Feb. 3, 2016 – The Georgetown University Law Center team emerged as the first repeat winners of the annual Andrews Kurth Moot Court National Championship hosted last week by the Blakely Advocacy Institute of the University of Houston Law Center.
Competitors from the nation’s top 16 moot court law school programs converged on the Bob Casey Federal Courthouse in downtown Houston for the three-day competition to determine the “best of the best.” Programs qualified for the eighth annual national championship based on their showings in previous tournaments throughout the year.
The Georgetown program also won the competition, underwritten by the law firm of Andrews Kurth LLP, in 2013. Regent University School of Law placed second overall and won the Best Brief award. Rogendy Toussaint from St. John’s University School of Law and Kasey Feltner from Stetson University College of Law shared top honors for Best Speaker.
This year’s competition problem challenged the participants to argue the case of Emmaline Borne v. United States. The problem focused on terrorism and posed two questions: (1) can a person be prosecuted for making an explosive device or parts of a weapon with the use of a 3D printer, and (2) can a person be prosecuted for sharing potentially dangerous computer code with a person who is affiliated with a known, foreign terrorist organization?
Guest judges for the championship round included Judges Jennifer Walker Elrod, James Graves, Jr., and Thomas Reavley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; Judge D. Brooks Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister, now a partner with Andrews Kurth. Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit judged two of the preliminary rounds on Thursday night after serving as the inaugural speaker for the Judge Ruby Kless Sondock Jurist-in-Residence Program at the UH Law Center.
Competing schools for this year were: Chicago-Kent College of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Liberty University School of Law, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Michigan State University College of Law, New York University School of Law, Regent University School of Law, Seton Hall School of Law, SMU Dedman School of Law, South Texas College of Law, St. John’s University School of Law, Stetson University College of Law, Texas Tech University School of Law, UC Hastings College of Law, and University of Oklahoma College of Law.
As part of the weekend activities, the Blakely Advocacy Institute hosted a CLE symposium on Thursday morning titled “Terror: Will You Wear the Shackles?” This year’s speakers examined the interplay between national security and an individual’s civil liberties and constitutional rights in today’s global climate. The symposium featured individual remarks and a lively panel discussion among the three invited speakers and the moderator, Professor Emily Berman from UHLC.
The first speaker, John Rizzo, had a 34-year career in the Office of General Counsel at the Central Intelligence Agency. Rizzo was the agency’s most senior lawyer in the aftermath of 9/11 and provided legal counsel, policy guidance, and leadership to the CIA and other governmental agencies on the most difficult and time sensitive national security issues facing the U.S.
At the symposium, Rizzo discussed the challenges a lawyer faces when representing national security agencies while handling classified, legally-ambiguous information. He also signed copies of his book, Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA.
Almadar Hamdani, the second speaker, is currently an assistant U.S. attorney in Houston where he is responsible for investigating and prosecuting national security and public corruption matters. Hamdani talked about how difficult it can be for a lawyer to balance his obligations to the rule of law versus growing national security concerns in our country.
The day’s final speaker, Joshua L. Dratel, has been defense counsel in numerous terrorism and national security prosecutions, and was lead and civilian counsel for David Hicks, an Australian detained at Guantanamo Bay. Dratel spoke about some of his higher profile cases and the obstacles he often encounters when he has access to classified material pertinent to his client’s defense that he cannot use because of national security concerns.
During the championship banquet, Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes honored Andrews Kurth by presenting Brister with a token of appreciation for the firm’s distinguished support of the Moot Court National Championship and the UHLC Blakely Advocacy Institute. Andrews Kurth has sponsored the Championship for the past six years and has been a valued advocacy partner with BAI and UHLC for decades.
In addition to Andrews Kurth, the competition and symposium were co-sponsored by the Blakely Advocacy Institute; Edison, McDowell & Hetherington LLP; The Lanier Law Firm; Lighthouse Data Solutions; the University of Houston Law Center; and the University of Houston Law Alumni Association