Thursday, July 5, 2012

I Forgot How Much I Love Debate

***Before you read: Let me make totally clear that my account of how the debate went is very biased, and if I make it seem like we won the case, it may just be because I would like to THINK that we won the case (Although I think we DID win the case, but now I'm just confusing you). Anyway, my account of how the case went is very biased.***

I'm not sure why, but I was taking this debate very very seriously. It's not that I shouldn't have taken it seriously, but, as I ate breakfast and as we discussed court cases in our first class, it was the only thing on my mind. It really wasn't a huge deal, just another class assignment, but for some reason this debate held much more importance to me. I am an extremely relaxed person, and it takes quite a bit to stress me out, but for some reason this debate was stressing me out. When I say I was taking it very seriously, though, I mean my mentality, not my work ethic and preparation. Not that I didn't prepare seriosuly, I always do, just that I did not spend as much time on it as my stress would have suggested I should. Of course, though, the majority of my preparation was for nothing because the defense threw us a curveball (I'll explain that in a moment).
I worked a lot of yesterday and stayed up very late last night, but when I fell asleep, I still was nowhere near what I felt would be adequate preparation for the debate. I went to my first class, where we would review last night's cases about the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment. I'd go into detail about this, but the highlight of my day was undoubtedly the debates.
I spent all of my 12-2 PM free time on, not sleep, not food, but preparing for the debate. Yes, I missed my nap and I missed lunch. THAT is how seriously I took this.
By about 2 PM, I had put in as much work as time would allow, and I headed off to class. I felt that I was adequately prepared; however, for me to truly feel adequately prepared I need to be way way overprepared. Of course, in my preparation for the debate, I had chosen not to prepare very much for our quiz, which, while it went well enough, did not go super well. At the conclusion of the quiz, the debate began. Nancy gave our opening statement, Khadija cross-examined the defense, and Lenny answered the defense' cross-examination of our side. For anyone who didn't read yesterday's blog, here is the case description:

Rita Smith was upset and angry after her son died in the line of duty in Iraq. She joined an anti-war group and participated in a protest in San Francisco. During the protest, Rita burned a flag of the US. No one was injured by the fire. The police, who were nearby making sure the protest would not get out of control, arrested Rita and other members of her group for disorderly conduct. Rita is suing the state for violating her first amendment rights.

You (we) are representing Rita Smith.

Then it was my turn to speak. I had chosen to make the closing statement. On one hand, the closing statement can be the deal-breaker in a case if it is done correctly; however, it is also the riskiest in that a mess-up in the speech would probably be the most damaging. I had initially felt the urge to take the bull by the horns, although my problems with preparation had made me regret that decision later. My problems with preparation, though, had little to do with me and more to do with the fact that I would be defending our case against the statements of the prosecution and I would have no idea what the defense would be arguing. You see, the way this case was structured, I actually felt it was the defense that had something to prove, not the prosecution. Both sides agreed in the beginning that the desecration of the American flag was speech protected by the First Amendment. Rita Smith was suing on the grounds that her First Amendment rights were violated when she was arrested; therefore, the defense had to prove that her arrest was justified. All the prosecution had to prove was that the defense was wrong, and by doing that, we would be showing that Rita Smith's arrest was not justified and therefore not protected by the Constitution. I had prepared for all the possible ways which I thought the defense could use to try to support her arrest. Like I said, though, they threw us a curveball with something we did not expect at all.
The defense argued that Rita Smith was arrested for violating some California Penal Code against burning things in public (or something like that; I don't remember but it is irrelevant). They also argued that Rita Smith was arrested because her actions failed the "clear and present danger" test, as there was a clear and present danger in the actions she was taking. Also, while this was not an argument, they cited numerous times how my client Rita "recklessly burned" the flag and how to prevent the "clear and present danger" test from being applied, she should have burned the flag in a much more "safe" manner.
I responded to the first argument by saying that whether or not she was in violation of this penal code is completely irrelevant due to the fact that my client was charged with disorderly conduct, not of violating this penal code. If they would like to charge her with violating this code, they can, just not in this case, we is to determine strictly whether Rita's First Amendment rights were violated. Also, this violation was NOT the reason Rita was arrested; she was arrested for disorderly conduct, so I said that this was irrelevant. The possible actions that California considered disorderly conduct, as Nancy explained in her opening statement, all had nothing to do with this case. While I was the one who put into words our rebuttal to the second argument, I must give 100% of the credit to Lenny, who told me something I never would have been able to come up with without researching. It turns out that the "clear and present danger" test applies to the clear and present danger of what a speech can INCITE, not the danger of the actions of the speaker herself. Therefore, if Rita Smith was going to incite "imminent lawless action", the "clear and present danger" test would definitely have applied; however, it does not apply to whether or not the fire is a danger. I argued this, but I would have been completely stumped had it not been for Lenny telling me this. Thirdly, I just clarified that nowhere on the case description did it say anything about Rita Smith "recklessly" burning the flag; as far as we know, she may have done so in a perfectly safe manner.
After all this, I said that basically, the defense had zero reason to arrest Rita, and no justification for taking away her First Amendment rights. I also said a ton of things along the way that made no sense at all, or were repetitive, but we don't need to go over that (haha).
I'm reading this now and it makes perfect sense on paper, but let me say that these arguments did not come out nearly as nicely in class as they did here on my blog. Nowhere close. I argued all of this off the top of my head, simply from the notes I had taken while the defense was speaking, so it did not make nearly as much sense. On the other hand, I thought I did pretty well and at the end of the day, I was extremely proud of the way our team performed. The judges (Jeffrey and Luke, our teachers, and a friend of theirs who is a judge in an Indian court) ruled in favor of Rita Smith 2-1, which was a very satisfying way to conclude our effort. I have to give the other team credit, though, the side they were arguing was WAAAAAYY more difficult to argue than ours; in fact, I have absolutely no idea what I would have done if I had been arguing against Rita Smith. The other performed extremely well, which made for a fantastic debate. Also, let me make clear once again that everything I wrote above was from my point of view, which is the reason I wrote so much more about what I did than what others did; my other group members did just as much, if not more than I did. Additionally, my account of the case is EXTREMELY BIASED, and if somebody from the other team were to blog, you might get a completely different account of how the case went.
I've already written way too much, so I won't get into the other debates, but I had completely forgotten how much I love to debate. This was an awesome experience for me. I hated the stress, but absolutely loved the experience. I have to say that I would have hated it, though, if I had had to argue AGAINST Rita Smith.
Adrianne, speaking during her case.
After class, with the monkey off of my back, the rest of the day seemed to fly by. This included our visit with the director (who is super cool) of the High School Program in her office (with a photo that you can probably see on Adrianne's blog), a long dinner with Adrianne, Morvarid and a few friends we've made, Chinese food, and a few hours in the grass on campus playing frisbee and just hanging out with some friends, none of whom I knew before arriving in New York, and two random little kids who were tons of fun to play with but lost my headphones. Then again, they lost another kid's shoe, so losing my headphones wasn't so bad. Overall, though, a very fun day. It feels weird to say that I had class because I am enjoting myself so much.

The current state of our bedroom. My side of the room is on the left; I know my mom is proud :)
Also, the right side of the room is much cleaner here than it usually is; our agreement is that I don't care how messy Jack is as long as he doesn't care that I just sweep all his things under his bed or to his side of the room. It has worked out extremely well, though, as he is way more cool than he is organized. And who knows, maybe he likes it unorganized. I can respect that.

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