Child labor law and religion collide in Marden Moot Court final argument

On April 6, the final argument of the 50th annual Orison S. Marden Moot Court Competition, a yearlong internal contest organized by NYU Law’s Moot Court Board, was held in person at NYU Law for the first time since 2019. The four student finalists argued before a panel of federal judges: Judge William Fletcher of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Judge Michelle Friedland of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Scales of justice icon with talk bubbles

Ayo Osobamiro ’23 and Rosamond Kopczynski ’23 prepared the moot problem, which was edited by Marden executive editors Julia Bruce ’22 and Graham Ellis ’22. In the case, the US Department of Labor brought a civil suit against the Church of YouthExistence, alleging that the long hours worked by a 15-year-old camp counselor at the church’s summer retreat constituted a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) child labor provisions. The church, in turn, argued that the counselor was employed by the campgrounds and not by the church, and also that she was a church “minister,” so the ministerial exception precluding liability in employment matters should apply.

Representing the Labor Department, Zach Sanders ’23 argued that the church was properly named in the lawsuit as the employer, while Jenna Pearlson ’22 argued that the ministerial exception did not apply. On behalf of the church, Katie Zavadski ’23 asserted that the church can’t be the counselor’s employer under the FLSA, while Garrett Donnelly ’22 argued that the ministerial exception was in force.

After careful deliberation, the panel of judges named Zavadski as the best oral advocate before offering praise to all four finalists. “I wish all the lawyers who appeared in front of us were as good,” said Fletcher. “I used to hear that when I was in law school and I didn’t believe it, but you’d better believe it…. The four of you would stand up with the best of them.” Gregory added: “The four of you showed why New York University is one of the top university law schools in the country. You certainly acquitted yourself well in that regard.”

Watch the video of the event:

Posted June 28, 2022