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At 70, Moot Court Offers High Drama

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

This year's competition marked the 70th anniversary of the honors program

By Anne Bergman
 
It might simulate a Supreme Court hearing, but for USC Gould School of Law students who are finalists in the annual
Madeleine Eldred won the 70th annual Hale Moot Court competition.
 Hale Moot Court Honors Program competition, the proceedings feel all too real. Pelted with rapid-fire questions from a panel of prominent judges, they must stay poised while quickly formulating their responses.  
 
The 2019 competition’s drama was even more heightened this spring, with the program celebrating its 70th anniversary. 
 
Presiding over the March 9 finals, were the Hon. Michael L. Douglas from the Supreme Court of Nevada; the Hon. Jerome A. Holmes, from the Tenth Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals, and the Hon. Richard A. Paez from the Ninth Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals. 
 
The final round was the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work for the “final four” students — Nnola Amuzie, Madeleine Eldred, Adam Korn, and Joshua Stillman. Since 1948, the student-run honors program has offered invaluable experience to students who draft their own appellate briefs, and then engage in oral arguments before judges and practicing attorneys.
 
“I commend you on the personal investment of time, energy and effort you’ve made,” Dean Andrew Guzman said as
The lively back-and-forth between the panel of three judges and the finalists entertained the audience.
he introduced the proceedings. “It is no small feat to balance these demands with your rigorous academic work.”
 
After the bailiff called the court to order, the finalists began presenting their arguments: Korn and Stillman arguing for the Petitioner, while Nnola Amuzie and Madeleine Eldred arguing for the Respondent. 
 
The lively back-and-forth between the panel of three judges and the finalists entertained the audience, which included the finalists’ proud families and a group of students from Cabrillo High School in Long Beach, who were guests of the USC Gould Admissions office.
 
Earning High Acclaim from the Bench
 
Once the arguments were finished, the tension built as the judges adjourned to consult together and determine the top two finalists.
 
Upon their return, each judge provided feedback to the finalists.
 
Judge Holmes praised the finalists for their “receptivity to questions and willingness to engage, which is an incredibly important aspect of oral advocacy,” he said. “You stood your ground on questions meant to push you and challenge you.”
 
Judge Paez echoed Holmes, adding that, “We see a lot of advocates in court. People often ask if argument makes a difference, but there’s something about advocacy that is useful and helpful to the deliberating process. What we saw today demonstrates how that is so. I thought all of you did well. Maybe someday I’ll see you at the Ninth Circuit.”
 
“Hats off to Dean Guzman, your professors and all of the participants,” said Judge Douglas. “You were prepared, and you demonstrated knowledge of the law. All three of us felt that there were only winners today.”
 
The judges then announced that Eldred had won the Edward G. Lewis Prize, which goes to the competition’s champion, and that Korn earned the runner-up slot. Three cash prizes, given to the runner-up and the two other finalists, are presented each year in honor of Judge E. Avery Crary, JD ’29, who served with distinction on both the Los Angeles Superior Court and the U.S. District Court.
 
Day-Long Finals, Lifelong Lessons
 
After the competition, the finalists, their families and the judges gathered together with Hale Moot Court alumni to celebrate the 70th anniversary. 
 
Dean Guzman told the celebrants that the Moot Court competition “brings prestige upon both the school and those
Justice Douglas chats with 2018 Moot Court champion Alyssa Moscrop and Prof. Rebecca Lonergan, the program's faculty advisor.
who take part in it — as every alum and practitioner here can easily attest to.” 
 
Prof. Rebecca Lonergan, associate director of Gould’s Legal Writing and Advocacy Program; and faculty advisor to the Moot Court Honors Program and the National Moot Court Team, said that she was “incredibly proud” of the finalists. Lonergan added that the experiential learning experience of Moot Court allows her students to “take the training wheels off, dive into complex issues without much guidance and then get up in front of an intimidating panel of judges and make their arguments.”
 
Alyssa Moscrop JD ’19, who chairs the Moot Court Executive Board and was last year’s winner, said the experience of competing and working with her classmates on the program was “invaluable because I got to interact with my peers in a new way. This experience gives me confidence that I will bring value to a case.”
 
Finally, Liz Atlee JD ’93, who is vice president and assistant general counsel of Global Litigation in CBRE’s legal department; and was the 1992 Moot Court champion, offered some insights into how Moot Court has impacted her career.
 
“Moot Court helped me learn how to be self-aware and to think on my feet,” she said, noting that the experience helped her understand the importance of maintaining a professional demeanor, or what she called “executive presence.”
 
“I walk into the C-Suite with confidence because of Moot Court,” she said.

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