The Rutgers Law National Trial Team won the championship title at the elite invitational Puerto Rico Trial Advocacy Competition in San Juan this past weekend. Trial Team members Paula Echeverria, Livie Ruhl, Elizabeth Weinman, and Melanie Zelikovsky competed. Elizabeth also won the award for Best Advocate in the Competition.
This is the third time the National Team has competed in the competition and the second time it has won the title.
This year's competition involved the trial of a murder case in which the defendant is accused of murdering his wife, a member of a wealthy prominent family, but made it appear as if she was still alive in order to collect her monthly trust fund payments. Her body has not been found and the defendant claimed she is alive and went away on a spiritual journey. The team tried both sides of the case in successive rounds.
Comprised of all third-year law students, the team won three preliminary rounds against Pace Law, Ohio Northern Law, and University of Illinois - Chicago Law. The team advanced to the semi-final round, defeating the University of South Carolina Law to advance to the final round. They defeated Texas A&M Law to win the Championship.
Rutgers Law’s team bested some of the most competitive trial teams in the country, including Fordham Law (ranked #6), University of Pacific McGeorge School of Law (ranked #9), University of South Carolina Law (ranked #15), as well as, Harvard Law, University of Texas Law, Pace Law, Ohio Northern Law, University of Illinois Chicago Law (ranked #24), University of Kansas Law, University of South Dakota Law.
The team is coached by Associate Dean and Distinguished Practice Professor Andrew Rossner and former National Trial Team members Jared Hotchkiss '21 and George Morton '22. Gerald Baker, Esq., and Ret. Judge Alvin Weiss provide generous support for the team and trial advocacy programs at the school.
“Rutgers Law should be proud of the team's success,” said Associate Dean Rossner. “Their representation of Rutgers Law has been exceptional, not only by demonstrating extraordinary trial advocacy skills, but also exhibiting the utmost professionalism. Their success is not only an individual achievement, but also an outgrowth of the enhancement of our trial advocacy skills program over the past six years.”
The National Trial Team has raised Rutgers Law's profile for trial advocacy training, emerging as a significant national competitor. Trial Team members who competed in San Juan also won the Championship title at the invitational 2023 Queens District Attorney Trial Competition in the spring, with team member Melanie Zelikovsky winning the Best Cross Examination award. The Trial team previously competed in the Puerto Rico Trial Competition in 2021, winning the Championship title that year, as well as awards for best advocate and best cross examiner. The team also placed as a semi-finalist at the competition in 2022.
Last weekend, the Trial Team placed as semi-finalists in the invitational Peter James Johnson National Civil Rights Trial Competition in New York.