Edwina Avbuere L’20 and Spenser Sullivan L’20 prevailed Tuesday night in the championship round of Elon Law’s largest intramural moot contest to date where teams argued the merits of a fictional sexual harassment and workplace discrimination lawsuit.
You work for a company that makes equipment for harvesting apples. After asking one of your colleagues to refrain from rubbing against you, patting your buttocks, and massaging your neck and shoulders – something that’s happened more than once over the course of a few months – you report the behavior to your boss because it hasn’t ended.
Your boss tells the CEO. The employee is told to stop. The behavior continues. And you file a lawsuit against your employer, alleging a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace harassment on the basis of sex.
You’re a man. The harasser is a woman. And, as it turns out, she’s been doing the same thing to someone else in the office – another woman. So does the behavior itself rise to the level of sexual harassment? Especially if your work performance doesn’t suffer? And is it sexual harassment when the offender is an equal opportunity offender, acting the same way toward colleagues of both sexes?
Those were among the questions faced by first-year students who competed over the past week in Elon Law's 2019 Intramural Moot Court Competition that culminated June 4, 2019, when Edwina Avbuere L’20 and Spenser Sullivan L’20 were named champions in a final-round contest against Christine Cline L’20 and Victoria Stout L’20.
With praise for their eye contact and effective responses to questioning, Avbuere and Sullivan impressed the a panel comprised of the Hon. Robert N. Hunter, Jr., a retired jurist from the North Carolina Court of Appeals; the Hon. James L. Gale, Senior Business Court Judge on the North Carolina Business Court; the Hon. Lindsay Davis, a retired Senior Resident Judge on the North Carolina Superior Court; and the Hon. Sarah Neely Lanier L’10, an Elon Law alum now on the North Carolina District Court in Randolph County.
It was a crowning achievement for two students whose interest in the legal profession varies – Sullivan is eyeing a career in public interest law, while Avbuere has interest in governmental affairs – yet both of whom saw moot court as an opportunity to build self-confidence with public speaking in pressure situations.
“This is a moment we’ll share together that almost no one else will understand,” said Sullivan, a graduate of Arkansas State University, “and we’ll always know in our future careers that we have each other to lean on.”
The duo met at an interest meeting prior to the competition. When each saw that the other needed a partner, they quickly paired up and started preparing.
Avbuere discovered that prior experience in church and high school choirs, and working in theater while studying at George Washington University, provided her with a perspective on how to connect with an audience. “Performing and being in front of people, even onstage with groups, this felt natural to me,” she said. “I still get nervous, yes, but I’m still performing.”
The contest featured 73 students and more than 50 attorneys and judges participated as judges in the early rounds of the competition.
“It was exciting to see this level of interest in moot court among our students, with the largest number of students in school history competing this spring,” said Senior Associate Dean Alan Woodlief, director of the Moot Court Program. “Moot Court is one example of the powerful experiential education our students receive at Elon Law. This simulated exercise, formulating and presenting court arguments, prepares them for their upcoming internships and residencies when they will appear before real judges.”
The Moot Court Board will host its 10th Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition from October 10-12, 2019. Members of the Board will also represent Elon Law in competitions around the country in 2019-20.
Individual Awards of the Spring 2018 Competition
- Top Oral Advocate in the Final Round: Edwina Avbuere
- Top Oralist in the Preliminary Rounds: Christine Cline
- Clancy Phillips and Anna Powell
- McCathern Painter and Megan Wilson-Bost
- Emma Dallalis and Molly Brazil
- Dhruvi Barot and Maddie Baruch
- Peter Kelly and Victoria Waddell
- Hunter Winstead and Antigone Feredinos
Members of Elon Law’s Moot Court Board, led by Haley Lohr L’19 and Kelli Rawlinson L’19, helped coordinate the event. Emily Chatzky, Logan DeHart, Hannah Tombaugh, Karah Yager, Preston Edwards, and Alexa Litt – all from the Class of 2019 – served as various committee chairs.