Through determination and hard work, Saginaw Valley State University’s top-ranked moot court program will continue its decade-long streak sending competitors to a national championship.
After an impressive performance at a tournament in Cleveland last weekend, four students already have qualified for the American Moot Court Association national competition in Baton Rouge in January. An SVSU-hosted regional contest next weekend could result in even more students qualifying.
Acting as teams of two attorneys, students competing in moot court tournaments are tasked with arguing both sides of hypothetical legal cases based on real-life courtroom battles. The competition is judged based on the clarity of the students' argument, their public speaking skills, their ability to answer questions, and how well they know the law and the case.
SVSU’s moot court program placed second and fourth during a regional tournament hosted at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law from Nov. 15-16. The strong showing resulted in national tournament qualifications by four students from two SVSU teams: The pairings of Ashley French and Joshua High as well as Justine Brabaw and Erik Byron.
"SVSU moot court students excel in this competition because of the incredible amount of hard work they put into preparing for the competition,” said Julie Keil, the SVSU associate professor of political science who serves as the team’s co-adviser.
“All four of these students met weekly over the summer and did a three-day camp to help prepare them for the competition. They're talented, but success comes from hard work and commitment — not just talent."
The Cleveland tournament marked the first time two SVSU moot court teams were among the teams in a tournament’s semifinal round.
Two SVSU students also placed in the top 10 in the tournament’s individual competition for the orator’s award: Brabaw received eighth place and Byron earned tenth place.
French is a political science major from Bay City. High is an accounting major from Traverse City. Brabaw is a political science major from Breckenridge. Byron is a political science major from Birch Run.
SVSU will host the American Moot Court Association's Great Lakes Regional tournament this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22-23, when 36 teams from the Midwest will compete. SVSU will be represented by six teams there.
The outcome could result in SVSU sending more students to the 80-team national tournament scheduled Jan. 17-18 at Southern University Law Center.
SVSU’s moot court program is ranked No. 17 nationally by the American Moot Court Association in part because of the university’s long tradition of representation at the final tournament. At least one SVSU team has qualified for the nationals each year since the moot court team was established in 2010.
The program was founded by Keil. She is assisted by co-adviser Amy Hendrickson, associate professor of law, along with alumni of the program.