Appellate justices hear law students argue in Desmond Moot Court final round

Josh Siliano '15, Nicole Komin '15, Hon. Erin M. Peradotto ‘84, Hon. Samuel L. Green ‘67, Hon. Gerald J. Whalen ‘83, Kathryn Hartnett '15 and Benjamin Nelson '15

Published October 31, 2014

A distinguished panel of appellate judges took the bench the night of Friday, October 24, to hear arguments for the championship round of the 2014 Charles S. Desmond Moot Court Competition, the annual intramural appellate advocacy competition at SUNY Buffalo Law School. The Competition’s Final Round was held in the Francis M. Letro Moot Courtroom in O’Brian Hall on the North Campus of the University at Buffalo.

The judges were two Law School alumni who now sit on the NYS Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department:  the Hon. Erin M. Peradotto ‘84, associate justice; the Hon. Gerald J. Whalen ‘83, also an associate justice; and a retired judge, the Hon. Samuel L. Green ‘67, senior associate justice (ret.).

The judges heard arguments on two First Amendment questions currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Justice Peradotto presided, in the role of Chief Justice of the United States.

The first issue was whether a person could be convicted of having made a “true threat” without proof that a threat was intended.  The defendant was charged for having made a series of violent-sounding postings on Facebook, in the form of rap music lyrics that seemed to be directed at law enforcement and children in local schools.

The second issue was whether a judicial candidate’s Free Speech rights were violated when he was punished for directly soliciting campaign funds through a mass mailing, in violation of a state law that outlawed such direct fundraising solicitations in the interest of protecting judicial integrity and public confidence in the judiciary.

The Final Round teams of Benjamin Nelson and Kathryn Hartnett, representing the defendant, faced off against Nicole Komin and Josh Siliano, representing the fictitious Commonwealth of Desmond.  Both teams had survived several elimination rounds in this annual tournament in order to arrive at the championship.  All four of the 2014 Finalists are third-year SUNY Buffalo Law School students who will graduate next spring.

After discussing the contest for about 10 minutes, the panel named Nelson and Hartnett the winners of the 2014 Desmond Moot Court Competition.

Two local attorneys – R. Anthony Rupp, III, of Rupp Baase, Pfalzgraf, Cunningham & Coppola, LLC. and Lawrence J. Vilardo of Connors & Vilardo, LLP – coached students in writing appellate briefs and preparing oral arguments for the Desmond Competition.

For more than 30 years, the intramural Desmond Competition has given SUNY Buffalo Law students the opportunity to brief and argue an appeal involving constitutional issues presented in cases pending before the United States Supreme Court.  

The competition is named for the late Charles S. Desmond, an alumnus of the SUNY Buffalo Law School who was the longtime Chief Judge of the State of New York.