American University Washington College of Law Team Wins Jessup Mid-Atlantic Super Regional Moot Court Competition

UPDATE: Out of 130 teams from 80 countries, the American University Washington College of Law Jessup Team finished as International Octafinalists, and one of the top 16 teams in the world, following four days of intense competition at the international rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Moot Court Competition in Washington, D.C. last week.

The team of Shalev Ben-Avraham, Samantha Besora, Emily Neuhausen, James Ollen-Smith, and Tim Rodrigues, coached by Catherine Newcombe and Agustina del Campo, emerged undefeated following the international preliminary rounds of 130 U.S. regional and country championship teams, ranking fifth. The team was one of only four U.S. teams (and the only DC-area team) to advance to the elimination rounds.

Samantha, Shalev, and Tim all walked away with Best Oralist awards, out of more than 500 competitors. Samantha and Shalev were both among the top ten oralists at this largest global moot court competition, with Shalev taking sixth place and Samantha taking fifth place. The team also received an award for their superior memorials, which were among the 20 best memorials out of the more than 300 in the competition.

The Jessup Team wants to thank each member of the law school community for their support during this experience, whether it came through participation in a practice moot or words of encouragement.

Undefeated in Regionals, Team will Represent United States in International Competition

On a warm afternoon in a classroom overlooking the quad at George Washington University Law School, the team from American University Washington College of Law chatted nervously before facing the team from Rutgers-Camden in the Jessup Mid-Atlantic Super Regional Moot Court Competition. Coaches Agustina Del Campo '05, coordinator of the Impact Litigation Project and Catherine Newcombe, adjunct professor, relayed good luck messages from Facebook posts read from their Blackberries as the team went over its notes.

The team of Shalev Ben-Avraham, Samantha Besora, Emily Neuhausen, James Ollen-Smith, and Timothy Rodrigues was making their final preparations for their role as the Applicant, the fictional state of Ardenia, in the moot case for this stage of the competition. The case concerns the legality of predator drone strikes, one of which took place in Ardenia, allegedly perpetrated by the Respondent in the case, the fictional state of Rigalia.

It was the team's job to sort through the byzantine diplomatic, economic, and militaristic history between the two countries, and identify the tenets of international humanitarian law on which the case would pivot. They would present their argument first, before a panel of three judges seated at the front of the room.

James Ollen-Smith went first, presenting his position for the applicant in the case. Ollen-Smith was calm and prepared, citing case law and the extensive background of the case as he laid out the applicant position. Next, a representative from Rutgers-Camden took the lectern to make the case for the respondent. The panel of judges peppered both sides with questions throughout their remarks, probing the platform that each side's arguments were built upon.

Timothy Rodrigues was the second half of the American University Washington College of Law team to speak. He argued that the rising tensions and aggressive posturing between the two countries did not rise to the level of armed conflict. He cited the three principles of international humanitarian law - distinction, proportionality, and military necessity – and how they failed to provide legality for the drone strikes by Rigalia that killed innocent civilians.

After another representative from Rutgers-Camden spoke, each side gave a 2 minute rebuttal, and then the judges deliberated.

The judge's feedback was positive. This would prove to be a harbinger of things to come – the team went on to win not only the preliminary round against Rutgers-Camden, but the quarterfinals on Saturday, a win against Lewis-Clark on Sunday morning, and then a victory in the final round against Georgetown.

In addition to the great team win, Samantha Besora won best oralist of the final round. In fact, all team members received awards as inidividual oralists, and were among the 25 best speakers and among the best 10 memorials.

"Throughout the year we joked about winning the regional competition but in all honesty wenever believed it would actuallyhappen; it seemed so impossible," Besora said. "When they called our namesas the first place team, we were speechless."

The team was grateful for the amount of help it received from alumni – working lawyers who wanted to help the team they were a part of as law students.

"The amount of help we've received from alumni is a tribute to how graduates here stay connected to the school after they graduate," said Newcombe, who coached the team with Del Campo. "It's an intense experience, and a lot of participants go to work for a year or two, and come back to coach."

"With the support of each other and our amazing alumni contacts and professors, we started preparationlast summer and stuck to a demanding schedule through fall, winter break, and up to the competition," Rodrigues said. "From Lewis and Clark to Georgetown, all of our competitors at regionals were top-notch, and elicited the best from us. We're thrilled to represent American University Washington College of Law and the U.S. later this monthat the international rounds."

The Moot Court Honor Society provided support as they do for many other national and international moot courts. The Trial Advocacy Program also worked to prepare the team.

Many faculty lent a hand in preparing the team for this achievement. They include: Daniel Bradlow, Elizabeth Boals, Paul Figley, Keith Henderson, Robert Goldman, Juan Mendez , Hays Parks, Jenny Roberts, Stephen Vladeck, and Stephen Wermiel.

The team will next compete at the international rounds March 21-25 in Washington, DC. Dean Claudio Grossman will serve as a judge in the World Championship Match.