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UB Law advances to international round of Jessup competition

Members of UB’s Jessup moot court team are, from left, coach Kevin Espinosa, ’09; Stephanie Forman (2L); Henry Zomerfeld (3L); Jessica Noto (3L); Andrew Dean (3L); John Land (3L); and coach Michael Hecker, ’09. Photo: UB Law School


Published March 6, 2014

“It says something significant about our hopes to be a global law school — and to make our people ‘practice ready’ — that our students were such runaway winners in Chicago.”
George Kannar, professor
UB Law School

By winning the Midwest Super Regional Round of the Phillip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, the UB Law School has advanced to the International Round of the renowned global competition, to be held April 6-12 in Washington, D.C.

The regional competition was held Feb. 20-23 at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Undefeated champions, the UB Law team finished ahead of 20 other law schools, winning every one of the preliminary and run-off rounds. One team member, John Land (3L), also won “Best Oralist” in the Chicago competition’s Final Round.

The Jessup competition is focused on international appellate advocacy in front of the International Court of Justice, and is the world’s largest moot court contest. While hundreds of schools from around the world compete each year, only 12 law schools from the United States — the top two teams from each domestic Super Regional Round — advance to the International Round. There they will battle for the Jessup World Cup against approximately 120 law schools from around the globe.

“The Jessup Cup is among the most prestigious and competitive moot courts in the world,” says UB Law Professor George Kannar, who oversees the school’s moot court programs. “It says something significant about our hopes to be a global law school — and to make our people ‘practice ready’ — that our students were such runaway winners in Chicago. They are well-positioned to make another strong showing in Washington.”

This year’s Jessup problem concerns the conflict between maritime development and environmental conservation, criminal jurisdiction and maritime salvage rights for underwater cultural heritage.

The other members of the 2013-14 UB Law School Jessup team are Andrew Dean (3L), Stephanie Forman (2L), Jessica Noto (3L) and Henry Zomerfeld (3L). Noto and Zomerfeld served as advocates on behalf of the applicant, while Dean and Land advocated on behalf of the respondent. Forman served as “of counsel” to both teams, assisting in each oral argument round. All five team members researched and drafted the memorials (briefs) for the competition.

Alumni Kevin Espinosa, ’09, vice president and counsel at M&T Bank, and Michael Hecker, ’09, an associate in the Environment and Energy Practice Group of Hodgson Russ LLP, serve as the team’s coaches. Espinosa and Hecker also are adjunct professors at the Law School, teaching a skills-oriented course in “International Legal Advocacy.”

The UB Law School team dominated the Midwest Super Regional Round. Winning all four of its preliminary round matches — against DePaul University College of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School, Saint Louis University School of Law and Syracuse University College of Law — it advanced to the quarterfinals as the competition’s top seed. Of the 81 individuals who argued in the preliminary rounds, UB law students won two of the 10 available “best oralist” awards, with Dean placing sixth and Zomerfeld ninth. UB also won “Second Overall” for its written submissions.

Beginning with the quarterfinal round, Dean and Land represented the respondent in each subsequent encounter. The team defeated Case Western Reserve University School of Law in the quarterfinals, University of Chicago Law School in the semifinals and Loyola University of Chicago Law School in the final round to cap its weekend with a perfect 7-0 record. 

To be chosen to represent the Law School in the Jessup competition, UB students must take part in an intramural selection process in the spring prior to the competition, submitting a writing sample and delivering a mock oral argument.

This year’s Jessup team prepared with the assistance of faculty members, alumni and members of previous UB Jessup Cup teams, who assisted in a variety of ways, including by serving as practice round judges.