The spectators rose as the black-robed chief justice and his two associates swept into the courtroom last night to rule whether the Divine Light Institute, a school practicing racial discrimination for religious reasons, should be granted tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Although such a scene could occur in a real session of the United States Supreme Court. Last night's drama was actually a semifinal round of the 68th Ames Moot Court Competition, which pits two teams of second-year Law School students against one another in a test of courtroom skills.
Four six-member teams, including two others who will participate in the other semifinal tonight, advanced to this stage from a field of about 50 original entrants, according to Paula Tobenfeld, a spokesman for the Law School's Board of Student Advisors, which organizes for the competition.
She added that about one fifth of the second-year class participated in the first round in the fall.
The winners of the semifinals will move on to the final round next fall.
Last night's case was derived from the Reagan Administration's January decision to permit tax exemptions to racially-biased schools.
Team members said yesterday that they had been training for the competition since the beginning of February by doing research, practicing courtroom techniques and rehearsing with videotape machines.
"It'll be a loss up" who wins the competition, Jim Goering, who argued the case for the Divine Light Institute, said yesterday afternoon, adding that the opponents are all "good friends."
"We've been working so long on this that we really start believing in our position," Jeffrey E. Stone, who argued against the school, said. "Both sides think they're right," he added.
"Chief Justice" Jon Newman, who is actually a judge on the Second Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, delivered the verdict to the crowd of approximately 200, after two members of each team had stated their case.
The team representing the Divine Light Institute won and qualified for the finals, but the judges unanimously awarded the Best Individual Oralist award to Stone. "We were extremely impressed with both the written and oral presentations in a difficult case," New man said.