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Moot court members nab national ranking

Jan. 22, 2010

Courtesy Photo
From left to right, Houston senior Erik Baumann, sponsor Matt Brogdon, and Fort Hood senior Ray Panneton pose for a photo after the moot court team placed second in a national tournament last weekend at Florida International University in Miami.

By Katy McDowall

One of the Baylor Undergraduate Moot Court teams placed second in the national tournament of the American Collegiate Moot Court Association last weekend at Florida International University in Miami.

Fort Hood senior Ray Panneton and Houston senior Erik Baumann entered the tournament as the southwest regional champions, competing among the nation's top 64 teams, and made it to the final round.

"For Erik and Ray to have advanced to the final round really put Baylor on the map," Matt Brogdon, the team's faculty advisor, said.

Panneton and Baumann defeated three other regional champions, including the tournament's top seed, on their way to the final round.

"It's really going to bring recognition to Baylor that hasn't been seen before at the undergraduate level," Panneton said.

Panneton and Baumann established Undergraduate Moot Court at Baylor in April 2008, but they did not start competing until November 2008.

They started the organization because they wanted to gain experience for law school that they did not think they would receive from other activities like debate and mock trial.

"Moot court trains you to think and act like an attorney as opposed to a debater," Panneton said.

The competition requires students to give appellate arguments on constitutional issues before a panel of judges, simulating an oral argument before the Supreme Court.

"They're learning a skill they take directly to law school," Brogdon said.

In their junior year, the pair went to the first national qualifier but lost in the preliminaries, Baumann said.

"This year we put our minds to it, and we won the regional," Baumann said.

Brogdon said students must be familiar with more than 20 cases and must be articulate and respond to questions on the spot without the use of notes.

"Moot court is the type of competition where I don't draft arguments for them to memorize because it's a fluid exchange between the judge and the attorney, the competitor," Brogdon, a lecturer in political science, said.

Panneton and Baumann won the southwest regional tournament hosted by Texas Tech in October, in front of a panel of judges that included former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The pair, along with another Baylor team, Keller sophomore Meaghan Nowell and Comfort senior David Matthew, advanced to nationals.

"I think it's amazing that we've come so far in such a short period of time when we're going up against established teams with extensive training," Nowell said.

Nowell and Matthew finished in the top four at the southwest regional, making Baylor one of only a handful of schools to have multiple teams at nationals.

"I thought it was overwhelming and exciting at the same time because I didn't expect to make it this far," Nowell said.

Baumann attributed the success to Brogdon's hard work.

"He has worked hard to get us established in the political science department here at Baylor," Baumann said.

This is the first year moot court is being offered as a course, for which Brogdon developed the syllabus.

"It's one of the things you just fall into," Brogdon said, "I didn't even know what moot court was when I helped them out last year."

The course prepares students to participate in moot court competitions but does not require them to do so. The class also familiarizes students with hypothetical appellate cases and allows them to develop the capacity for oral argument and analytical legal thinking.

"Even for students who aren't going to law school, I think this is an invaluable experience," Brogdon said.

Brogdon said many competitions require students to learn a subject, but moot court is uncharacteristically realistic in that students are doing exactly what attorneys are doing.

"It was a lot of fun and I would highly recommend it to anyone in undergrad to prepare you for law school," Baumann said.