Frederick Douglas Moot Court Competition – 2021 – Research Session

Let’s start with a Hypothetical – From Frederik Douglas Moot Court Competition  1976-77


On October 31, 1969, a bill of complaint was filed in the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Lynchem, Mississippi. Trial in the Chancery Court commenced on June 11,1973. The trial lasted approximately eight months (Procedural Background ( R ) 1).The Court below accorded judicial notice to the Mississippi Statistical Abstract (1971) (R.3.). In the decade commencing in1960 the State of Mississippi had a total population of 2,178,141of which 57.7 per cent were white and 42 per cent were black(R.3). However, in Rhenquist County, Mississippi from a total of 10,900 persons, only 2,500 were white (emphasis added). Thus, the ratio was approximately 76 per cent non-white to 24 per cent white (R.4). It follows that the white merchants of Rhenquist County were highly susceptible to economic collapse when faced with a selective buying campaign against them. Blacks represented over three-fourths of the population of the county (R.4).Whites had exercised complete control of the government at all levels in  the state of Mississippi. Rhenquist County was no exception (R.4).In the latter part of 1965, a group of black leaders in Port Hudson and other areas of Rhenquist County formed a Human Relations Committee. This group presented a petition containing thirteen demands to the Port Hudson Chamber of Commerce and leaders in business and civic affairs; 6 were related to employment, asking the business to employ minority clerks and cashiers. When no favorable answer was forthcoming from the addressees on April 1, 1966, a unanimous vote by several hundred black people decided voluntarily not to patronize the white merchants of Jackson and Rhenquist Counties. On or about March 1, 1967, “Our Market, Inc.”, a corporation organized for the purpose of engaging in the wholesale, retail of grocery and clothing was organized (R.16).On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Port Hudson and Rhenquist County reacted as did the rest of the country with remorse and chagrin (R.16,17).The Mississippi Legislature, with the intent to prohibit and control certain activity, enacted the following statutes: 97-23-85;MCA 1972 and 75-21-1 through 75-21-11 (R.25,26). The trial court held that the appellants had violated Mississippi boycott laws set forth above, and awarded damages to the merchants according(R.30).

Questions presented:


  1. Whether the Mississippi Code Annotated Section 97-23-85 can be applied to the case at hand where the intent of Congress is frustrated and where it produces a result which is void on its face?
  2. Whether the Constitutional mandate of First Amendment freedoms from unreasonable, capricious and whimsical restraints are so fundamental that the abridgment of those rights require the most rigid form of scrutiny that the Mississippi statute must fallow?


If two (2) or more persons conspire to prevent another person or other persons from trading or doing business with any merchant or other business and as a result of said conspiracy said persons induce or encourage any individual or individuals to cease doing business with any merchant or other person, and when such conspiracy is formed and effectuated because of a reasonable grievance of the conspirators over which the said merchant or place of business boycotted or against which a boycott is attempted has no direct control or no legal authority to correct, or when the conspiracy results from such alleged grievance against the merchant or other person boycotted when no notice of such grievance has been given the merchant or party boycotted and no reasonable opportunity to correct such alleged grievance has been given such merchant or other person against whom the conspiracy was formed, then each of such persons shall be guilty of  the crime of unlawful restraint of trade and shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) or  imprisoned for not more than two (2) years and in addition each such person shall be liable in civil action for any damages suffered by said merchant or place of business so wrongfully boycotted.

Research Plan (reverse engineering)

  1. Start with the end result: what do you want to find? Cases declaring the statute unconstitutional for restraining freedoms in violation of the First Amendment, and Fourteenth (state cannot abridge them).
    • Are boycotts protected by the First Amendment as a form of speech and/or assembly?
    • What type of scrutiny does a state law or municipal ordinance encounter (compelling interest, clear and substantial reason to do so) for abridging a fundamental rights?
    • Cases to support a finding of unconstitutionality if the language of the statute is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.

Then, think about the path to take:

Identify secondary sources to explain the law

  1. Use CLIO; Pegasus (we are acquiring electronic resources) Westlaw and Lexis for treatises
  2. Use CLIO/ Westlaw and Lexis for journal articles (the void for vagueness doctrine);

Use the databases to locate the law

  • Use Westlaw/Lexis for case law research;
    • The Digest/Topics (controlled searches)
    • “one good case” approach (e.g., 393 U.S. 503, or 337 U.S. 1; 394 U.S. 147; 307 U.S. 496


  • Full-text searches (keywords // terms and connectors)

Execute the plan, and keep a log for your research memo – to support your argument – pay attention to the citator signals (KeyCite/Shepard’s)