Two Catholic University law school students finished in first place at the Fourteenth Annual Herbert Wechsler National Criminal Law Moot Court Competition, hosted by the University of Buffalo Law School on March 31, 2012.
Kevin Lowell (3E, above left) and Michael Ellement (2L, above right) competed against teams from 26 law schools from across the country. They defeated, among others, students from William & Mary Law School, New York University School of Law, University of Michigan Law School, and University of Florida Levin College of Law.
In the final round Ellement and Lowell argued against students from the University of North Dakota School of Law, described as a "clash of the Titans," in front of Hon. Tracey A. Bannister of the Erie County Supreme Court, Hon. George Bundy Smith, a Justice Emeritus from the New York Court of Appeals, and Hon. Gerard E. Lynch of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Throughout the competition, Ellement and Lowell earned positive feedback about their professional demeanor and command of the issues.
“They were particularly strong in rebuttal throughout the arguments,” said Laura Suelau (3L), a member of the Columbus School of Law team. “They were highly praised by Judge Lynch after the final round and dubbed 'remarkable' by the UB Criminal Law Society President.”
Named after the drafter of the model penal code, the Wechsler moot court competition is the only national moot court competition in the United States to focus on topics in substantive criminal law.
Problems address the constitutionality and interpretation of federal and state criminal statutes as well as general issues in the doctrine of federal and state criminal law.
This year’s problem, presented in the case Jackson v. Hobbs, considered whether the imposition of a life-without-parole sentence upon a 14-year old who has been convicted of homicide violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments’ prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, when the rarity of such sentences in practice reflects a national consensus regarding the reduced culpability of such juvenile offenders.
Megan Koster (3L), the president of Catholic University’s Criminal Law Society, assembled the team and organized the practice moots.
“They certainly could not have represented us any better,” said Professor Mary Leary, who was among the faculty members who supported the team as it prepared for the competition. “They are bringing home the trophy, which speaks for itself.”