Finalists in Baylor Law School's annual Dawson & Sodd P.C. Moot Court Competition demonstrated their courtroom skills before a distinguished panel of judges and a large audience on Monday, Oct. 3, at the James Kronzer Appellate Advocacy Courtroom. When the judges returned their decision, the team of Jason Fenton and Tim Keane emerged as the winner over the team of Andrea Whalen and Tiffany Terndrup.
"I was shocked and excited to hear we'd won," Fenton said. "Just making the break was my primary goal, so to progress further and eventually win was all a bonus."
Keane agreed. "The round was very close and Ms. Terndrup and Ms. Whalen did a superb job; really all of the teams worked quite hard. I was definitely a bit anxious waiting for the results though," he said.
Fenton graduated from Oral Roberts University with a major in Political Science and spent five year working for Congressman John Carter from Round Rock. Keane, who hails from Pensacola, Fla., is a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and will serve as a Marine Corps attorney after law school.
"I was proud of the performance of our finalists," said Luke Meier, assistant professor who teaches Appellate Advocacy and Procedure. "They represented themselves, and Baylor Law School, very well in responding to the probing questioning from our esteemed panel. The entire competition went well. The competing students were able to hone their advocacy skills through practice, and that is something we are firmly committed to at Baylor Law School."
This year, 39 two-person teams took part in the competition, which simulates the appellate advocacy process, from writing an appellate brief to preparing and presenting oral arguments before a panel of judges. Baylor Law School holds a second intramural moot court competition during the spring.
Baylor law students who currently are taking Appellate Advocacy and Procedure are required to participate in the moot court competition. Additionally, 14 teams of upper-quarter students competed. At the completion of the fourth round, the top 16 teams advanced to compete in bracket-style competition, with a team being eliminated each day. The top 16 teams were awarded the distinction of barrister.
The case that teams argued this year concerned whether a claim for wrongful adoption existed and if it did what the appropriate remedy would be.
Because Terndrup has five siblings who were adopted from Russia, the case really hit home for her.
"I was very nervous to meet the panel prior to the final round because it consisted of accomplished attorneys, brilliant professors and highly respected judges. However, when several of the panel members told me that their families had adopted children in them, too, I felt more at ease knowing that they were approachable people with backgrounds similar to mine, she said.
For the final round, Baylor Law compiled an impressive judges' panel, including Judge Priscilla Owen from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Debra H. Lehrmann from the Texas Supreme Court. Other judges, who were well versed in family law, included former Judge Marilea Lewis of the 330th Family District Court in Dallas; Ike Vanden Eykel and Kevin Fuller of Koons Fuller Vanden Eykel in Dallas, Ben Selman of Naman Howell Smith & Lee; Professor Pat Wilson; and Blayne Thompson and Derik Scott, who won the spring moot court competition in March.
"We were faced with a tough panel of judges in the final round," Whalen said. "However, they provided a new perspective to the problem that we didn't experience throughout the competition. All in all, it was a great experience to be judged by experts in the area."
The winners of the competition received $1,250, while finalists received $900. The third-place team received $300. In addition to naming a winning team, the top 10 speakers for the competition also were selected.
"To make this happen twice a year requires time and effort from many people, from the Moot Court officers to the barrister judges to the staff involved in coordinating the logistics of the final round. I know I speak on behalf of the competitors when I say that we are grateful for these efforts and for the opportunity these efforts afford our students," Meier said.
The Dawson & Sodd P.C. law firm of Corsicana sponsors the fall competition. The firm's two partners are both graduates of Baylor Law School. Matt "Mad Dog" Dawson served as professor of Baylor's renowned Practice Court program from 1971-1983, while Glenn Sodd is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and was named one of the top 100 general trial attorneys in the U.S. by Town and Country magazine.