (above, right), who represented the Williams Law Society’s moot court team at the American Moot Court Association (AMCA) national competition.
At Williams, moot court is an extracurricular activity—in contrast to many colleges and universities that offer courses in moot court preparation for academic credit. In fact, Williams’ participants often refer to moot court as their “fifth class,” meeting for two-and-a-half-hour sessions twice per week starting in late September. Roughly 20 students participate each year, guided by their volunteer coach for the last eight years, Berkshire County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Giarolo ’04.
Students work in pairs, learning the case inside and out, completing supplemental readings and dissecting Supreme Court justice’s opinions provided by the AMCA and based on actual cases and court decisions. At both the regional level—where this year four pairs of Williams students competed—and then the national, a coin toss takes place moments before the competition to determine whether each pair will present its argument as the petitioner or respondent. A panel of judges, attorneys and law professors evaluate the students based on a variety of factors, including their knowledge of the subject matter, courtroom demeanor, and the organization, logic and clarity of their argument.
Though this was Gubin’s and Wanamaker’s first year participating in moot court on the college level—and their first year working together—both had experience in high school. Gubin took four years of law classes at her high school in Queens, N.Y. Wanamaker belonged to the high school team from Easthampton, Mass., that won the 2020 national championship for We the People, a constitutional law and debate competition. The topic that year also happened to be due process.
The two competed against more than 500 teams at the regional level this year and finished 81st out of 100 at the national, which was held via videoconference. They plan to continue on the moot court team next year. Gubin wants to major in political economy with a concentration in justice and law studies, and Wanamaker plans to double major in math and political science with a self-designed concentration in public policy. Both are considering law school.
As newer team members, “I don’t think anyone expected us to get the results we did,” Wanamaker says. Their performance, Gubin adds, “gives us great optimism for the future.”
You can read a copy of this year’s AMCA case here.
Regina Velázquez is an assistant editor and senior writer in the Office of Communications. Top photo courtesy of Angel Santiago ’25