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Judges Rule: Gould Students Poised and Prepared

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Moot court finalists shine in annual competition

By Erin Bailey

Professor Rebecca Lonergan and Dean Andrew Guzman flank the Honorable Stephen Higginson, the Honorable Carlos Moreno and the Honorable Stephen Taylor.

Every year the Hale Moot Court Honors Program Final proves to be one of USC Gould’s most exciting events with bright and ambitious students competing in front of an elite panel of judges. This year’s competition was no exception. 

Professor Rebecca Lonergan, the faculty adviser for the Moot Court program said, “Every year, I am amazed at how well our students perform.  They know the facts.  They know the law.  And they are so poised and persuasive under pressure.  This year’s finalists were some of the best I’ve seen—better than most experienced practitioners.  They have incredibly bright futures ahead of them as lawyers.” 

The finals are the culmination of more than a year’s worth of hard work.  At the end of their first-year legal writing classes, every JD student must write an appellate brief and present an oral argument. If a student wants to apply to be a part of the moot court program, he or she must then present the same oral argument before a panel of the last year’s moot court participants. Based on how well they did on both their appellate briefs and their oral arguments, 40 students are chosen to participate in the Hale Moot Court Honors Program as second years. During the fall of their second year, all the moot court participants receive a competition case, which raises two complex legal issues. They attend a series of seminars discussing those legal issues and advanced writing techniques. Then, they must independently research their issues and write a 25-page persuasive, appellate brief. 
 
During the spring semester, they begin presenting their oral arguments before panels of experienced practitioners, faculty, and judges. Sixteen are chosen to advance to the quarterfinals.  Then, eight of the 16 are chosen to advance to the semifinals, and eventually, four are chosen for the Final Round. This year’s finalists—Alexandra Jackson, Steven Eheart, Alexandra Highsmith, and Alyssa Moscrop—competed on March 9 in USC's Norris Theater.
 
Dean Andrew Guzman opened the event with a warm welcome and an expression of gratitude for this year’s judges: The Hon. Stephen A. Higginson, Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, The Hon.Carlos R. Moreno, Justice (Ret.) of the Supreme Court of California and The Hon. Stephen W. Taylor, Chief Justice (Ret.) of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma.
 
The finalists presenting their oral arguments to the panel of judges. 
Guzman explained how the Hale Moot Court Final Round is an event the law school anticipates all year. “Each spring, I have this tremendous feeling of pride seeing the quality of the work that is being done following the advocacy that we see. Congratulations to all the student participants and congratulations to the Executive Board who put it all together,” said Guzman. “I have no doubt that for each of you, there was a lot learned, and I hope that you enjoyed it. It is one of those experiences at law school that people carry with them for a long time.”
 
After the court was called to order, the four finalists began presenting their oral arguments. The judges did not go easy on them and interjected with tough questions, challenging their positions and arguments. However, the students did not falter and responded to the judges’ critiques with confident and thoughtful responses.
 
After a long deliberation, the judges announced that Alyssa Moscrop had come out victorious in first-place, with Alexandra Jackson the runner-up. Yet, the judges were clear that it had been very difficult for them to select a winner, as all of the arguments were very impressive.
 
 “What an honor to have presided over the argument this afternoon. It was not an easy case, but all of you did a commendable job representing your clients. You were poised and well-prepared. I foresee a very prominent and successful future for each and every one of you. You knew the case, knew the record, were very responsive to our questions and showed able thinking on your feet,” said Judge Moreno. 
Moot Court champion Alyssa Mocrop and runner-up Alexandra Jackson pose with the judges.
 
Judge Taylor had wise advice for the students: “You all have great futures ahead of you, but always keep in mind to learn to love justice more than you love victory.” 
 
After it was all over, Alyssa Moscrop felt that the experience was incredibly validating. “I have no doubt it will give me confidence as I pursue a career in litigation and seek to advocate strongly on behalf of future clients,” Moscrop said. 
 
Find out more about the Hale Moot Honors Program.

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