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UI law students hold moot court competition

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa law students will argue the legal merits of whether a paid tax-preparer can be held liable for making false statements to the government even though she felt she was forced to do so by her client as part of the College of Law's moot court competition Wednesday, March 4 and Saturday, March 7.

The annual series of arguments, known as the Van Oosterhout Memorial Moot Court Competition, determines the six-member team that will represent the UI in the National Moot Court Competition next fall.

The semi-final round will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 4 in Levitt Auditorium of the Boyd Law Building; the final round will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 7 in Levitt Auditorium.

Moot court competition features teams of two student-advocates who argue before three-person panels that include active, sitting judges of U.S. and state courts. The competition requires each team to take turns as appellant and appellee.

The panelists score advocates on both their oral and written arguments.

Ashish Mishra, second vice-chairperson of the UI Moot Court Board, says the competition is an accurate reflection of what law students are being trained to do.

"Knowing how to research, write and present arguments to a court are all skills that law students will need when they begin to practice," Mishra says. "The Van Oosterhout Competition gives you a chance to refine your skills in those areas and to find out what it's like to present cases to real-world judges."

Judges for the semi-final round are John Jarvey, judge of the U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids; L. Vern Robinson, judge of the Sixth Judicial District of Iowa; and N. William Hines, dean of the UI College of Law.

Judges for the final round are Carolyn King of Houston, who is a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; David M. Ebel of Denver, who is a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and A. Frank Baron of the Sioux City law firm of Baron, Sar, Goodwin, Gill and Lohr, and a former clerk to Judge Martin Van Oosterhout, the competition's namesake.

The students will argue a mock case in which a paid tax preparer was charged with lying to a government agent after she made false statements about a client's finances.

She argues that her false statements should not be regarded as an attempt to mislead the government agent and seeks to shield herself from criminal liability under a doctrine known as "exculpatory no." She also argues that she would not have filed inaccurate tax returns if government agents had not entrapped her by threatening her family's well-being.