Students hash it out in national moot court competition
Senior political science major Ryan Chapman spent more than eight months preparing for the 2013 American Collegiate Moot Court Association national championships but still found himself shaking as he stepped up on stage.
“I am always very nervous no matter how many times I’ve competed,” Chapman said. “But when you stand at the podium, everything comes into focus.”
CSULB took three two-person teams and one “hybrid” team to the American Collegiate Moot Court Association national championships in Virginia on Friday and Saturday. Overall, the CSULB moot court team finished within the top ten out of 80 schools in multiple contests.
Moot court is the simulation of appellate argument, in which two-person teams compete in front of a panel of judges as they argue a mock legal case. Competitors from more than 80 schools across the nation were judged on their demeanor, technique and the fluidity of their arguments.
CSULB’s team consisted of senior political science major Yasmin Manners and Chapman, who together took home the title of second best in the nation for the national brief writing contest for written advocacy. The team also placed ninth and 10th in the nation for the National Orator competition.
CSULB competed in three categories during the tournament: individual advocacy, team advocacy and written advocacy. In addition to gaining multiple acknowledgements, students from CSULB won eight individual orator awards for the season and maintained their place as one of the top 15 teams for the third consecutive year.
“The caliber of the teams that are competing gets better every year, and I was nervous, but I just wanted to make Dr. Ringel proud,” Manners said.
Both Chapman and Manners have been mooters for two years, and each have competed in two national championship competitions.
Manners said that she and her teammate, Chapman, were flabbergasted when their names during the awards banquet.
“Last year, we weren’t even an honorable mention,” Manners said.
With past competition results as evidence, the Moot Court team has been steadily improving over the past seven years since political science professor Lewis Ringel became the coach. For the past six years, CSULB has advanced to the elimination rounds at nationals, and CSULB has had three teams in the top 30 for the second year in a row, Ringel said.
Ringel said he was proud of his team for defeating the many other “well-coached, very experienced teams” that competed in nationals in Virginia this year.
Manners said that the CSULB mooters have been preparing for the 2013 national moot court championships since May. The team begins by reviewing court cases to familiarize themselves with abstract concepts and then by simulating debates, according to Manners and Chapman. By January, each competitor has their arguments memorized, a tactic that CSULB mooters flaunt as their personal style, according to Manners.
According to Chapman, repetition is key; he said the team would come to campus repeatedly in their dress suits, studying facts as well as court cases and fortifying their knowledge.
“I think Ringel has a really good style, having us do it without notes,” Manners said. “It sets us apart from other teams … The whole point of appellate advocacy is to have a sort of conversation with the judges.”
Ringel said that he equates his coaching technique to a basketball coach.
“We try to teach them a certain style that we emphasize and show to the judges,” he said.
Ringel said he has worked closely with appellate justices and attorneys to develop the style that he says the mooters have absorbed successfully.
The goal of this specific coaching technique is intended to prepare them for the competition in law school, Ringel said. According to Ringel, many mooters who have graduated from CSULB and moved onto law school are top competitors in their respective competitions.
Ringel said he attributes much of the teams’ success to the three assistant coaches, who he says paid their own fares to Virginia to support the mooters.
“They are dedicated people who put a lot of time in,” Ringel said.
Although the students said that they admire Ringel as a brilliant coach, he said the glory should belong to them.