NYU Law’s 39th annual Orison S. Marden Moot Court Competition, open to 2Ls and 3Ls at the Law School, brought three federal circuit judges to campus on April 12 to hear four students argue an imagined Supreme Court case in the final round.
The moot court problem, prepared by Peter Farrell ’12 and Steve Rowings ’12, involved a narcotics investigation in which D’Angelo Barksdale, the alleged leader of a criminal organization, was tracked remotely for six weeks using a GPS device that a detective attached to the undercarriage of Barksdale’s vehicle. Barksdale appealed his subsequent cocaine-related convictions resulting in a 10-year prison sentence, arguing that the use of a GPS device without a warrant was an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. Barksdale also argued that the conditions of his post-prison supervised release delegated the judicial sentencing function improperly to his probation officer.
Four of the 12 Marden semifinalists had the chance to argue before Judge Thomas Griffith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge David Hamilton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and Judge Debra Ann Livingston of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Hugh Murtagh '11 and David Hodges '12 served as counsel for the petitioner, while Anthony Mozzi '11 and Jeremy Hays '12 represented the respondent.
Mozzi, who won Best Oralist, faced an uphill battle in convincing three skeptical adjudicators of the constitutionality of Barksdale’s GPS surveillance. His assertion that government agents are free to observe anyone on a public street, where a vehicle is typically found, was met with the observation that, historically, limits involving budget and personnel have precluded the U.S. government from becoming something akin to the Stasi.
In response to a subsequent question about the distinction between planting a GPS device on a person as opposed to a person’s vehicle, Mozzi said, “People are certainly different than cars. This court has held that there’s a diminished expectation of privacy in your vehicle. It has repeatedly held that the exterior of your car is not subject to any reasonable expectation of privacy. People themselves have additional protections.”
Hodges won the Marden Brief Writing Award for outstanding brief writing in the semifinal round.
Posted on April 18, 2011