St. Thomas University made it to the 16th round at the American Collegiate Moot Court National Championship on Jan. 20 in Dallas, Texas, a first for the university.
Dominique Goguen, Jarrod Ryan, Emma Walsh and Brianna Workman made it to the second day of the competition. STU was represented by Walsh and Workman in the 16th round at the competition.
Abbie LeBlanc earned 4th place out of 160 speaker awards. Her partner, Navy Vezina, placed 7th. Emma Walsh won the 11th slot and her partner, Brianna Workman, placed 14th. Walsh and Workman’s written brief for respondent placed third.
STU is the only Canadian undergrad university to offer moot court and therefore the only Canadian team that competes in the American Moot Court Association.
When Amanda DiPaolo started the moot court program four years ago, she had six students. This year, the program had 24 students.
Twelve of those students headed to Dallas, Texas on Jan. 17 for the national competition.
DiPaolo is happy to see the progress it’s made.
“STU moot has done great things in just a few years. This year, we qualified the second most teams to the national competition behind only Patrick Henry College [in Virginia], the top-ranked school nationally,” said DiPaolo.
“Last year, we had two teams that qualified and this year we have six. We also won more speaker awards. In fact, at all three regional competitions we attended, STU was the school that picked up the most individual speaker awards.”
The program has received a lot of attention this year due to its recent successes. In Geneva, STU was the first Canadian team to qualify, compete and win the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition. The team was represented by fourth-year student Navy Vezina and third-year Abbie LeBlanc, and aided by third-years Emily Williams, Emma Walsh and Camille Xavier and graduate Brianna Matchett.
If the International Law Society’s brief qualifies again this year, Williams and Xavier will be headed to Geneva to represent the team.
“Moot court has confirmed that I would like to be a lawyer and exposed me to an area of law that I didn’t even expect to like, yet I have fallen in love with,” Williams said in a Facebook message.
“I am incredibly excited about the prospect of going to Geneva … I’ve had the same partner for my entire moot career and we’ve both grown as people because of moot and gained a lifelong friendship.”
Frank McKenna, former New Brunswick premier and deputy chair of TD Bank, made a $300,000 donation to the moot court program on Oct. 24. He’s said he’s proud of STU’s accomplishments and the attention the program has brought to the university.
McKenna donated the money in memory of his long-time assistant Ruth McCrea, who died this summer.
“I can’t think of a better way of honouring my feisty assistant than by supporting this feisty moot court team,” McKenna said in October.
This season, STU competed in Albany, New York; Orlando, Florida; Fitchburg, Massachusetts and earned six spots at the national competition in Dallas, Texas.
Emma Walsh and Brianna Workman won the first regional the STU moot court team competed in at Albany. Walsh and Workman also won 1st and 3rd place orator awards, respectively. In addition, Husoni Raymond earned a 7th place orator award and Emily Williams placed 8th. Their teammates all made it to the second day of the competition too — a first for the STU team.
The team also did well at the Fitchburg competition, placing 3rd and 4th with two more teams in the top 10. They won numerous speaker awards there as well, earning seven of the top 20 speaker awards. LeBlanc placed 2nd and her partner Vezina placed 3rd, Jarrod Ryan earned 7th place, Elizabeth Tuck placed 8th, Laura Robinson placed 17th, Kelly Brennan earned 18th and Olivia Ricketts placed 19th.
“Fitchburg was pure domination until our teams lost in the semi-finals,” said DiPaolo.
The second regional in Orlando, Florida didn’t go quite as well as the first and third, but all four competitors won speaker awards.
DiPaolo and the students are proud of their accomplishments.
Brianna Matchett has been competing for three years and helped coach the teams this year.
She has seen a lot of improvement in the few years she’s been part of the program and said there are many driven students this year.
“At a certain point, each student needs to make a choice and ask themselves, ‘Am I going to commit myself to this and do I really want this?’ And it’s so nice to see so many students make that choice, and have it pay off.”
Road to success
In May, students receive a fake court case they have to argue using real American court precedents. Throughout the summer months, they review court cases and prepare their arguments for petitioner and respondent. Then, when classes resume in September, they begin memorizing and practicing their arguments with their peers.
Students find they gain a lot of confidence in themselves and see improvements they didn’t think they would see. Husoni Raymond, a first-time mooter said he’s gained a lot from the program.
“Getting a speaker award was a huge accomplishment,” said Raymond.
“It’s a lot of work over the summer and during the school year, but it’s very rewarding. Especially when you accomplish something.”
Competing at nationals was Workman and Walsh’s goal when they started in May.
Walsh competed in nationals last year and was excited to go back. She said it’s stressful and a lot of work, but well worth it in the end and she has gained so much from the program.
“It requires a lot from a person and it’s definitely not for everyone,” said Walsh. “You really learn how to read people and gain people skills.”
Nothing has been decided yet for how the program will operate next year when DiPaolo is on sabbatical.
But she has faith in her students and is happy to see the success STU has had in the past four years. She hopes they can continue to be successful in the coming years.
“Schools know STU is a great mooting school. Being Canadian doesn’t matter,” said DiPaolo.
“Our students are told over and over by the top mooting schools that they worry when facing our teams because it is going to be a tough round. My kids are ready.”