Runner-Up Best Oralist
Runner-Up Best Brief
This year’s problem takes place in the Commonwealth of Nat, and concerns events at a high school in the state capital, Constance Billard High School. Constance Billard has, traditionally, had a number of student societies which engage in hazing. Gossip Girl, a gossip blog site run by student Dan Humphrey, reports on the goings on of these societies. His reporting of their hazing practices, heavily reliant on the use of anonymous sources, brought attention in the Commonwealth to the issue of hazing, leading to a crackdown. This case stems from a tape made of a student undergoing vicious hazing, which Gossip Girl obtained and disseminated throughout the school.
Principal Queller asked the Student Resource Officer (a sworn officer of the local police force) of Constance Billard, Officer Donovan, to investigate the video. Officer Donovan identified two suspects, Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf, based on their prior history with these societies and ties to the victim. Waldorf and van der Woodsen both denied involvement. Officer Donovan then brought the students to Principal Queller, who immediately searched the students, obtaining evidence of their involvement, including an unedited version of the Gossip Girl tape on the cell phone belonging to one of the girls.
District Attorney Yuki, in an effort to pursue the case, subpoenaed Gossip Girl and Humphrey to determine the source of the video. Gossip Girl, Humphrey, van der Woodsen, and Waldorf all moved to quash the subpoena on the grounds that Humphrey had a qualified reporter’s privilege. The trial judge denied their motions, and Humphrey divulged his source, who fingered the defendants, van der Woodsen and Waldorf. Both Humphrey and his source testified that the exposure of the source foreclosed any future possibility of Gossip Girl reporting on hazing practices at the school.
At trial, van der Woodsen and Waldorf moved to suppress the evidence revealed by the search, arguing that the investigation by Officer Donovan removed the search from the rule established by the U.S. Supreme Court in New Jersey v. T.L.O. which only requires a school administrator to have reasonable suspicion when searching a student. The trial judge denied the motion and the two were convicted of hazing. The Court of Special Appeals of Nat affirmed the trial court on both the issue of the search and the reporter’s privilege. The Court of Appeals of Nat reversed, finding that the presence of the officer meant that the search required probable cause to comply with the defendants’ Fourth Amendment rights. Further, the Court of Appeals found that a qualified reporter’s privilege existed under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari on both questions.