Three teams of EMU students place in the top 10 at national Moot Court competition

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Coaches Professor Barry Pyle (left) and attorney Robert Dobronski flank the EMU student team of Maya Rich and Steven Cole, who placed third in the nation in two events.

Photo courtesy of EMU

Three pairs of Eastern Michigan University students finished among the top 10 teams in the nation in a national Moot Court competition this month in Long Beach, Calif., finishing third, fourth and seventh. No other students from Michigan universities finished in the top 30 teams.

Maya Rich, from Ypsilanti, and Steven Cole, from Saline, finished third in the nation in two events: oral advocacy and in the petitioner brief competition, while the teams of Anthony Gonzalez (Garden City) and Jordan Giles (Livonia) and Paul Taske (Cincinnati) and Kyle Francis (Jackson) finished fourth and seventh in the nation respectively in the respondent brief competition.

The teams debated the question of whether the federal government can deny students a college education based on status as an undocumented immigrant. The EMU students competed at the American Collegiate Moot Court Association National Championship at California State University, which took place on Jan. 15-16.

Eighty teams competed in the national championship, with more than 360 teams competing in regional qualifying events around the country. EMU faculty members Barry Pyle, a professor of political science, and C. Robert Dobronski, a local lawyer and part-time lecturer at Eastern, coached the EMU teams.

Schools competing in the national championship included the University of Chicago, the University of Virginia, Duke University, the Air Force Academy, Ohio Wesleyan, Baylor, Holy Cross and Morehouse State. EMU was the top finishing school from the Midwest.

Cole is EMU’s student body president, having served as vice president last year; and Rich is director of social justice for EMU Student Government and a member of its executive staff. She is the daughter of EMU faculty member Anita Rich, a professor in the department of Communication, Media and Theatre Arts. Both Cole and Rich also compete on EMU’s mock trial team.

The EMU moot court team is in only its third year of competition, but has already enjoyed noteworthy success. The team also qualified two teams for the national tournament last year, and one the year before.

Dobronski noted the fast progress of the EMU program. “In the past two years, we turned some heads in the competition, doing things that no other newer program was able to historically do,” he said. “However, this year was a true coming out party for the EMU moot court program. We went head to head with the elite programs of the nation, and earned the respect of every team and program in the nation. The program's goal for next year is to continue to build on our success, and win a national title."

The American Moot Court Association is an organization of undergraduate college moot court programs from across the country. In oral competition, students from more than 350 schools annually compete in one of ten regional tournaments, with the top six to 12 teams from each competition advancing to the nationals. Competitors give appellate-court style arguments in front of a panel of judges, urging the court to either uphold or strike down the law at issue.

In the written competition, each team writes a 20-page brief, using the style and standards applied to legal briefs submitted to the United States Supreme Court. Briefs are submitted by email, with the top ten arguments for the petitioner and respondent announced at the national oral competition.

The program welcomes new students. For information, contact Professor Barry Pyle at bpyle@emich.edu.

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