Mock Trial and Moot Court Teams Hit the Road for Competitions

March 9, 2016

Mock trial and moot court teams from the Law School were extremely busy in late February, traveling near and far for national competitions.

• Two mock trial teams from the Law School spent three days participating at the regional level of the annual Texas Young Lawyers Association National Trial Competition. Both performed well, finishing 5th and 10th overall out of 24 teams.

The regional event, one of 14 held around the country, was held at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison. The University of Minnesota teams—made up of Jenna Shannon (’16), Carolyn Isaac (’16), Kevin Kitchen (’17), Sara Treumann (’17), Kaiya Lyons (’16), and Rosie Derrett (’16)—defeated teams from the University of Kansas (twice), University of North Dakota, University of South Dakota, and Mitchell Hamline School of Law before being eliminated from competition. The teams are coached by adjunct professors Craig Roen (’87) and Craig Buske (’10).

The Texas Young Lawyers Association National Trial Competition was established in 1975. The Law School has participated each year since 2006.

• The Law School’s Jessup Team competed in the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition in Denver. Team members Hal Spott (’16), Ceena Idicula Johnson (’16), Yi-Ping Chang (’16), Brian Gerd (’17), and Walter Prescott (’17) completed the preliminary rounds in third place overall, with a competition-best 3,244 points. The team subsequently won a convincing quarterfinal victory before falling to the eventual champion, Stanford Law School, in a tightly scored semifinal round.

Along with this high finish, the Law School team received an award for second-best Memorial (international brief) in the competition, missing out on top honors by the slimmest of margins. All four of Minnesota’s advocates, Spott, Idicula Johnson, Chang, and Gerd, placed in the top 30 of competition advocates. In the process, the advocates set what is believed to be a Law School record, with all four averaging above 90 (out of 100) in scoring.

The Jessup, now in its 57th year, is the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from more than 550 law schools in more than 80 countries. Competitors enact a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations. One team is allowed to participate from every eligible school. Teams prepare oral and written pleadings arguing both the applicant and respondent positions of the case.

• A three-student Law School team—Suhai Guo (’16), Daniel Roach (’16), and Katherine Nyquist (’16)—traveled to Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y., for the 2016 Jeffrey G. Miller Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition (NELMCC). They faced several strong challengers, including two teams that made it to the semifinals and one that won Best Brief for the entire competition, and did not move past the preliminary rounds. However, they enjoyed the experience and even got to spend some time in New York City.

NELMCC, conceived by Pace Law students, began in 1989 with 22 schools participating. It is now the largest interschool moot court competition of any kind under one roof, regularly attracting in excess of 200 competitors from diverse law schools and 175 attorneys who serve as judges for the three days of oral arguments.

• Two Law School teams went to Washington, D.C., for the regional round of the ABA Law Student Division National Appellate Advocacy Competition (NAAC). Team members—Dillon White (‘16), Chris Menezes (‘16), and Alex King (‘17); and Erik Haslem (‘16), Michael Laird (’16), and Cate Ellis (’17)—participated in a hypothetical appeal to the United States Supreme Court. While neither team advanced to nationals, Dillon White was recognized as a top-10 oralist with an average score of 90.45 in the first three rounds of arguments. The teams also enjoyed a visit to the Supreme Court following the competition.

The ABA Law Student Division created the NAAC in 1978 to emphasize the development of oral advocacy skills through a realistic appellate advocacy experience. The competition involves writing a brief as either petitioner or respondent and then arguing the case in front of the mock court.

• Closer to home, two Law School teams competed in the 30th annual William E. McGee National Civil Rights Moot Court Competition, held at Mitchell Hamline’s campus in St. Louis Park, Minn. The teams, all 3Ls—John Wittmer and Chris Wysokinski, and Chelsea Lemke and Corey Christensen—both advanced to the round of 16, but neither made the final group of 8. Wittmer and Wysokinski lost to the team with the overall Best Oralist at the event, and Lemke and Christensen were bested by the competition’s eventual champions.

The competition is named for the late William E. McGee (’80), a strong advocate for human rights and the first African American to be appointed chief public defender in the state of Minnesota. During his career, he also served as a public defender and prosecutor for Hennepin County and as a staff attorney and then executive director at the Legal Rights Center, a nonprofit, community-based organization that represents low-income people of color.

• Finally, an update from November: Two teams represented the Law School at the regional level of the 66th annual National Moot Court Competition, held at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. Team members, all 3Ls, were Raphael Coburn, Amanda Roberson, and Zach White (Respondent team), and Jeff Bruno, Kristen Letich, and Eric Weisenburger (Petitioner team). The Respondent team went undefeated until the regional finals and won honors for Best Respondent Brief.

The Law School’s record in this event is strong. Over the past 34 years, out of 68 teams entered, 48 have qualified for the regional quarterfinals and 31 for the regional final four.

Texas Young Lawyers Competition Mock Trial Moot Court Group Photo
Pictured left-to-right, front-to-back: Sara Treumann ('17), Rosie Derrett ('16), Carolyn Isaac ('16), Kaiya Lyons ('16), Jenna Shannon ('16), Prof. Craig Roen ('87), Kevin Kitchen ('17), Prof. Craig Buske ('10)

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