The 38th annual Orison S. Marden Moot Court Competition focused on the difficult question of child pornography and its intersection with modern technology. This year’s competition was presided over by Judge Michael Boudin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Judge Kim Wardlaw of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Rory Gilmore, the fictitious defendant, was charged with producing child pornography after the mother of a 16-year-old male referred to as T.L. found a nude photograph of her son on his own computer. Gilmore, a 26-year-old sociology graduate student who had solicited of-age subjects to photograph on Skype, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, despite the fact that T.L. had shown Gilmore a fake I.D. indicating he was over 18 years old. Appealing on First and Fifth Amendment grounds, Gilmore was granted certiorari by the Supreme Court.

The moot court finalists included Alex Rossmiller ’10 and Joachim Steinberg ’10 for the petitioner, and Daniel Curtin ’11 and Benjamin Schaefer ’11 for the respondent. Curtin received the Marden Brief Writing Award for drafting the best brief in the Marden’s spring semifinal round.

Steinberg, who won Best Oralist, spoke to the challenges of the case for both sides of the argument. “One of the reasons it’s a good problem is that both sides are put into incredibly unattractive positions. On the petitioner’s side you’re defending someone who, in essence, produced child pornography, whereas on the respondent’s side you’re sending a graduate student to prison for 15 years on the basis of her scholarly work.”

The difficulties of the case notwithstanding, Steinberg said, “It was really a privilege to be able to argue in front of the three judges. Their questions were insightful and got so quickly to the heart of the matter.”

Posted on April 21, 2010