Moot Court Competition

By Bill Schwingel

A full audience in the Swen Parson Moot Courtroom heard Saturday the cases of four NIU law students in the conclusion of the Seventh Annual NIU Prize Moot Court Competition.

The competition, which began on Feb. 22, featured the case of the People’s Temple vs. the Village of Mayberry.

The hypothetical case began when the Village of Mayberry denied the right of the People’s Temple to construct a memorial in a public park to more than 1000 people who committed suicide at Jonestown, Guyana.

The Village of Mayberry also denied the People’s Temple the use of a one-acre lot to build a temple in the residential area of Mayberry because of a new zoning ordinance.

“Both (pairs of attorneys) did a really excellent job,” said Dave Hugdahl, a second-year NIU law student. “It’s really hard to tell who won.”

“I expected a more active bench,” said Bill Brown, a second-year NIU law student. “The bench needed more motions about what is involved,” he added.

“The burdens in the excess of the religious group was the main point,” said another third-year NIU law student. “Both (teams of students) did what was necessary,” he added.

The case’s judges were the Honorable Thomas Moran, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois, the Honorable Ilana Rovner, United States District Court Northern District of Illinois, and Geoffrey Stone, dean of the University of Chicago Law School.

Daniel Donnelly and Daniel Hawkins won first place and Brenda Covey won single best for their participation in the moot court.

Donnelly and Hawkins, petitioners for the People’s Temple, and Kevin Buick and Corvey, the respondents for Mayberry, based their case on the freedoms outlined in the First Amendment.

The First Amendment states in the Establishment Clause that the Church and State must be separated. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment allows for the freedom of speech.

Donnelly claimed the monument to be “educational, historical and artistic” and if Mayberry denied the monument of the People’s Temple, their rights to freedom of speech would be violated.

The monument would not violate the Establishment Clause, said Donnelly, because it is not a religious monument, it does not promote or prohibit a religion and there is no state involvement with the church.

The people of Mayberry believed if the monument was erected the “objective person” would associate the People’s Temple with the town, violating the Establishment Clause, Buick said.

The Mayberry zoning ordinance restricts the People’s Temple’s religious practices, which is unconstitutional according to the First Amendment, Hawkins said.

The religious practices are restricted because the major tenets of the People’s Temple are corporate worship and that the Sabbath is reserved for a day of rest, study, prayer and devotion, Hawkins said. Since travel is not allowed, the People’s Temple must have a place of worship nearby, he added.

Because there are other non-residential areas available in Mayberry for the People’s Temple to purchase and erect a temple, the zoning ordinance is not unconstitutional, Covey said.