Students competing on Zoom
The Charles C. Papy, Jr. Moot Court Board team of third-year law students Christian Maroni and Catherine Talley won the 2021 Jeffrey G. Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition, beating 52 other teams. Additionally, Maroni was named Best Oralist in two of the judged rounds.
“It felt incredible to win this competition,” said Maroni. “It’s a very novel area of law, and we had been working on it since September. It felt awesome to have all of our hard work pay off and take home the trophy. I felt honored to be named best oralist in two of the rounds but winning was the most important thing.”
The Jeffrey G. Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition attracts participants from law schools nationwide and is dedicated to developing environmental law appellate advocacy expertise. During the virtual competition, teams argued a hypothetical case on behalf of three different parties with standing and a total of six issues. The competition was uniquely complex, both in its niche topic and in the sheer number of perspectives that needed to be argued. This year, the case focused on the intricacies of the Environmental Protection Agency’s categorization of pollutants and their effects on public health and welfare.
“Neither of us had taken classes on environmental or administrative law, which this case centered around,” said Talley. “We spent hours researching existing case law and articles to understand the intricacies of this problem. We also had to submit a 35-page legal brief arguing for one of the parties.
“With greenhouse gas emissions being the subject of our problem, I was able to discuss the non-binding Paris Agreement from 2015 and the Earth Summit from Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to talk about both the recognized problem of greenhouse gas emissions and the agreements’ non-binding nature that require congressional action for a duty to apply to the EPA. Once we were able to nail down what we wanted to argue about, we practiced oral arguments with our coaches, professors, other alumni, and current students acting as our judges,” Talley said.
The team was coached by Professor Jessica Owley, the faculty director for the Environmental Law Program, and Jake Monk, J.D. ’12. Owley’s expertise in environmental law and Monk’s civil litigation experience were instrumental in the team’s success.
“When the problem came out, we were completely in awe of its complexity,” said Maroni. “We had to dive headfirst into the Clean Air Act and figure out our issues. It also helped that we had two amazing coaches, Jessica Owley and Jake Monk, to prepare and wrap our heads around the issues. It all paid off in the end because, by the time the rounds started, I felt like we knew the issues like the back of our hands.”
Maroni is now turning his attention to a trial team competition, and Talley is focusing on serving as president of the Society of Bar and Gavel, one of the law school’s oldest student organizations. Both students will be graduating in May.
“This is absolutely wonderful,” said Dean and M. Minnette Massey Professor of Law Anthony E. Varona. “Congratulations, Catherine and Christian. The Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court attracts the best environmental law moot teams from across the country. It is an elite competition. That you won, it is an extraordinary achievement.”