January 22, 2020
SVSU moot court finishes 'best year' in program's well-decorated history
The hard work and dedication of Saginaw Valley State University students culminated in the “best year ever” for the institution’s esteemed moot court program — ranked No. 17 in the U.S. — during the group’s national tournament over the weekend.
Six SVSU students were among the 160 individuals who qualified to compete in the American Moot Court Association national tournament Jan. 17-18 at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The group collected the highest number of accolades in the program’s 10-year history at the nationals, including a fourth-place finish in one of the competition’s categories.
"This was our best year ever,” said Julie Keil, the program’s co-adviser and an associate professor of political science.
Acting as teams of two attorneys, students competing in the moot court tournament are tasked with arguing both sides of hypothetical legal cases based on real-life courtroom battles. The competition was 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.
The team of SVSU students Lindsey Mead and Justin Weller earned a fourth-place finish in the category of appellate brief writing at the national tournament. The contest involved students writing and submitting appellate briefs without the assistance of advisers.
“Justin Weller spent hours polishing the brief and formatting it to the exacting standards of the competition,” Keil said. “His hard work paid off.”
Mead also earned high praise in one of the competitions that honors individual students. She earned a 17th-place finish in the oration category, which recognizes students’ verbal argument abilities. It marked the second time she placed among the nation’s top 20 in the category at the nationals.
In the overall competition, the duo advanced deeper into the tournament than their SVSU peers. They eventually were eliminated in the round of 49.
The weekend tournament marked the third consecutive year Mead qualified for the nationals. No other students in SVSU’s moot court history had qualified more than twice. Among the few in program history who qualified twice was Weller, who served as Mead’s partner in 2019 as well.
All six SVSU students in the 2020 tournament contributed to the moot court program’s collection of accolades. In the nationals, competitors advance deeper into the tournament rounds by earning ballots, which are awarded by judges. Participants can earn up to two ballots per round. Mead and Weller received four ballots while the other two SVSU teams earned two ballots each. The eight ballots collected marks the highest total earned by SVSU in 10 consecutive appearances at the nationals.
Mead is an English major from Saginaw. Weller is a political science major from Bay City.
The other SVSU teams featured students Justine Brabaw and Erik Byron; and Ashley French and Joshua High.
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.
Keil gave credit to the team’s co-adviser Amy Hendrickson and supporting coaches that include SVSU moot court alumni as well as Robert Dunn, a Bay City attorney who volunteered to help the program. Hendrickson is an SVSU associate professor of law.
“All of our coaches contributed to the success of the teams,” Keil said.
The American Moot Court Association will release its latest rankings later this winter, she said. Keil is hopeful the program’s performance in the nationals will keep SVSU ranked high among the competition. The rankings are calculated based upon each program’s performance in the national championship over a three-year period. SVSU’s record number of ballots collected this year could lift the program’s status as the No. 17-ranked team, depending on how other universities shift within the rankings.