May 28, 2024
Coaches and graduating members of the 2023-24 Rutgers National Appellate Advocacy Team
From left to right: Anthony Sirianni ’22, Siena Carnevale ’22, Stephen Marietta ’17, Matthew Raber ’24, Willa Sweeney ’24, Sandy Halbing ’24, Colleen Callander ’24, Joe Bavolar ’24, and Susan Derasmo ’24.

For the first time, the Rutgers Law School’s National Appellate Advocacy Team competed in five interscholastic moot court competitions throughout one academic year. In addition to a national championship win, Rutgers Law students reached the late stages in several matchups and were recognized for writing one of the best briefs in the competition. 

Each competition featured a brief-writing component and multiple rounds of oral argument. Competing students were tasked with crafting written and oral arguments on hypothetical problems before the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition, students were required to deliver 15-minute oral arguments before panels of judges—often in the face of intense questioning. 

The appellate team ended its successful year by winning the 10th Annual National Moot Court Competition in Law & Religion, held at Touro Law School. The problem featured Establishment Clause and Free Exercise challenges to a state’s implementing statute under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The winning team of Brian Clark (2LE) and Ralph Passante (2LE) collectively wrote a 35-page brief and argued in five rounds, including before the Honorable Joseph F. Bianco of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Brian and Ralph were coached by Eric Brislinger ’23 and Collin Schaffhauser ’23, both former appellate team members. 

Appellate team members also placed as finalists in the Brooklyn Regional of the American Bar Association National Appellate Advocacy Competition, considered one of the nation’s premier competitions. The team of Colleen Callander ’24, Sandy Halbing ’24, and Willa Sweeney ’24 argued two complex issues, involving the propriety of the controversial practice known as “snap removal” and the statutory interpretation of § 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Under Willa’s leadership, the trio collectively wrote a 50-page brief and won the fifth-best brief in the competition, besting out more than 25 other law schools. Colleen, Sandy, and Willa also argued in five rounds—each time earning high praise from the competition judges. Coaching the team was Anthony Sirianni ’22, a former appellate team member. 

“After months of practice, I am proud of our all-woman team for advancing through five rounds of oral argument and earning a spot in the finals,” said Halbing. 

The appellate team also excelled in other competitions. Joe Bavolar ’24, Dominica Dul ’24, and Jack Sember ’24 won the second-best brief award in the John J. Gibbons Moot Court Competition, held at Seton Hall Law School, which focused on issues of criminal procedure. In less than three weeks, the trio collectively wrote a 35-page brief on thorny issues under the Double Jeopardy Clause and Confrontation Clause. In winning the second-best brief in the competition, Joe, Dominica, and Jack beat out more than 35 other law schools’ briefs. 

The team of Susan Derasmo ’24, Delaney Hellman (2LE), and Matt Raber ’24 advanced to the top 16 of the 39th Annual Dean Jerome Prince Memorial Evidence Moot Court Competition, held at Brooklyn Law School. The team collectively wrote a 33-page brief on three issues—one dealing with criminal procedure, two with evidence. Arguing in three rounds, the team beat out 20 other law schools to reach the top 16. Susan, Delaney, and Matt were coached by Jack Byrnes ’22, a former appellate team member. 

Several members of the appellate team also competed in the 2nd Annual Leonard I. Garth Competition, held in April at Rutgers Law School in Newark. The competition featured a challenging constitutional law issue on whether the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause is self-executing. Delaney Hellman won the competition, Ralph Passante was the runner-up, and Matt Raber and Zachary Orchard (2L) were semifinalists. 

The appellate team was revamped in 2018 by Stephen Marietta ’17, who competed in several appellate competitions as a student. As part of his duties as director of the appellate program, Marietta teaches two intensive courses, in which appellate team members learn to master written and oral appellate advocacy. Marietta also selects members of the appellate team through a competitive selection process. 

“The appellate team continues to flourish at Rutgers Law School,” Marietta said. “Appellate team members are learning winning strategies for brief writing and oral argument that will serve them well throughout their careers,” he added. 

Rutgers Law Media Contact:
Shanida Carter

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