Law School Appellate Team Advances to National Competition

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The Rutgers Law Moot Court Board's National Appellate Team includes, left to right, Peter Urmston '17, Stephen Marietta '17, and Laura Garcia '17.

The Rutgers Law Moot Court Board’s National Appellate Team of Laura Garcia ’17, Stephen Marietta ’17 and Peter Urmston ’17 competed against 29 other teams in a regional competition in Brooklyn in mid-February and were one of four teams chosen for the National Competition in Chicago in April.

Garcia and Marietta performed superbly as oral advocates – with Marietta being recognized as one of the three best advocates at the American Bar Association National Appellate Advocacy Competition – and Urmston excelled on the brief.

The three students took part in five rounds of competition – arguing before a panel of judges about a case that asked whether universities should be liable for an off-campus sexual assault under Title IX. Garcia and Marietta were required to argue each side of the case during different rounds against other schools. Urmston wrote the brief that was submitted to the judges prior to the arguments, earning the team a good starting score.

The judges for the competition that was held in Brooklyn included practicing attorneys and prosecutors and took place from Feb. 16-18. The team was coached by Wan Cha ’15.

Marietta said in the first three preliminary rounds, the Rutgers team won two rounds and lost one, which made them one of the last teams to be chosen for the semi-finals. They competed against teams that included Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University and the University of Miami.

“We kind of went into it thinking, let’s just do the best we can,” said Marietta. “We didn’t expect to win. After the preliminary rounds we weren’t sure we were going to advance.”

The team found time to prepare while they were engaged with their classes, journals and other academic activities at the school.  “Most of the preparation involved very late nights in the days leading up to and during the competition during which Stephen and I worked out our best arguments,” Garcia said.

However, when the Rutgers team competed in the final rounds, Marietta said they benefitted from hearing some of the teams’ arguments in the preliminary rounds. “We thought – we can take them down and we did,” he said. When the team learned they were one of four to advance to the nationals, Marietta said, “We couldn’t believe it. We were stunned.”

Urmston wrote the brief and served as the team’s bailiff on the last day. James Miller ’17 and John Park ’18 also served as team bailiffs.

“I think what made them stand out was the ability to bring passion and dedication to their preparation while juggling time intensive obligations such as Law Review and achieving stellar academic records,” said Cha. “Both of them demonstrated an advanced ability for researching the underlying law.  They both were thoroughly prepared on the substance before even meeting with me, which was very impressive.”  

Marietta said one of the reasons he thinks they did so well is because they enjoy thinking on their feet, “We kind of like doing this. We like getting peppered with questions.” In fact, he was recognized as the third best advocate in the tournament, a recognition awarded to only ten of the roughly 60 students who competed.  

Garcia said, “This will help our careers because we were able to develop effective arguments and receive a substantial amount of feedback on our analytical ability and presentation. We learned how to think on our feet and respond effectively.”

“This win is an extraordinary achievement for the team.  Their dedication to preparation, their enthusiasm and the extraordinary analytic and oral advocacy skills they brought to the team was a winning combination,” said Andrew Rossner, Associate Dean and faculty advisor to the Moot Court Board.   The team members earned a place on the National Appellate Team by winning the Moot Court Board’s Cohn Moot Court Competition last spring.         

The team heads to Chicago for the nationals, which take place April 6-8.