Pace Law School Hosts 21st National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition

Teams from 68 law schools nationwide participated in annual competition

“Pirates of the Caribbean Meets International Environmental Law”

WHITE PLAINS, NY (March 5, 2009) – Over 400 competitors from 68 national law schools gathered at Pace Law School February 19-21, 2009, to compete in the premier national environmental law moot court competition. The event was administered by a Pace Law School student-run board led by Erin A. Flannery, a third-year student, as well as environmental faculty and staff members. As competition administrator, Pace Law School does not compete in the event.

The winner of the 21st annual competition was Lewis & Clark Law School. Tarah Heinzen, Erica Maharg, and Elizabeth Zultoski comprised the winning team. Names of other finalists and award winners are below.

“People are often surprised when they learn that no other moot court like this one is offered anywhere in the country,” said Alexandra Dunn, assistant dean of environmental law programs at Pace Law School, who advises the student board. “Twenty-one years of experience running this event allows us to offer a high quality competition experience, which simulates the high-stakes atmosphere of an appellate courtroom for the students.”

The hypothetical case examined in the competition — described as “Pirates of the Caribbean meets Environmental Law” by one team’s coach — involved a shipwreck off the US coast; an exploration company seeking title to the wreck; the US, claiming permits were required for the salvage; and the Kingdom of Spain, also seeking title to the wreck.

Like all previous National Environmental Law Moot Court competitions, the case was drawn from real world environmental controversies. As the elimination rounds progressed, all teams were required to prepare and argue the positions of all three parties in the suit. Winners were selected on the quality of their oral presentations and written briefs.

A strong effort was shown by the two other finalist teams, from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center of Louisiana State University and the S.J. Quinney College of Law at The University of Utah.

The University of Houston Law Center won the David Sive Award for “Best Brief,” authored by Elizabeth Pletan, Matt Riley, and Sarah Williams. Georgetown University Law Center and the University of California’s Davis School of Law also took home awards for their written briefs. Charlotte Youngblood of the Paul M. Hebert Law Center of Louisiana State University received the award for the “Best Oralist.”

As in past years, the final round was presided over by high-level (in this case, federal) experts in environmental law. They were:

  • The Honorable William K. Sessions III, United States District Court, District of Vermont;
  • The Honorable Charles J. Sheehan, Environmental Appeals Board, United States Environmental Protection Agency; and
  • Gary H. Nurkin, Office of Regional Counsel, Region 2, United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The competition provides an invaluable educational experience by simulating the process of preparing a legal case and presenting it to a federal court of appeals. Students are given a complex environmental issue and must file a legal brief supporting their choice of one of the three parties to the case. The oral arguments are presented before attorneys who serve as judges in the preliminary, quarterfinal, and semifinal rounds.

Founded in 1976, Pace University School of Law has nearly 6,700 alumni throughout the world and is consistently ranked among the nation’s top three programs in environmental law. It offers full- and part-time day and evening JD programs on its White Plains, NY, campus and offers the Master of Laws degree in Environmental Law, Real Estate Law and Comparative Legal Studies, and a Doctor of Laws in environmental law. The School of Law is part of Pace University, a comprehensive, independent, and diversified university with campuses in New York City and Westchester County.


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