The Moot Court Board National Trial Team in Newark completed a full and successful 2018-2019 season by earning a semi-finalist position in the ABA/John Marshall Law School National Criminal Justice Trial Competition this spring at the Federal Court House in Chicago, Illinois. This follows the Team’s finishing as semi-finalists in the Queens DA Invitational Mock Trial Competition in October.
Based on the team’s success over the past three years, Rutgers Law was one of 20 teams nationally to be invited to the elite ABA/John Marshall Competition in March. National team members Opeyemi Akinde RLAW‘20, Max Bosco RLAW‘20, Jessica Shapiro RLAW‘20, and Christopher Winters RLAW‘20 competed against Inter-American University of Puerto Rico School of Law, Pace Law School, and Northwestern School of Law, winning all three preliminary rounds, earning a semi-finalist position, and besting all but three other school in the competition.
In doing so, the team bested Fordham Law, Cornell Law, University of Pennsylvania, Drexel Law School, and University of California Berkeley Law School, University of Buffalo Law School, University of Florida, University of Illinois, University of South Carolina Law, University of Missouri Law and University of South Dakota, who competed in the preliminary rounds, but did not advance.
Akinde won an individual award, receiving the Competition Award for the Advocate Conducting the Best Direct Examinations, coming out on top in a field of 80 advocates.The competition required the team to try both sides of criminal case involving charges against a doctor who is alleged to have caused the death of a patient by prescribing a dangerous combination of opioids and narcotics that caused the patient's death. This is the second year Rutgers Law had been invited to this competition. Last year, the team earned a spot in the quarter-final rounds.
The team began its spring season by competing in the American Association of Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition, the first time they had taken part in this annual nationwide trial advocacy competition, against some of the most competitive teams in the country. Team members Soundous Bouchouar RLAW‘20, Christina McGinnis RLAW‘19, Nicholas Gallinger RLAW‘20, and Elizabeth Driscoll RLAW‘20 conducted a full trial of a civil negligence case stemming from a landslide that trapped a soccer team within a cave during a tour.
Rutgers also had a successful fall season. Last fall, the team was again invited to compete in the Queens District Attorney Invitational tournament, earning a semifinalist position in a highly competitive field.
In addition, the team competed in the New York Regionals of the ABA National Mock Trial competition at the Federal Court House in Manhattan. Bosco, Driscoll, Gallinger, and Winters squared off in a competitive field of 20 teams. This contest’s problem was a civil case by a former female corrections officer in an all-male prison against the Department of Correction for failing to address a pattern of sexual harassment at the hands of male officers and inmates.
Team members conducted full trials for their respective sides. Driscoll and Winters, representing the Department of Corrections, competed against New York Law in the first round, while Bosco and Gallinger, representing the plaintiff corrections officer, went up against Brooklyn Law in the second round. The team performed superbly, but was edged out and was not one of the four teams to advance to the semifinal round.
The National Trial Team continues to raise Rutgers Law’s national profile for mock trial competitions. This success is due to the hard work of the team members and to coaches Sam McCluskey and Rutherford Livengood.
“Our national trial team members have done an exemplary job of honing their skills and competing at an extraordinarily high level. Their successes against the most competitive schools in the most competitive competitions speaks well of their dedication, talent, and teamwork,” said Dean Andrew Rossner, who coaches the team and supervises Rutgers Law School’s Moot Court program. “This is not only a wonderful achievement for the team and the individual team members, it is a dividend to the Law School of the reorganization and enhancement of the Moot Court Board and trial advocacy programs at the Law School over the past few years. Given its demonstrated success, we will be expanding and enhancing the program next year. The program provides rigorous and effective trial advocacy training incorporating classes in evidence and trial advocacy with comprehensive and individualized instruction and skills training for National Mock Trial Team members.”