USD law teams place high in competition The University of South Dakota School of Law entered its second century with a strong showing in competition against prominent law schools from across the nation.
Law students placed high in national moot court and mediation competitions held in November.
Two USD teams advanced to the final four in Region XIV of the 52nd Annual National Moot Court Competition held Nov. 15-17 at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, MN. They were unfortunately paired against each other and the team of Cassandra McKeown of Rapid City, Justin Seurer of Milbank, and Mitch Peterson of Sioux Falls defeated their USD counterparts. The team also received a second place writing award for its respondent's brief. Brief writing is scored separately and then factored into each round of the oral competition. Out of 12 teams competing regionally, the USD team and one from Drake University in Des Moines, IA advance in January to New York City where a total of 28 teams from 14 regions will compete.
The USD team of Christopher Dohrer of Milbank, Cathy Knecht of Martin, and Joslyn LaMadrid of Sioux Falls won third place overall in the tournament and in separate judging won fourth place for its petitioner's brief. Both USD teams made it to the final four, but were paired against each other and only one could advance.
The National Moot Court Competition is sponsored by the Young Lawyers' Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the American College of Trial Lawyers. It is considered the most prestigious moot court tournament in the country.
This is the third time in four years that a team from the USD School of Law has qualified to go to New York, according to USD moot court advisor, Professor Jonathan Van Patten. In addition, out of 10 individuals recognized for excellence as the top oral advocates in this latest competition, half were USD law students. LaMadrid was listed second, McKeown fifth, Knecht seventh, Dohrer eighth, and Seurer was ninth among the 10 top oral advocates.
Earlier in November the USD team of Jodi Brown of Aberdeen and Ryan Snell of Le Mars, IA won third place overall in the 10th Annual National Health Law Moot Court Competition held at the Southern Illinois University School of Law in Carbondale, IL.
Brown and Snell were awarded a $500 scholarship grant. They shared the prize with Dohrer for his assistance with the team's brief, which won second place in the writing
portion of the competition.
At the same competition, Daneta Wollman of Huron, Chad Nelson of Milbank, and Katherine DeKam of Pipestone, MN, received sixth place overall in brief writing. It was another remarkable showing for USD, considering there were 31 teams representing 24 schools competing.
"I am very pleased with the effort this year," said Van Patten. "This was the best showing we have had in our five years of competing in Carbondale."
Van Patten said teams from the USD School of Law have placed high in this and other moot court tournaments as a result of the annual summer writing institute conducted by the school's moot court members. The institute has been supported significantly by the family of Mike Driscoll, a former dean of the USD School of Law.
"I am especially pleased by the performance of the students on briefs, since most appellate cases are won or lost on briefs," said USD Law School Dean Barry Vickrey. "Professor Van Patten and the students have worked very hard through the summer writing institute to improve the briefs they write for competitions, and that hard work is paying off."
Van Patten agrees that the students' collective work ethic has helped make them national competitors. He said special attention was also given to the oral presentations.
"Credit for the excellent showing on oral advocacy should also go to Jill Tyler of the USD Department of Communications Studies. She has been assisting the moot court teams for the last several years," he said.
This year something new was added to the USD Law School's competition success � second place honors in the American Academy of ADR (alternative dispute resolution) Attorneys National Law School Mediation Tournament, held in November at Drake University. This was the ADR's first such tournament, which is planned as an annual event.
Winning second place were Josh Hendrickson of Kearney, NE, Jon Oostra of Sioux Center, IA, Gina Pederson of Madison and Tripp, and Laura Zylstra of Sturgis, all members of the USD Law Client Counseling and Negotiation Board.
The USD team lost to a team from Georgetown University, but Pederson placed third and Zylstra placed fourth among 10 tournament participants named outstanding tournament mediators.
Of the eight teams participating, USD's team was the only one with two individuals on the outstanding mediators.
The 2001-2002 school year is the USD Law School's centennial year. Law classes began on the Vermillion campus on Oct. 1, 1901. The school has been accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) since 1923, its inaugural year. It has been a member of the Association of American Law Schools since 1907.