By Lewis P. Reece, Shareholder–On January 6, 2011, the Scott M. Matheson Sr. American Inn of Court held the final round for its annual moot court competition. A moot court competition simulates briefing and oral argument before a panel of appellate judges. The competition was open to all high school students in Washington, Iron and Beaver Counties.
Briefing and oral argument focused on the Second Amendment, whether the Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms or whether the right to bear arms is had only in connection with membership in a militia. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court in a five to four decision ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms—that the prefatory clause to the Amendment announced a stated purpose for the Amendment, but it did not circumscribe the operative clause of the Amendment. District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S.Ct 2783 (2008). The prefatory clause in the Second Amendment reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” The operative clause continues: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Long has the suggestion been made that the right to keep and bear arms was available only if a person was a member of the militia. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court said back in 1939: “In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’. . . has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense.” United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 177 (1939). Of course, the four justices in the dissenting opinion in District of Columbia, argued strongly that the Miller case set a precedent that the prefatory clause in the Amendment governed the operative clause. This all made for a great debate among the high school students.
Scores for the students were derived 50% on their written argument and 50% on their oral presentation, which included answering questions from a panel of attorneys acting as appellate judges. First place went to Hailey Wood, a senior at Beaver High School. She was awarded a scholarship of $750.00. Second place went to Cesar Vega, also a senior at Beaver High School. He was awarded a scholarship of $350.00. Third place went to Ryan B. Cooper, a senior at Cedar High school, who was awarded a $100.00 scholarship. Pictures were taken of the students. They all did a fine job, answering tough questions from the bench all in front to the members of the Scott M. Matheson Sr. American Inn of Court. Congratulations to each of the winners.