October 28, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is a Wechsler championship

The University of Virginia School of Law won the 17th Annual Burton D. Wechsler First Amendment Moot Court Competition last past weekend. Barry University's Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law took second place at the 26-team tournament, which is hosted by American University's Washington College of Law. Seton Hall University School of Law and the University of Wisconsin Law School advanced to the semifinals.

The University of St. Thomas School of Law had the Best Brief, while Courtney Mills of William & Mary Law School won Best Oralist.

October 27, 2010

That's how lawyering go

I updated my previous post, but I realize that those of you who read via e-mail and RSS feed may not be alerted.

I'm happy to announce that the Rangers continuance motion has been granted.

Goooooo Rangers!

Although I suspect most of you don't know me well enough to know my personal sports affinities, if you've spent any considerable time with me at all, you'll know that I'm an avid baseball fan, and, in particular, a Texas Rangers fan. A band-wagoner I am not -- and I can prove it.

I grew up in Los Angeles, and my parents bled (and still bleed) Dodger Blue. I was at Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, when Kirk Gibson hit his unforgettable home run en route to a 5-game series win for the Dodgers over the 'roided up Jose Canseco- and Mark McGwire-led Oakland Athletics.

But then I moved to Fort Worth, Texas for college (go Horned Frogs!), and before long, I was a Texas Rangers fan. Times were fairly good back then; the Rangers moved in to a new ballpark in 1994 (and were in first place at the time the strike ended the season) and won the American League West in 1996, 1998, and 1999. True, we got slaughtered by the Yankees in each of those series, but so did everyone else in baseball during those years.

But then the hard times came. Following a disastrous 2000 season (caused in no small part by the trading away of star slugger Juan Gonzalez), the team signed free agent Alex Rodriguez to a record 10-year, $252 million contract. That was supposed to usher in a decade-long period of who-knows-how-many championships. Instead, the team finished in last place three straight seasons, A-Rod was traded to the hated Yankees, and the team toiled in mediocrity for the next several years.

During that time, I was practicing law in Fort Worth. My wife and I had season tickets every year, traveling out to Arlington on hot, muggy, summer nights to watch God-awful baseball. I remember time and time again saying to her, "I just want a competitive team. I don't even need a World Series. Just give me meaningful baseball in September and I'll be happy."

Well, happiness is here. This was a magical baseball season for me (and my wife), and I can't take the smile off my face. MY Texas Rangers are in the World Series.

One thing that makes my smile even brighter: This Emergency Motion for Continuance, filed by a Dallas attorney with tickets to tonight's Game 1. We've seen these kinds of motions before, but I really think this one takes the cake. The footnotes are absolutely hilarious. My favorite: Footnote 7, which states:
It should be pointed out that ARod a/k/a AFraud took a called third strike to end the series and secure the Pennant for the Rangers. It has no significance to this Motion other than the fact that Darrell likes to point it out as much as possible.

I agree, Darrell. Now, go Rangers!

UPDATE: The motion has been granted.

October 20, 2010

South Texas two-steps Faulkner off dance floor at Lone Star Mock Trial

South Texas College of Law was crowned the champion of the 2010 Lone Star Classic Invitational Mock Trial Competition, held this past weekend at the St. Mary's University School of Law. Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law finished second, as it did last year. Stetson University College of Law and Florida State University College of Law enjoyed semifinal finishes. Stetson was deemed the "Most Professional Team."

South Texas's Jennifer Schuch (who is also a member of the school's National Moot Court Competition team) was the Best Overall Advocate of the preliminary rounds. Jason Isbell of Faulkner took home the award for the Outstanding Advocate in the Final Round.

The final round is viewable at St. Mary's website, here. South Texas has a story up on its website here, while Faulker has a write up here.

October 19, 2010

Stetson argues like seasoned pros at Veterans Law

As per The Ranker, Stetson University College of Law emerged victorious at this past weekend's Veterans Law Appellate Advocacy Competition. The second-annual tournament, as far as I can know, is the only one in the country sponsored by an actual court -- the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims co-hosts with the CAVC Bar Association. George Washington University Law School finished second, while Florida A&M and Thomas M. Cooley Law School enjoyed semifinal finishes.

George Washington wrote the Best Petitioner's Brief, and Florida A&M University College of Law won the corresponding Respondent's award. William Hurter from Stetson was the competition's Best Oral Advocate.

October 18, 2010

St. Mary's takes championship at Civil Rights and Liberties competition

St. Mary's University School of Law defeated last year's champion Michigan State University College of Law in the final round of the Civil Rights and Liberties Moot Court Competition, held October 8-9 at Emory University School of Law. University of Georgia School of Law and Baylor Law School were the semifinalists at fourth-annual tournament, which fielded 26 teams.

St. Mary's won the Best Brief award, while Shemanne Davis of Georgia won the preliminary rounds' Best Oralist distinction and St. Mary's Trevor Hall won the final round oralist award.

Here are the full results. Click here for a story on St. Mary's website.

October 15, 2010

William and Mary impresses at Pretrial Competition

William & Mary Law School won the third-annual National Pretrial Competition this past weekend, besting 12 other teams in a tournament that emphasizes brief writing, oral argument, and witness examination skills. Chicago-Kent College of Law (Illinois Institute of Technology) finished second for the second-straight year. Mississippi College School of Law and Texas Tech University School of Law were the semifinalists. The competition is hosted by Stetson University College of Law and co-sponsored by the Florida Bar's Young Lawyers Division.

Chapman University School of Law was awarded Best Brief, while Johanna Orleski of William & Mary won the final round's Best Advocate plaque.

This was my first time taking a team to the Pretrial Competition, and I was generally impressed. For one, it's at Stetson. If you've never been there before, the law school occupies what used to be a 1920's resort hotel, which is very cool. The competition hotel was a beach resort, so even teams that don't advance "win" (in my book, relaxing on the beach with a Pina Colada is a "win"). The competition is essentially 2/3 moot court and 1/3 mock trial. A team's score in each round consists of 300 points: 100 based on the teams' combined brief scores (each team writes both a Plaintiff and Defendant brief); 100 points based on what amounts to a moot court argument; and 100 based on what is essentially a mock trial round.

There were some hiccups at the beginning; the judges, despite what we were promised in the the coaches meeting, had no clue what they were doing. We were told that although three judges would sit in each round, only one would be on the bench (to simulate a real-life pretrial hearing) and thus only he or she would be the one asking questions during the "argument" (i.e., moot court) phase. Sure enough, all three judges hopped on the bench, and yet none of them asked a single question (despite the fact the score sheet had a specific category for "performance in answering questions"). I overheard them during a break asking each other whether they were supposed to be asking questions, and then one said that he'd start asking questions during the evidentiary phase to make up for it, even though that phase's score sheet doesn't have a section for question answering. Even before the round started, they had no idea how the hearing was supposed to proceed -- which team's motion should be taken up first, or in what in order the advocates were supposed to speak. You'd think all of that would have been covered in a pre-round judges meeting. And maybe it was, and our room just had a bunch of judges who were late and missed it. But in any event, that kind of B.S. is frustrating. Still, as the competition progressed, things got smoother.

One of the things I sorta liked about the tournament was just how little time the students had to prepare. The initial part of the problem -- from which the students drafted their briefs -- came out on August 21. Both briefs were due on September 17, and the rules prohibited teams from practicing with non-team members before that date. Even if the rules hadn't prohibited it, practicing prior to that point would have been, well, pointless, because Stetson released supplemental evidence on September 20. As in, two and a half weeks before the competition. Yeah. So the students had to prepare for a moot court AND mock trial competition in 18 days.

Although it was stressful and required daily practices, I liked that for two reasons: First, it's a better simulation of real-world practice. And second, with so little time, you didn't see too much of the over-prepared, ridiculously scripted, robotic performances you see at most trial competitions. My biggest general complaint about mock trial is that with two months (or more) to prepare, the "best" teams (i.e., teams that win) have their presentations down to this perfectly orchestrated play. They examine and cross examine witnesses without so much as a note in front of them. They walk from spot to spot in the courtroom as if a director had blocked the movements. They speak without ever uttering an "um" or an "uh." It's just too perfect, and it impresses the hell out of judges despite the fact that you a:) couldn't do that in the real world; and b) wouldn't want to do that in the real world because it looks fake and overacted.

But that's the reality of it, and if you want to win mock trial competitions, that's what you've got to do. Except at this competition, there's not enough time to get your "play" perfect, so what you see is much more real, and, I think, a better educational experience.

Anyway, here's a story on Stetson's website. Mississippi College has one here. In what I thought was sort of odd, Baylor Law School put up a story before its team left about how they were inexperienced and learning trial skills on the fly. They were sandbagging a bit -- the team's two oralists, Jessica McCarty and Travis Plummer, were national quarterfinalists at last year's ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition and finalists at this summer's Texas State Moot Court Competition.

October 14, 2010

Liberty wrestles free first-ever Entertainment Law negotiation championship

Liberty University School of Law triumphed over a field of eight teams at Southwestern Law School's inaugural Entertainment Law Negotiation Competition, held October 2-3 in Los Angeles. Texas Tech University School of Law finished second, Thomas Jefferson School of Law placed third, and Pepperdine University School of Law took fourth place.

Here is a write up from Liberty's website.

October 5, 2010

Justice Kagan asks good questions

Good story here from CBS News about new SCOTUS Justice Elena Kagan's questioning style in her first day on the big bench.

The highlights:
She hit lawyers with precise questions that weren't unduly aggressive, and she made her points. What's more, she showed why many people think she'll be a true force on the Court: She effectively drew in other the justices with her questions--asking a follow up to a question by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for example, and then striking true gold by piquing the interest of human jump ball Justice Anthony Kennedy.

When Justice Kennedy perks up and tells a lawyer, "I want to know your answer to Justice Kagan's question," that means one thing. Justice Kagan is having a Very Good Day.

Her questions were clear, concise and exactly on point. She pulled together various points other justices were making, and her demeanor was at once sincere and respectful, yet also forceful and confident.

One of the big differences between law school moot court and the real world is that the questions the panel asks can be very different in type and tone. In the real world, judges generally ask questions for two reasons: Because they have very real concerns they need addressed, or because they're trying to convince their fellow brethren of their own position. In moot court world, judges are asking questions only because they're supposed to -- the ballot would have them award points for a student's ability to answer questions, and the purpose of the questions is to test the students' knowledge of the record/caselaw and the students' ability to think on their feet. That sometimes makes for unrealistic rounds.

Barbara Kritchevsky, Professor and Director of Advocacy at the University of Memphis Cecil M. Humphreys School of Law, wrote an interesting article in 2006, titled "Judging: The Missing Piece of the Moot Court Puzzle." 37 U. Mem. L. Rev. 45 (2006). Kritchevsky essentially argues that competitions should stress upon judges to approach rounds as if they were real judges, and to ask questions that would help them understand the advocates' arguments and their implications.

October 4, 2010

Texas Tech three-peats at NLLSA

My Texas Tech team won its third-straight championship at the National Latino/a Law Student Association Moot Court Competition this past weekend. The competition, which is held as part of NLLSA's annual conference, took place at Yale Law School. As it happened, Yale finished second. UC Davis School of Law and Northwestern University School of Law were the semifinalists; UC Davis was credited as the third-place team. Fourteen teams competed.

Yale penned the Best Petitioner Brief, while Boston College Law School wrote the Best Respondent Brief. Shmyla Alam of Texas Tech won Best Advocate of the preliminary rounds as well as Best Advocate in the final round.