College of Law

Fornoff Competition Finalists Address Issues of First Amendment and Student Speech

November 14, 2019

Nicole Cote
Nicile Cote

Samuel Gold
Samuel Gold

Dana Pasiwk
Dana Pasiwk

Ruth Willer
Ruth Willer

The College of Law congratulates finalists who competed in the 48th Annual Charles W. Fornoff Appellate Advocacy Competition on Oct. 24, 2019, in the McQuade Law Auditorium. 

Students demonstrated their oral advocacy skills with the competition case of Maxine McKinney v. Huntington County School District. In the hypothetical case, Ms. Maxine McKinney, an eleventh-grade student, was disciplined when she created several digital pieces mocking a high school teacher for his alleged unfair attitude towards female students, which she then posted to her personal Facebook account. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court determined that it was reasonably foreseeable that the off-campus expression might reach campus and cause disruption. McKinney appealed the granting of the school’s motion for summary judgment, alleging the school violated her First Amendment rights when it disciplined her for off-campus speech. 

Nicole Cote and Samuel Gold represented Maxine McKinney (Appellant). Dana Pasiwk and Ruth Willer represented Huntington County School District (Appellee). In the previous stage of the competition, Samuel Gold won and was named the Barrister. Ruth Willer came in second place and was named the Solicitor.

The distinguished, presiding judges' panel included Chief Judge Denise Page Hood from the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Judge Christine Mayle from the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals, and Magistrate Judge Thomas Parker from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. At the final, the panel selected award winners in the following categories:

Best Team: Nicole Cote and Samuel Gold
Best Oralist: Dana Pasiwk

The Charles W. Fornoff Appellate Advocacy Competition is named for former Dean Charles W. Fornoff and honors his tenure as a Toledo Law professor and administrator between 1939 and 1970. Fornoff actively sought to safeguard educational opportunities for all aspiring lawyers. The competition helps second- and third-year students gain real-world experience in oral advocacy. Teams litigate in front of a panel of judges as either plaintiff or defense counsel. The competition begins with dozens of participants each spring and continues into the following fall semester. 

The competition is organized by the Moot Court Board: Drew Wobser (chair), Zack Lemon and Blake Weiman (Fornoff coordinators). Judge James G. Carr, a professor of law emeritus at the College of Law and senior U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Ohio, coordinates the judges' panel each year. Professor Eric Chaffee serves as the Fornoff faculty advisor.

"The Fornoff Competition is one of the most important events at the College of Law each year," said Professor Chaffee. "It's always exciting to watch the competitors develop the skills of practicing attorneys and to see how the competition unfolds."

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Photos from Competition

Last Updated: 4/3/20