Elon hosts inaugural Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition
Seventeen law schools and 31 teams of law students participated in the inaugural Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition at Elon University School of Law on April 1 and 2. David Gergen, chair of Elon Law's national advisory board, former adviser to four U.S. presidents, CNN senior political analyst, and director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, delivered the keynote address at the competition banquet.
The competition honors three of North Carolina's most distinguished lawyers: Rhoda Bryan Billings, James G. Exum, Jr. and Henry E. Frye. Each has served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and in a variety of leadership positions within the legal profession and in public life. All three justices are founding members of Elon Law’s national advisory board.
“Our three chief justices are great leaders who have been wonderful servants to our law school, our profession, our state, our nation,” said law school dean George R. Johnson, Jr. “They have served with such distinction, yet such humility. These towering figures of North Carolina and the law do us really great honor by allowing us to use their names for this competition, and we thank them tremendously.”
Gergen commended participants for engaging deeply in the study of law and advocacy through moot court competition.
“Language and words and argument make a difference,” Gergen said. “If you’re a lawyer or if you’re a lawyer who is also a leader, which we would encourage in all of you, you have to be ambassadors of persuasion. It’s very, very important for you to help bring people along in the practice of law. You often have to persuade your client, you often have to persuade a judge, you often have to persuade others, you may have to persuade somebody in politics if you get into that, there are a lot of things, but the point is, words matter and having a mastery of language and of words matters.”
More than 100 distinguished judges and lawyers volunteered to serve as judges for the competition, including Steven M. Colloton, Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, five justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Sarah Parker, four judges of the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and two judges of the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.
“Elon Law and its moot court board are grateful for the tremendous support the competition received from alumni, attorneys, law firms and distinguished jurists,” said Alan Woodlief, an associate dean and professor at Elon Law and director of the school’s moot court program. “The level of competition in this inaugural competition was exceptional, and we look forward to next year’s competition.”
Woodlief also recognized several of the sponsors of the competition, including Gold Level Sponsor, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC, who sponsored the competition's Best Oral Advocate awards, Silver Level Sponsor, Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, and Elon University President and Mrs. Leo M. Lambert, for sponsorship of the competition's top award, the Chief Justices' Cup.
The competition champions are Joy Foglietta and Bennett Lessmann of Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center. Linh Flores, Amy Labzentis and Matthew Roche of Regent University School of Law took second place after a well-contested final round. Lessmann won the Best Oral Advocate award for the final round.
Semifinalists included Jenna Gailliard, Eugene Martell and Shakiva Raff of Florida Coastal School of Law and Justin Cormier, Tillman Kasper and Todd MacLeod, also of Florida Coastal School of Law.
Quarterfinalists included Jessica DeSantis, Kristen Eshleman and Catherine Scott of Florida Coastal School of Law, Skye Gess and Michael Nixon of Mercer University School of Law, Sonny Behrends, Brittany Marks and Melissa Yatsko of Regent University School of Law, and Tore DeBella, Lance Murashige and Kelly Quinn of the University of Virginia School of Law.
Tillman Kasper of Florida Coastal School of Law won the Best Oral Advocate award for the preliminary rounds. Bo Caudill, of Charlotte School of Law, Michael Nixon, of Mercer University School of Law, and Tore DeBella of the University of Virginia School of Law took second, third, and fourth place respectively for the preliminary round Best Oral Advocate awards.
Linh Flores, Amy Labzentis and Matthew Roche of Regent University School of Law won the competition’s Best Brief award. Hannah Davis, Wade Sample and Austin Walsh of Wake Forest University School of Law took second, Jenna Gailliard, Eugene Martell and Shakiva Raff of Florida Coastal School of Law took third, and Jessica DeSantis, Kristen Eshleman and Catherine Scott of Florida Coastal School of Law took fourth place in the Best Brief awards category.
Schools participating in the competition included:
Appalachian School of Law
Charleston School of Law
Charlotte School of Law
Chicago-Kent College of Law
Duke University School of Law
Florida Coastal School of Law
George Mason University School of Law
George Washington University Law School
Liberty University School of Law
Mercer University School of Law
Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center
Regent University School of Law
University of Dayton School of Law
University of Houston Law Center
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law
University of Virginia School of Law
Wake Forest University School of Law
The competition took place at the Elon University School of Law and at the Guilford County Courthouse, both in downtown Greensboro, with the Competition Awards Banquet held at the O.Henry Hotel in Greensboro, on Saturday evening, April 2.
Competitors were judged on the quality of their appellate brief and oral arguments. During the two-day competition at Elon, each team participated in a minimum of four rounds, arguing a hypothetical problem before panels of accomplished jurists, legal scholars and attorneys. The problem focused on a constitutional law issue currently under consideration by the federal courts.
Matthew White, ’11, a member of the Moot Court Board at Elon Law, who along with Meredith Thompson, ’11, served on behalf of the board in leadership roles to help plan and manage the competition, thanked participants and others for helping to make the competition a success.
“From our distinguished speaker, to our honored justices, to our excellent judges, to our fantastic competitors, we thank all of you for helping to make this such an exciting moment for us,” White said. “We were really impressed by the caliber of the students who participated in this competition. Without all of you, this would not have been possible, so thank you and we hope that all of your schools will come back and participate again next year and help us build upon this competition.”
Additional details about the Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition are available at law.elon.edu/mootcourt.