Prussia and Grathwohl win 2023 Internal Moot Court Competition
Team Chavez and Sra finished runners-up
Second-year law students Taylor Prussia and Bridget Grathwohl were named champions of the 2023 Internal Moot Court Competition on the evening of October 23. The final argument of the competition took place in the VandeWalle Courtroom at UND School of Law with Prussia and Grathwohl representing the Petitioner and third-year law students, Crhistian Chavez and Kanwar Sra, representing the Respondent. The School of Law was honored to have four of the five North Dakota Supreme Court Justices and Eighth Circuit Judge Ralph R. Erickson in attendance judging the final round of the annual competition.
The problem centered around freedom of speech rights under the First Amendment and liberty interest rights under the Fourteenth Amendments. Each student had 15 minutes to present their argument to the Justices. Adapting quickly was an essential skill throughout the competition because the justices interrupt and challenge the arguments with questions about case law and rebuttals. Justice Lisa Fair McEvers commended the finalists for keeping their composure under Judge Erickson’s intense questioning, a challenging experience she has previously undergone.
The three-day competition, a longstanding tradition at UND School of Law, provides an opportunity for second and third-year students to gain experience in both legal writing and oral advocacy as well as working with a partner. “Researching and writing the brief and working through the pressures of competing was tough,” said Prussia. “Having a partner to overcome things with made the experience enjoyable.”
The students began preparing a month before the competition by attending two class sessions. The first session focused on writing a brief and the second offered practice in oral advocacy. “We spent a lot of time and effort preparing our brief and arguments,” said Grathwohl, “it’s so rewarding to see our hard work pay off.”
Each team competed in two Preliminary rounds, followed by the quarterfinals, then semifinals. All the judges were practicing attorneys and the majority were UND School of Law alumni. The school of law is fortunate to have volunteers from the Greater Grand Forks County Bar Association judge the competition on an annual basis.
The culmination of the competition is the final round judged by the North Dakota Supreme Court. The justices prepare for the competition in the same way they would for a real case and are known for asking difficult questions. At the completion of the competition and prior to announcing the winners, the justices gave feedback to the finalists. They provided positive comments and constructive criticism that helped the students moving forward as well as all students watching and listening in the audience. “Moot court was a great learning experience that pushed me outside of my comfort zone,” added Prussia. “It was an honor to argue in front of the North Dakota Supreme Court and an Eighth Circuit Judge and be able to display what my partner and I have worked hard on.”
2023 Award Winners
Champions – Bridget Grathwohl and Taylor Prussia
Runners-Up – Kanwar Sra and Crhistian Chavez
Best Oralist – Bridget Grathwohl
Best Respondent Brief – Bridget Grathwohl and Taylor Prussia
Best Petitioner Brief – Joseph Banash and Leon Walter
UND Moot Court Board 2023-2023