Teams Earn Three 1st Place Victories Within One Week
Southwestern Students Take Top Awards in Appellate, Trial and Negotiation Competitions
Demonstrating their outstanding skills in appellate advocacy, litigation and negotiation, teams from Southwestern Law School triumphed in three distinct competitions held on both coasts in a single week between October 23 and November 1. They took First Place Team titles at the 15th Annual Burton D. Wechsler First Amendment Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C.; the National Invitational St. John's Civil Rights Trial Competition in New York City; and the ABA Negotiation Competition regional rounds in San Diego.
"We are extremely proud - but not at all surprised - that our students are demonstrating their extraordinary advocacy skills in trial, appellate and negotiation competitions around the country," Dean Bryant Garth said. "Their achievements reflect their determination and talents, our practical skills-oriented curriculum, and the tremendous dedication of our faculty and alumni to our students' success."
Wechsler Moot Court Competition
Southwestern's Moot Court Honors Program team of Michael Azat, Leah Cohen-Mays and Jillian Weinstein earned First Place in the Burton D. Wechsler First Amendment Moot Court Competition held at American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C., October 23-25. Among other teams, Southwestern triumphed over the finalist team from Cleveland Marshall College of Law, as well as teams from Brooklyn Law School and Florida International University in the semi-finals, and Stetson University College of Law, South Texas College of Law and Thomas Jefferson School of Law, among others in earlier rounds.
Southwestern alumna Zee Rodriguez '99, an appellate prosecutor for eight years who served as the team's advisor, said the students were well organized and prepared. "[They understood that] judges don't want a regurgitation of the brief," she said. "Our team's ability to answer questions in their own words and use cases to support their positions really paid off in the final rounds."
"It felt great to help continue the national recognition our school deserves," team member Leah Cohen-Mays said, "and arguing at the Court of Appeals in front of real judges was amazing. Their comments and advice were invaluable."
The appellate issue explored whether a public university professor's assignment of a grade constitutes speech and if so, does that right of speech belong to the university or the professor? Southwestern's teams traditionally perform well at the Wechsler competition, and were finalists last year.
National Civil Rights Trial Competition
The team from Southwestern's Trial Advocacy Honors Program received the First Place Award at the National Invitational Civil Rights Trial Competition held at St. John's University School of Law in New York, October 23-25. The team's four advocates - Armen Amirkhanian, Andrew Caple-Shaw, Vanessa Chavez and Lindsay Gardner - went undefeated in the preliminary rounds, winning over teams from the University of Miami School of Law and Chicago-Kent College of Law. They prevailed over Washburn University School of Law in the semi-finals, and went on to the championship round where they defeated Temple Law School.
The case argued involved a protestor claiming police violated his First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Lindsay Gardner said, "It was an incredible feeling to know that all our hard work paid off with a First Place win!"
Anthony Koutris '95, who served as head coach said it was "a victory that will stay with them throughout what will undoubtedly be stellar careers." He was joined by assistant coach Jennifer Turner '07.
ABA Negotiation Competition
The winning ABA Negotiation Team of Whitney Ching and Daniel Horlick defeated law students from Pepperdine University, UC Davis, and the University of San Diego in the final round at the regional competition, which was held in San Diego during the first weekend in November. They argued both sides of an issue concerning guardianship in an elder law case. The winning team now advances to the national finals in February 2009 in Boston, where they will argue a new problem.
"Winning this competition was a very emotional experience," said Daniel Horlick. "We worked extremely hard for this competition, the team we faced in the finals was very intense, and the scoring was close." He credited the extensive practice sessions with Southwestern's other ABA Regional Negotiation Team, Kyle Marks and Joanna Allen, and faculty advisors Professors Nyree Gray and Christina Knolton for his team's "definitive edge over the other teams."
"We would go through each problem and spar, and we tried to anticipate different styles and facts that would come up," according to Professor Knolton, who said the team won because of their incredible ability to be patient, listen to their opposition, and be firm and confident in their oration. "Most importantly, judges in the final round said they really liked how Whitney and Daniel applied the facts of the law to support their arguments."