By Samantha Morales 3L
The dedicated members of the Moot Court Honor Society spent their first weekend back in school competing in a two part intra-team competition on Saturday, August 24 at TJSL. The competition was facilitated by the Moot Court Honor Society Executive Board: Chair, Paul Hefley (3L); Vice-Chair, Kimberly Roth (3L); Competition Coordinator, Rodney Eales (3L); Administrative Coordinator, Shantelee Christie (3L); and Legal Community Liasion, Yvonne Ruiz (3L).
“It’ s important to give new members a competitive experience before actually competing in an out of school competition that represents the school and works to bring the members closer together as they all share in the experience,” said Eales.
“It also allows the society to prepare our new members for this year's competitions by making them become self-sufficient in the brief writing process,” explained Ruiz.
Current moot court members mentored and guided new members over the summer during the brief writing phase. The oral argument phase gave competitors a chance to argue both sides as petitioner and respondent. The case involved an uncooperative defendant in a murder trial whose attorney pursued a strategy of admitting the crime during the guilt phase of the trial in an effort to gain credibility and sympathy in the penalty phase to avoid a death sentence. The issues were whether this strategy is ineffective assistance of counsel when pursued without the explicit approval of the client and whether such ineffectiveness is reversible per se or requires a showing of actual prejudice.
"We were very pleased with the quality of the oral arguments,” said Hefley. The competitors clearly spent a lot of time thinking through the legal issues and preparing their arguments. We're excited about the talent our new members bring to the team."
The top 4 competitors advanced to the final rounds based on their brief and oral argument scores. Fierce competitor Mahna Pourshaban (2L) achieved first place for the second time in a row in an intra-mural competition, Matthew Monaco (2L) was awarded second place, and Roselyn Aquino (2L) and Kelly Mourning (2L) were semi-finalists. Awards were also given for the best briefs. Kelly Mourning was awarded first place and Jacqueline Palacios (2L) was awarded second place.
“This competition was a beneficial experience because I was able to strengthen my writing skills,” said Palacios.
First place winner Mahna Pourshaban said that she joined the team primarily because her mom thought her speaking skills were not up to par with everything else she had to offer. “I guess she was wrong,” said Pourshaban. “I attribute much of my success to my courtroom 'swag' –started from the bottom now I'm here,” she joked.
“But kidding aside I look forward to working with all the fantastic people on the moot court team this year and I am hopeful that we will win many competitions.” said Pourshaban. “This competition was exciting because we had a number of judges from the legal community, which added a little extra pressure on me to give a stellar performance.”