The Catholic University of America


2D Leah Branch is Named Best Oralist at Pace Law School Moot Court


Catholic University second-year law student Leah Branch walked away with the Best Oralist award from the 2010 National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition, held at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y., from Feb.18 to Feb. 20.
The 21-year-old competition is recognized as the preeminent environmental law moot in the United States. It tests skills in appellate brief writing and oral advocacy on issues drawn from real cases, providing experience in environmental litigation first hand. The moot draws in excess of 200 competitors from diverse law schools and 200 attorneys who serve as judges for three days of oral arguments to create a rigorous academic experience.
“I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it,” said Branch, who credited faculty adviser Amanda Leiter and 3L Caroline Walsh, who competed last year, with offering the coaching and support that made the difference.

The competition follows an unusual formula: Three adverse teams argue the issues, reflecting the fact that environmental litigation frequently involves multiple parties - the government, a public interest group and a member of the regulated industry. Teams write and file their briefs for their respective parties in early December and come to the Pace campus in February for the oral phase of the competition. Those with the highest combined scores for both the written brief and oral argument advance to succeeding rounds. Previous legal problems have included illegal dumping of hazardous waste, vicarious criminal liability of corporate officers for their company's environmental crimes and commerce clause limits on water pollution regulation.
Branch said that although her oral arguments went well, she did not feel like a lock for the top honor. Judges jump in with questions purposefully designed to challenge and catch the oral presenters off-guard.
“I was surprised when they called my name as winner,” said Branch. “Maybe this [oral advocacy] is something I should consider in the future.”