BLSA Teams Advance to Nationals
Southwestern's Black Law Students Association (BLSA) trial and appellate advocacy teams earned top awards in competitions held during the Western Regional NBLSA Convention, February 14-17 in San Francisco. They will both go on to compete in the national rounds next month. Southwestern's BLSA Chapter also won First Runner-Up for "Best Chapter of the Year."
The BLSA Mock Trial team - Breyon James, Siannah Collado, Michelle Holmes and Marie Maurice - won First Place in the region during the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition, qualifying them for the national competition in Atlanta. Professor Isabelle Gunning and Professor Karen Smith served as advisors to the team, which defeated UCLA, Pepperdine and Oregon University arguing a case that involved tactical prosecution and defense of three counts involving drug possession, assault and providing material support to terrorism.
"I think it is important to note that, while Southwestern's BLSA has sent moot court teams to the BLSA competitions and been successful, this was the first year that we sent a mock trial team," Professor Gunning said. "In every round, our team emerged as the number one ranked team and then of course won - a pretty impressive showing for our first time out... I am looking forward to the national finals."
The team argued motions and objections during the course of the trial requiring exceptional use of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
"We all worked really hard," said Breyon James, who is also president of BLSA. "The teams we went up against are known for winning, and knowing that makes me that much prouder of our accomplishment."
The BLSA Moot Court Team of Sasha Musa and Mainak D'Attaray earned Third Place honors and a spot in the nationals at the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition. This is the third year in a row that Southwestern's teams' outstanding advocacy skills have earned them a place in the national rounds that will also be held in Atlanta. Tania Williams (LL.M.'06), who won the second place national award with Siannah Collado last year, coached this year's team.
"I knew how they were going to judge the competition, what they were looking for," said Williams, who worked several days each week with Musa and D'Attaray to gear up for the competition. "Dedication is the most important part - and Southwestern's BLSA teams have it. You can't teach that!"