The Baylor Law team of Morgan Harkins, Taylor Romero, and Allison Rasnick captured the title at the recent TYLA Moot Court Competition in Houston. The team was coached by Kathy Serr, coordinator of the Baylor Law advocacy program. Additionally, Harkins was named the 2nd Best Speaker while Romero was named 3rd Best Speaker. Allison Rasnick was the team brief writer.
"The TYLA championship, coming at the end of the academic year cycle in interscholastic moot court and mock trial competition, caps what has been unquestionably one of the historic stand-out years for Baylor Law School in the interscholastic arena. Taylor, Morgan and our colleague Kathy Serr have provided us in this victory a perfect cap-off to a year of victories," said Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben.
The TYLA competition is held each year in conjunction with the annual meeting of the State Bar of Texas. Seven teams from Texas law schools participated in the competition. Baylor Law competed against all the teams in the preliminary rounds and beat St. Mary's in the semifinals and the University of Houston in the finals. The finals were judged by seven of the nine Texas Supreme Court justices.
"It was surreal when we were announced as the winner," Romero said. "Justice Willet was video-taping, people were clapping, we were shaking hands and suddenly there were trophies."
This year's competition problem was a medical malpractice lawsuit regarding a 16-year-old girl with Chrohn's disease who, through alleged negligence, developed an infection after surgery that led to part of esophagus being removed. The case involved four separate issues. Since Baylor Law was the top seed, the team chose which side it argued in the semifinals and finals.
"We chose Respondent because it was a more creative argument, and we each relished in the opportunity to have, what my partner referred to as '15 minutes of rebuttal a piece' to (respectfully) tear apart the other side's arguments," Harkins said.
Harkins and Romero thought the opportunity to argue before the Texas Supreme Court both humbling and inspiring.
"Before the winner was announced, we had to go back into a room to receive comments from the Justices," Romero said. "I laughed when we entered and told them that they weren't as scary as I thought they would be. They laughed and Chief Justice Jefferson told me to get back to the podium and let them have another go at me."
The team gives credit for their success to their coach and to Baylor faculty Laura Hernandez and Jim Wren, adjunct professors Bill Drabble and Greg White and recent graduate Joel Towner for serving as judges during practice.
"Kathy Serr deserves almost exclusive credit for our success this year. As a talented advocate herself, she provided a perfect support system, pushing us to work hard while giving us the space we needed to prepare alone. My first thought upon winning was 'I'm so happy we made Kathy proud,'" Harkins said.
"Kathy Serr is phenomenal," Romero said. "She is incredibly supportive, efficient, organized and so smart. She had a lot of faith in us, and that kind of faith carries you through a competition."
Harkins is in her seventh quarter in law school. She majored in Spanish and music at the University of Portland and was captain of its mock trial team. At Baylor Law, she has competed on the National Criminal Procedure Moot Court team, the ABA Client Counseling team and the Bankruptcy Moot Court team.
In the fall, Romero will begin her third year of law school. She is a graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin and taught at the Academy for Global Studies for two years before entering law school. She competed on Baylor Law's Emory Civil Rights and Liberties Moot Court team and the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition team.
The win is part of what has been a banner year in advocacy competitions for Baylor Law School teams. Baylor Law placed first and second at the National Trial Advocacy Competition and won the 17th Annual Uvaldo Herrera National Moot Court Competition. In 2012, Baylor Law teams also won regional competitions at the ABA Moot Court competition, AAJ mock trial competition, the NTC and the Transactional Law Meet. Baylor Law teams also won the Elliott Cup and the National Security Moot Court Competition at George Washington University's School of Law. Baylor Law teams also were semifinalists at the NYU Immigration Law Moot Court Competition, the Wisconsin Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition and the Child Welfare & Adoption Law Moot Court Competition. Baylor Law advocacy teams are underwritten through the generosity of the M.D. Anderson Foundation.