OXFORD, Miss. –Mary Margaret Roark and John Juricich, both third-year students in the University of Mississippi School of Law, have won this year’s Jeffrey G. Miller Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition, held Feb. 18-20 at Pace Law School in White Plains, New York.
The win marks the second consecutive national title for the pair and the third straight for the law school.
In addition, the win means the Ole Miss law school has claimed five of the last six Pace competitions. It’s also the school’s 12th national or world advocacy title since 2011.
“Having two second-year students win a competition like Pace and then return to win the competition again as third-year students is absolutely amazing,” said David Case, UM professor of law and team coach. “I’m pretty sure that has never happened in the 28-year history of the Pace competition.”
Roark, of Cleveland, and Juricich, of Anniston, Alabama, competed against more than 50 law schools from around the country, beating the University of Alabama and University of Houston in the final round. The team won the Best Brief – Petitioner (Save Our Climate) award and Juricich was awarded runner-up Best Oralist for the competition.
The Pace competition is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the country. It provides a rigorous academic experience, testing skills in appellate brief writing and oral advocacy, involving issues drawn from real cases, and providing first-hand experience in environmental litigation.
“This year, there were six issues to argue for three different parties, and more teams were going noteless,” Roark said. “The teams were definitely better in terms of performance.”
Overall, the competition requires intense preparation, including researching and analyzing challenging legal environmental issues, writing persuasive arguments about how the issues should be resolved, arguing the issues orally and having their performances evaluated and critiqued by practicing attorneys at the competition.
The Ole Miss team began writing its brief in October. After filing it in November, they began practicing oral arguments intensely with their coaches.
“We prepared the same, but we were more relaxed because we knew what it took to achieve the end result,” Juricich explained. “We were able to more efficiently use our time.”
Judging this year’s championship round were Steven M. Colloton, a judge on U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit; Lynn Adelman, judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin; Malachy E. Mannion, judge on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and Beth Ward, judge on the Environmental Appeals Board for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Stephanie Showalter Otts, UM professor of law and also an expert in environmental law, helped Case coach the team.
A benefit to participating in a competition of this nature is the payoff it provides students after graduation. Both students said it helped them find their niche.
“It helped me find a joy and thrill in litigation,” Juricich said.
“I started off not having any interest in environmental law, but I grew to love it,” Roark said. “It’s made me want to pursue a career in environmental law, in regulatory administrative work.
“I’ve learned how to tackle issues I might know nothing about, meet deadlines and have picked up certain writing skills I would not have had.”
For more information on the Pace competition, visit the school’s website.