By Professor Paul Spiegelman
The team of Yvonne Ruiz and Jacqueline Palacios, won the award for best brief at USD’s National Criminal Procedure Tournament held in San Diego on November 7th through 10th. Yvonne and Jackie, ably coached by CJ Akselrad also advanced out of the grueling four-session preliminary oral argument rounds and got all the way to the quarter finals before getting knocked out. Together, they bested every team in a prestigious field which included top teams from all over the country, including, Fordham, South Texas College of Law, Pepperdine, and UCLA.
The best brief award was particularly gratifying because both Yvonne and Jackie are products of Moot Court’s Advanced Appellate Advocacy Workshop which we instituted for new members four years ago. In the program, students attend online workshops in the summer focusing on skills that make their briefs effective. As part of the program, all of our students take four pledges: (1) I will never use words or phrases I do not understand; (2) I will always explain why a similarity or difference in an analogy or distinction argument would have mattered to the court which wrote the opinion I am discussing; (3) I will put a roadmap near the beginning of my argument; (4) I will try to make every section of the brief count by using that section to enhance the argument for my client. In addition, Yvonne took advantage of our upper level writing option and revised her Bankruptcy Law brief from last year under Professor Spiegelman’s mentorship and was a student in Professor Spiegelman’s Pretrial Preparation Course this past summer in which analytical skills in brief writing were emphasized. Yvonne and Jackie were also a formidable team in oral advocacy. Yvonne was an immovable advocate in support of her client; in one round, representing the government in a case where a policewoman had entered a home to determine the source of a water leak and found evidence that the resident was part of a human trafficking operation, she literally overpowered the bench with the force of her postions and one of the judges on the panel was a sitting Superior Court judge. Jackie is a consummate performer, advocating for her clients with smooth, engaging style that is at once persuasive and easy to listen to. Also performing well in the same competition were Paul Hefley and Elizabeth Atkins. Both teams in this competition were aided in oral argument practices by faculty and alumni, including Professors Wildenthal, Semeraro, Cohen, and Kreit and the following alumni: Assistant DA Ben Barlow; defense attorney, Jay Temple; Deputy Attorney General, Donald Ostertag; and post-bar District Attorney clerk Meghan Buckner. This was a busy weekend for the Moot Court team. We also competed in the National Moot Court Competition Regional Competition at Southwestern Law School. The teams of Kimberly Roth, Matt Monaco and Rodney Eales and of Tomi Adeleke, Kelly Mourning, and Pamela Rivera both represented TJSL well, but did not advance in the competition. The teams were greatly aided in their preparation by faculty members, Kenneth Vandevelde, Marybeth Herald, Bryan Wildenthal and Chris Gruzelian and alumna Meghan Buckner. Jon Stahler, Kelsi Pilcher and Jackie Nicolas competed at the Pepperdine Entertainment Law Competition. They were greatly aided by faculty critiques from Jeff Slattery, Devon Desai, and local practicing attorneys, Thomas Goode and Bryan Gannon.