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Debate Teams Excel at National Moot Competition

By Amanda Morad | January 28, 2013

Regent University's School of Law recently hosted the American Collegiate Moot Court Association (ACMA) National Competition on Friday and Saturday, January 18-19. Eighty two-person teams from colleges and universities across the country competed in more than 150 rounds of oral argument.

Regent's Undergraduate Debate Association (RUDA) had two debate pairs compete in the tournament: sophomore Hilary Davenport with junior Ryan Keller, and senior team captain Katherine Nace with sophomore Nicole Gibson.

"Both teams did extremely well in the preliminary rounds and broke to the out-rounds," Dr. Caleb Verbois, faculty advisor to the debate teams and assistant professor in the College of Arts & Sciences, reported. "The tournament has a round-robin style preliminary, and the top 44 teams from that round robin break to a single elimination playoff. One of our teams made it to the 'sweet sixteen' round and received a plaque recognizing their accomplishment."

This is only the second year that Regent debate teams have competed in Moot Court. Last year, two teams competed at the regional level and one qualified for nationals. This year, 12 teams competed at the regional level and two qualified for nationals—both of which broke into the elimination rounds.

"Moot Court has taught me to think critically and deeply on my feet, and to present legal arguments in an articulate and succinct manner," said Nace.

The competition was judged by panels of experts composed of members of the Tidewater legal community, including approximately 80 members of Regent Law School faculty, judges, attorneys and law students. Chief Justice Brent Benjamin of the Supreme Court of West Virginia and Senior Judge Henry Coke Morgan, Jr. of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia were among the many distinguished guests who volunteered their time to judge several rounds of competition.

Moot Court is a simulation of an appellate court trial. It involves oral argument given before a panel of experts on a fictitious legal problem. Teams from colleges and universities from across the nation will be arguing the same case. Team members invest hours into preparing written "briefs" and carefully honing arguments that are given in response to unscripted questions from the panel.

Moot Court programs are designed to develop oral presentation and debate skills in addition to preparing pre-law and law students for the actual practice of law, and that's exactly what they did for Nace and her Regent teammates at Nationals.

"It was a blessing and a privilege to be surrounded by so many people that are interested in the same things I am," she said. "I spent the entire weekend talking about nothing but legal issues. Essentially, the competition confirmed what my heart already knew: I was made to be a lawyer."

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