LawCats Shine in 2023–24 Legal Skills Competitions: Highlights and Achievements

May 29, 2024
ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition

ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition teams, Allison Weber (3L), Alex Hale (3L), Donya Airola (3L), Lauren Rhoades (3L), Hannah Hays (3L) and Matt Lubisich (2L) in New York for the Brooklyn Regional of the National Appellate Advocacy Competition.

Each year, students at University of Arizona Law compete in local, regional and national moot court and mock trial competitions, giving them the opportunity to put their advocacy skills to the test beyond the classroom. Check out the highlights from this year’s competitions.   

ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition 

Hannah Hays (3L), Matt Lubisich (2L), and Allison Weber (3L) and Donya Airola (3L), Alex Hale (3L), and Lauren Rhoades (3L) traveled to New York for the Brooklyn Regional of the National Appellate Advocacy Competition, hosted by the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division. Both teams, coached by Director of Legal Writing and Clinical Professor of Law Susie Salmon, made it to the “sweet sixteen” semifinal round of the regional. Hays, Lubisich and Weber’s team placed second for their brief. 

Administered by the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division, the National Appellate Advocacy Competition is one of the most competitive moot court competitions in the country, drawing almost 200 teams from across the country who compete in six regional oral argument rounds. Teams draft briefs and present oral arguments in a simulated case before the United States Supreme Court.  

Barry Davis National Trial Team  

This year, the Barry Davis National Trial Team competed in three competitions. 

In the fall, a team of Andrew Wallace (3L), Zach Schimke (3L), Brianna Perez (2L), and Haley Todd Newsome (2L) competed in The Premier, hosted by University of California, Los Angeles. The team earned an honorable mention at the competition with four wins. 

In the spring, the team competed in the first ever Online National Championship Tournament. This Zoom-based trial competition consisted of teams of two students. The Barry Davis National Trial Team sent two teams consisting of Natalia Erickson (2L), Kendal Johnson (3L), Hayden Young (2L), and Joanna Galons (2L). While the teams had a strong performance, they unfortunately did not advance to the final rounds. Special thanks to Rachel Romaniuk (’22), Jackie Kafka (’16), Meaghan Karmer (’11), and Joseph Ricks for assisting in coaching these teams. 

The premier event for the Barry Davis National Trial Team was the National Trial Competition Regional Tournament. The University of Arizona fielded two teams consisting of Andrew Wallace (3L), Zach Schimke (3L), Brianna Perez (2L), Jade DuBroy (3L), Lydia Nelson (3L), and Caroline Hilgert (2L). While the teams’ performance was stellar, they suffered some narrow losses and did not advance to the national tournament. Special thanks to Clarissa Todd (’22) for assisting in coaching this team. 

During the 2023–24 academic year, more students than ever before competed in a trial competition. Many of the students on the Barry Davis Team competed in their first ever mock trial tournaments this year. They frequently competed against students who already had competed numerous times a year over their law school careers. Despite coming in with less experience, students from the Barry Davis Team won many of their trials, and suffered only narrow losses when they did not win. 

The Barry Davis National Trial Team head coaches are Brian Chase (’11) and Travis McGivern. 

Giles S. Rich Moot Court Competition  

The Giles Sutherland Rich Moot Court Competition presents problems directed to patent law and related litigation issues. This year, Bella Urban (2L), Brandon Hunt (2L), and alternate Matthew Tran (2L) represented the University of Arizona. Urban and Hunt made it to the Southern Region semifinals and won the award for best appellee brief. The team was coached by Paige Scalf (’21). 

Jeffrey G. Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition (NELMCC) 

Jake Collier (3L), Taylor Macy (3L), and Sana Mohammed (2L) represented University of Arizona Law in the first in-person NELMCC since 2020 and were among the 27 teams that successfully advanced to the quarterfinals. The team, coached by Professor Joy Herr-Cardillo, also won the David Sive Award for Best Brief Overall.  

The team enjoyed excellent preparation and advice from Legal Writing Professors Bryan Schwartz and Sylvia Lett, Environmental Law Professor Stephane Stern, and former team members Ashley Caballero-Daltrey (’20), Will Fortna, Marley Grosskopf (’23), Jacob Marsh (’23), Julie Pack, and Ezekiel Peterson (’21). 

Joseph Jenckes Competition  

The annual Joseph Jenckes Competition is a closing arguments competition between students from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University (ASU). Each law school selects two students as their team. This year, the competition was held in November at the University of Arizona. Dylan Tully (2L) and Andrew Wallace (3L) represented the University of Arizona and unfortunately were defeated by ASU.  

The judges of the competition are the Arizona members of the American College of Trial Lawyers, an honorary society of trial lawyers whose membership is limited to 1% of the practicing bar. Being selected to membership is a significant honor, and the College’s membership includes the most prominent trial lawyers in Arizona.  

The Joseph Jenckes Competition has been held for over 50 years. It is sponsored by the American College of Trial Lawyers and is held every year at one of the colleges. 

Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition 

The College sent Becca Bain (2L), Jade DuBroy (3L), John Finlay (2L), Brielle Hadley (2L), and Otis Schmidt (2L) to the Western Regional Round of this year’s Philip Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition in Portland, Oregon. Caleb Lynch (2L) served as team advisor and alternate, and the team was capably coached by Professor of Practice Shirley Spira. Although the team did not advance, the students performed well in a large and competitive field. 

Jessup is the world’s largest moot court competition, fielding teams from over 700 schools across the globe. Teams of law students prepare memorials and present arguments before a simulated International Court of Justice, addressing contemporary issues of public international law relating to a fictionalized dispute between nations. 

National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition

Two Native and Indigenous Law Students Association (NILSA) teams that competed in the National Native American Law Students Association (NNALSA) Moot Court Competition.

University of Arizona Law's NILSA chapter sent two teams consisting of Kaylee Sharp Bauer (2L) and Shania Kee (3L) and Cassidy Guerro (3L) and Kandace Littlefoot (3L). Bauer won second place for best oralist. 

The final round of NNALSA moot court judges included IPLP Professor Heather Whiteman Runs Him and IPLP alumni Eldena Bear Don’t Walk and Shane Morigeau.

A special thanks to Professor Pilar Thomas for coaching this year’s moot court teams.

Richard Grand Closing Argument Competition 

The Richard Grand Closing Argument Competition is an internal competition established in 1995 by the late Richard Grand (’58), a Tucson-area plaintiffs’ attorney.  

He conceived the idea of a competition which would emphasize jury arguments focusing on damages. Five finalists are selected from a preliminary round and then compete in a final round often judged by alumni who have previously won the competition. This year’s finalists included: 

1st place ($3,500 prize) — Caroline Hilgert (3L) 
2nd place ($2,500 prize) — Zack Schimke (3L) 
3rd place ($2,000 prize) — Lydia Nelson (3L) 
4th place ($1,500 prize each) — Jade DuBroy (3L) and Andrew Wallace (3L) 

Samuel M. Fegtly Moot Court Competition 

In April, the final round of the Samuel M. Fegtly Intramural Moot Court Competition was held at University of Arizona Law. This internal moot-court competition, which allows 2L and 3L students to argue an appellate case, has been funded by alum J. Scott Burns (’76) in honor of his father, F. Britton Burns (’41), since 1985.  

This year, students Matthew Lubisich (2L) and Sare Ferini (2L) argued in the final round. Lubisich won the F. Britton Burns Award for best oral argument, Suzanne Rabe Award for best brief and the Samuel M. Fegtly Award for the best combined score in the preliminary rounds.  

Congratulations to all the participants and thank you to the Burns family for their continued support. Thank you also to the many alumni and local attorneys who helped judge the preliminary rounds.  

Wayne State Taft Transactional Moot Court Competition 

This March, University of Arizona Law students Orelvis Dominguez (2L) and Shreyas Kafle (3L), attended the Wayne State Taft Transactional Moot Court competition in Birmingham, Michigan. This is a relatively new competition where students draft and mark up letters of intent (LOI) and later negotiate a complex acquisition. After exchanging the draft LOIs, the teams negotiate in front of a panel of judges who provide each team with individualized feedback.