Student competitors from around the country simulate pioneering environmental law cases
WHITE PLAINS, NY, February 25, 2010 – Over 230 competitors from 84 law schools across the country gathered at Pace Law School February 18-20, 2010, to compete in the 22nd Annual National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition. The event tests students’ skills in appellate brief writing and oral advocacy on issues drawn from real cases, providing experience in environmental litigation first-hand.
Each year, competing students are given a theoretical case on a complex environmental issue and must file a legal brief supporting their choice of one the parties to the case. The competition is distinctive in that three adverse teams argue the issues, reflecting the fact that environmental litigation frequently involves multiple parties – the government, a public interest group and a member of the regulated industry. Teams write and file their briefs for their respective parties in early December and come to the Pace Law School campus in February for the oral phase of the competition; those with the highest combined scores for both the written brief and oral argument advance to succeeding rounds.
“Twenty-two years of experience running this competition allows us to offer a high quality experience which simulates the high-stakes atmosphere of an appellate courtroom for the students,” noted Assistant Dean Alexandra Dunn, who advises the student board.
The oral arguments were presented before attorneys who serve as judges in the preliminary, quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. The final round of competition was presided over by experts in environmental law and appellate cases, including: the Hon. Theodore T. Jones (Associate Judge, New York State Court of Appeal), the Hon. Edward E. Reich (Judge, Environmental Appeals Board, United States Environmental Protection Agency) and the Hon. Barbara A. Gunning (Administrative Law Judge, United States Environmental Protection Agency).
The winner of this year’s competition was the Lewis & Clark Law School team, composed of law students John Krallman, Benjamin Luckett, and Elizabeth Zultoski. Winners were selected on the quality of their oral presentations and briefs written in response to a hypothetical case. Additionally, there was a strong showing by the two finalist teams, The University of Houston Law and the University of Wyoming College of Law.
The hypothetical case examined in the competition involved the export of electronic waste (“e-waste,” such as used cell phones and computers) in potential violation of U.S. law and regulations governing such activities. Individuals at the recycling facility in the foreign country that received the shipment brought suit against the exporter, alleging that they were injured by toxic materials contained in e-waste. Previous legal problems have included illegal dumping of hazardous waste, vicarious criminal liability of corporate officers for their company’s environmental crimes and commerce clause limits on water pollution regulation.
“Environmental law is gaining in complexity and becoming a global practice,” Assistant Dean Dunn said. “This year’s case reflected the importance of understanding the nuances of U.S. regulations for electronic wastes, as well as the potentially devastating impact of those wastes when exported to developing countries without control.”
In addition to the overall winning team from Lewis & Clark Law School, a number of individual and team awards were presented. The University of California Hastings College of the Law was presented with the David Sive Award for “Best Brief,” authored by Alexander Casnocha, Juliette McCullough, and Gabriel McWhirter. Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and New York University School of Law also took home awards for their written briefs. Leah Branch of The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law received the award for the “Best Oralist,” and Charlotte Youngblood of Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University received the “Best Oralist – Honorable Mention.”
The event was administered by a Pace Law School student-run board led by Jill B. Richardson, a third year student at the Law School, and members of the law school environmental faculty and staff. To ensure impartial administration of the moot, Pace Law School students do not compete in the event.
Founded in 1976, Pace University School of Law has over 7,000 alumni throughout the country and 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. www.law.pace.edu