OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law won its second national moot court championship this year, this time in family law. The win was secured March 1 by second-year students Trey Lyons and Eric Duke at the Gabrielli National Moot Court Competition at Albany Law School in New York.
The student pair defeated a team from Seton Hall School of Law in the final round. More than 20 other schools participated, including the LSU School of Law, Florida State University School of Law, New York Law School and Wake Forest.
“The family law national championship demonstrates concretely the depth of talent we have at the law school: many students capable of top-flight advocacy,” said Matthew Hall, senior associate dean for academic affairs and faculty adviser to the moot court board. “But it also shows the institutional commitment we have made to the students; we have multiple professors dedicated to providing students with the time and expertise needed to prepare for success on the national stage.”
For the competition, the students argue unresolved issues in family law by submitting a brief and through oral arguments the weekend of the competition.
Two preliminary rounds proceeded eliminations, and the 16 teams with the highest scores (50 percent brief and 50 percent oral argument) advanced. Scoring for the semifinals was based on 90 percent judges’ score and 10 percent brief score, and the finals were based solely upon the judges’ votes.
“We knew we had to beat them (Seton Hall) flat-out in oral argument,” Lyons said. “These judges and justices who judged the competition actually wrote the opinions of these cases. They were the absolute best captive audience you could hope for.”
The students were coached by Sam Davis, professor of law and Jamie L. Whitten chair of law and government. A handful of others helped the team, including Hall; Debbie Bell, associate dean for clinical programs; Jack Nowlin, associate dean for faculty development; and Scott DeLeve, public services law librarian. Rhodes Berry, the Moot Court Board’s appellate advocacy chair and a third-year student, also helped and accompanied the team to New York.
“I am extremely proud of them,” Davis said. “Rhodes deserves much of the credit because of his hard work, as well as the faculty members who did practice rounds.”
The competition honors the late Associate Judge Domenick L. Gabrielli of the New York State Court of Appeals, who supported moot court advocacy for many years.
“I know the single most important thing to take away from this is the way I present myself in the courtroom,” said Lyons, of Mooreville. “Dean Hall told us the best way you can ever win is by a hair’s worth of difference, not by being a bulldog. I learned he’s absolutely right.”
The School of Law’s Environmental Law Moot Court team also won its third national championship in four years this year at the Pace Environmental Law Moot Court Competition in White Plains, N.Y.