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Miami Law Moot Teams Are On a Roll

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Victor Velarde, Samantha Epstein (coach), and Amanda Gavelek.

Victor Velarde, Samantha Epstein (coach), and Amanda Gavelek. (Photo: Miami Law) Full-Size Photo

Of the five competitions they have competed in this fall, members of the Charles C. Papy, Jr. Moot Court Board have advanced past preliminary rounds and into semi-final rounds on four occasions. The teams are ready to capture more trophies in the spring.

The MCB took part in the Thomas Tang Moot Court competition on Oct. 20 in Jacksonville, an event sponsored by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association that focused on the delicate interplay between constitutional protections and international obligations. Third-year students Emre Yersel and Michael Levine were required to argue whether advocacy of genocidal conduct is actionable pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute and whether corporations may be held liable pursuant to the same statute. Yersel and Levine advanced to the semi-finals.

The issues were topical. In fact, the matter of corporate liability was similar to a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court just weeks before the Jacksonville competition: Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The issue was complex, and Yersel and Levine worked diligently with their coach, Eric Olson, JD '12, to grasp the myriad nuances of the problem. "We're happy to have advanced to the semi-finals on behalf of the school," Yersel said, "and appreciate the complexity of this problem, as it forced us to practice our oral advocacy skills in a challenging setting."

During the same weekend in October, MCB members travelled to Washington D.C. to compete in the 19th Annual Burton D. Wechsler First Amendment Moot Court Competition. They finished as semifinalists and won a fifth-place award in the best briefs category. Third-years Jeremy Kahn and Ryan Lucas enjoyed the competition thoroughly, and were well prepared with the help of their coach Michael Davis, from the Appellate Division of the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office, who helped the team understand the real issues in the case. Lucas thought the quality of judges was very high and said the other teams were also well prepared, which, he said, "led to some very challenging and interesting rounds." Their coach said he had "enjoyed seeing arguments and confidence develop."

Earlier this month, MCB members competed in the Southeast Regional of the National Moot Court Competition in Jacksonville and won three awards – Best Brief, 2nd and 3rd Best Advocate – and they were semifinalists. Third-years Amanda Gavelek and Victor Velarde, coached by Samantha Epstein, as Assistant Public Defender for Broward County, did very well at the prestigious contest. "I had a great time at the competition," Velarde said. "And I had the pleasure of working with a great team. You could not ask for a better coach than Samantha or a better partner than Amanda."

The achievement at the Southeast Regional was all the more notable for the fact that the University of Miami had not won any awards or advanced at that particular competition since the 1970s.

Olson, a past President of the Moot Court Board, said he is proud of the team's progress this year. "We are well on the way to being one of the top 10 teams in the nation this year," he said. "It is incredible to see the amount of dedication the students put into these competitions during the semester. The support of coaches, faculty, and alumni are so integral to success on the national level."

RELATED PHOTOS

Michael Levine, 3L, and Emre Yersel, 3L.

Michael Levine, 3L, and Emre Yersel, 3L. (Photo: Miami Law) Full-Size Photo