Minnesota Law

Summer 2022

Minnesota Law’s Moot Court Program Had a Banner Year

A history-making win in the Thurgood Marshall Memorial Moot Court Competition capped off a highly succesful season for the Law School

The exceptional performance of multiple Minnesota Law moot court competition teams led to an unprecedented year at the University of Minnesota Law School.

“The Law School’s strategic investment in moot courts, combined with the hard work and dedication of students and their coaches, paid off in so many ways,” says Randall Ryder '09, assistant professor of appellate advocacy and director of Law in Practice. “Our moot court students develop advanced advocacy skills that allow them to excel as new lawyers and throughout their legal careers.”

At the conclusion of this auspicious moot court competition year—which included winning for the first time ever the Thurgood Marshall Memorial Moot Court Competition--the Law School learned that it was ranked 18th overall in a collective ranking system that measures the school's overall performance at competitions. This is the first time the Law School has cracked the top 20.

“The results from this year continue to demonstrate Minnesota Law’s tradition of excellence in national moot court competitions,” says Prof. Mitch Zamoff, assistant dean of experiential education and professor. “Their accomplishments exemplify our emphasis on students’ developing practical legal skills that will serve them well in practice.” 

The Thurgood Marshall Memorial Moot Court Competition, which is organized by the Federal Bar Association, featured 40 teams from law schools from around the country. Hannah McDonald, 2L, and Hannah Fereshtehkhou, 3L, emerged on top in the final round of the team competition, with McDonald also winning best oralist.

“Participating in the competition was an exciting and fulfilling experience,” says McDonald. “By requiring me to argue both sides equally, moot court taught me how to think through my argument and come up with defensive counterarguments in a way that legal writing did not. Even as an aspiring transactional lawyer, I found this exercise to be a great way to open my mind to a new way of thinking so that I can foresee future problems and arguments before they even arise.”

Hannah McDonald, 2L
Photo: Tony Nelson
"I found this exercise to be a great way to open my mind to a new way of thinking so that I can foresee future problems and arguments before they even arise."
Hannah McDonald, 2L

Minnesota Law’s vibrant moot court program gives students the tools to excel in interschool competition. The Law School boasts four different moot court courses, with Civil Rights/Civil Liberties (CRCL) Moot Court serving as the flagship course. Competitors in the CRCL best oralist tournament argue in front of practicing attorneys and judges, with the final round typically judged by Minnesota Supreme Court justices.

This year’s CRCL winner, Anika Reza, 2L, says the competition allowed her to develop oral advocacy skills. “It was a unique chance to be able to practice litigating in front of and get feedback from experienced attorneys and Supreme Court justices,” she explains.

Students' exposure to practical skills training starts in the 1L year with the Law School's innovative Law in Practice program

Minnesota Law, which also boasts 25+ law clinics and numerous fellowship and externship programs, was last spring recognized as a top 10 school for practical skills training by PreLaw magazine.

2021-22 Moot Court Successes at Glance

In addition to the unprecedented first place finish in the Thurgood Marshall Memorial Moot Court Competition, Minnesota Law moot court teams piled up numerous other successes this year, including the following:

  • William E. McGee Civil Rights Moot Court Competition

Two teams of Law School students performed exceptionally well at the 2022-23 William E. McGee Civil Rights Moot Court Competition. The team of Tim Miles, 3L, Lauren O'Donnell, 3L, and Edmund Pine, 3L, advanced to the quarterfinals. Miles won best oral advocate through quarterfinals round for the second consecutive year. The team of Mia Branca, 3L, Paige Haller, 3L, and Erik Thorsheim, 2L, won best brief. 

  • Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition

In the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, the world’s largest moot court competition, Minnesota Law’s team scored a stellar fourth place ranking for their briefs. The team included 3Ls Laura Burns, Sarani Millican, Katie Smith, and Shimin Zhong, and 2L Kenneth Cooper. Three Law School alums who also participated in the Jessup Competition as students coached the team: Anne Sexton ’12, who recently joined MNsure as senior staff attorney; Kelsey Kelley ’13, assistant Anoka County attorney; and Becky Bradish ’20, who recently served as a Steele County public defender.

  • ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition

At the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition, one of the largest and most challenging moot court competitions in the country, the team of Alex Screaton, 2L, Hayley Steele, 2L, and Steven Vogel, 2L, advanced to the quarterfinal round at the regional competition, coached by two Law School alums: Chad Pennington ’15, deputy federal defender in the Central District of California, and Kyle Kroll ’16, an attorney at Winthrop & Weinstine.

  • National Energy and Sustainability Moot Court Competition

The team of Christopher CernyEden Faure, and John Schwieters, all 3Ls, advanced to the final round in the 2021-22 National Energy and Sustainability Moot Court Competition. Two attorneys with considerable environmental law and appellate experience coached the team: Rachel Kitze Collins ’14, an attorney at Lockridge Grindal Nauen, and Emily Polachek, an assistant attorney and environmental crimes coordinator at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis. In addition, the team of Brandon Crawford, 3L, Hannah Ebersole, 3L, and Melissa Watton, 2L, advanced to the quarterfinals. 

“The problems in these competitions tend to be very complex and involve technical aspects of environmental and administrative law that few practitioners have experience litigating,” the coaches said. “We were incredibly impressed how hard the students worked both in class and on their own to master the issues and prepare for their arguments, and the work paid off with both teams advancing to the knock-out rounds against some other strong teams.”  

  • Other National Competitions 

Minnesota Law students also put in strong performances in three other national competitions: the National Online Moot Court Competition, National Moot Court, and the Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition.

In the online competition, three standout students completed eight arguments over three days to advance to the quarterfinal round. Alexandria Yakes, 3L, earned high scores during each of her arguments, and Kate Seivert, 2L, earned a perfect score of “100” during one of her arguments. Steven Vincent, 2L, was a consistent advocate, arguing in each of the eight arguments.

Six 3L students—Emily Doyle, Zoe Psiakis, and Elena Modl, Annika Cushnyr, Mara Sybesma, and Sophia Nocera—competed in the National Moot Court competition, coached by Andrew Leiendecker ’17, Kelsey Fuller ‘17, and Kelly Nizzari ’19.

Two 3L students, Riley Ji and Sara Jane Koste, competed in the Duberstein Competition in New York City, coached by Steve Kinsella, ’11, and Chris Wilcox ‘11.