March 6, 2023
Trial competition championship team
L-R: George Morton '22, coach; Jared Hotchkiss '20, coach; Team members: Elizabeth Weinman, Paula Echeverria, Melanie Zelikovski, Livie Ruhl

The Rutgers Law National Trial Team had a strong finish to the 2022-2023 season, winning the championship title in the Queens District Attorney Competition this past weekend.  By taking the title, it bested some of the highest ranked trial teams in the country.       

National team members and second-year students Paula Echeverria, Livie Ruhl, Elizabeth Weinman, and Melanie Zelikovski defeated St. Johns, Buffalo, Hofstra, and Harvard in their preliminary, quarterfinal, and semi-final rounds. Based upon those rounds, they were first seed in the final round against Drexel Law. Other participating law schools in the competition included Brooklyn, Quinnipiac Law, Fordham, Seton Hall, the University of Houston, and Chicago-Kent Law.  In addition, Melanie Zelikovski won the individual award for Best Cross Examination of the competition.

Rutgers Law was one of only 16 teams nationally to be invited to the competition. The competition requires the team to conduct full trials on both sides of a murder prosecution before sitting New York State judges and a jury. This is the fourth year the team has been invited to the competition and the first year Rutgers earned the top spot.  In two of the previous years, the team finished as semi-finalists, and it placed as a quarterfinalist in the remaining year. 

Due to the lingering effects of the pandemic, the team had few competitive options this year compared to pre-pandemic years. For example, the Puerto Rico Trial Advocacy Competition was not held this year. It is an invitational competition that the National Team won two years ago and last year placed third. The American Bar Association Trial Competition was also not held this year.

The team did compete in two other competitions this season. Four other members of the National Team, third-year students Chelsea Nkrumah, Taylor Puluse, Farwa Tahir, and second-year student Janette Nweme, competed last month in the Texas Young Lawyers National Trial Competition regionals in Philadelphia. Nkrumah, Puluse, Tahir, and Weinman also competed in the All-Star Bracket last fall.

“The National Trial Team continues to raise Rutgers Law's national profile for mock trial competitions,” said Associate Dean Andrew Rossner who oversees the Moot Court Board’s National Trial Team program at Rutgers Law. “We all should be so proud of how well our students performed representing Rutgers Law. Many thanks to the team’s coaches. 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 speak well of their dedication, talent, and teamwork.”

The National Trial Team is part of the enhanced trial advocacy program at Rutgers Law which includes extracurricular opportunities and skills-based coursework.  

Dean Rossner continued, “This is not only a wonderful achievement for the team and the individual team members, but also a dividend from the reorganization and enhancement of the Moot Court Board and trial advocacy programs at the Law School over the past few years. 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.”

The National Trial Team is coached by Dean Rossner, Rutherford Livengood, Esq., and National Team alumni Jared Hotchkiss, Esq. (RLAW '20) and George Morton, Esq. (RLAW '22).

“Many thanks to the coaches who devote countless hours training the team members and to Gerald H. Baker, Esq. and Judge Alvin Weiss for their generous support of the team and the trial advocacy program,” added Dean Rossner. 

Rutgers Law Media Contact:
Shanida Carter

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