North Dakota Law

Updates from the University of North Dakota School of Law.

Third-year Law Students, AnneMarie Studer and Emerson Solemsaas, Sweep 2024 Carrigan Cup Competition

Second-year team, Amuzu and Walter, finish runners-up

2024 Carrigan Cup Champions Emerson Solemsaas and AnneMarie Studer

It was a total sweep for the third-year team of AnneMarie Studer and Emerson Solemsaas in UND School of Law’s annual Carrigan Cup Trial Competition.

Studer and Solemsaas emerged as the overall champions, won both the Best Plaintiff and Best Defense Team awards, and Ms. Studer won the Best Oralist award. Second-year students, Alfred Amuzu and teammate Leon Walter competed in the final round and finished as the runners-up respectively. The internal competition took place the weekend of March 23-24 at UND School of Law and was hosted by the UND School of Law Trial Advocacy Program together with the Student Trial Lawyers Association (STLA). Denitsa Mavrova Heinrich, Rodney & Betty Webb Associate Professor of Law directed the competition along with third-year law students, Jack Blotsky and Adley Swanson serving as student Co-Directors.

Finalist Alfred Amuzu argues the case

The Carrigan Cup annual internal trial team competition provides UND School of Law students with the opportunity to obtain practical courtroom advocacy skills and gain exposure to trial theory and practice. The students had four weeks to prepare both sides of the case. In that time, they learned how to analyze and respond to the strengths and weaknesses of each side, practice preparing witnesses, and research and argue evidentiary issues. “The students were not afraid to put in the work trials require because they recognized the positive impact this experience would have on developing the skills they’ll need to succeed in the practice of law,” said Heinrich. “I am so incredibly proud of their hard work, their advocacy skills, and their commitment to trial practice. The future of our legal profession is bright with advocates like them in it!”

I am so incredibly proud of their hard work, their advocacy skills, and their commitment to trial practice. The future of our legal profession is bright with advocates like them in it!

The civil case, Lonnie Menninger v. Ouchi Motor Company, Inc., was a wrongful death action filed by Lonnie Menninger for the death of his wife, Laura Menninger. Ms. Menninger was killed when a car, driven by Taylor Townsend, struck her bicycle as she was exiting the driveway of a fast-food restaurant in Armadillo, Lone Star. The car driven by Townsend was an Ouchi Model T, equipped with an autonomous driving system (ADS). At the time of the accident, the ADS was engaged and was controlling the actions of the vehicle. The ADS system initially identified the bicycle as an obstacle, then subsequently identified it as not being an obstacle. This cycle of identification as obstacle and non-obstacle continued until shortly before the collision that caused Ms. Menninger’s death. Teams had to prepare both sides and try the case at least once on the plaintiff side and at least once on the defense side.”Each competitor’s dedication to mastering the intricacies of a complex legal problem was incredibly impressive,” said Blotsky.

“The Trial Advocacy program, including Carrigan Cup, has been incredibly beneficial in learning how to put a case together from start to finish,” said Solemsaas. “I believe the skills I have gained throughout this experience will be extremely useful to me in practice.” Studer commented, “Carrigan Cup is a highlight of my time as a student at UND Law. I look forward to applying everything I learned from the competition about trial preparation and execution in my legal practice.” Both Blotsky and Swanson commented on the incredible collegiality between the competitors throughout the competition. “The Carrigan Cup is a testament to the collegiality and hard work that defines the UND School of Law,” said Blotsky. “What stood out the most was the spirit of collaboration and mutual respect among the teams,” added Swanson.

The Carrigan Cup is a testament to the collegiality and hard work that defines the UND School of Law

The success of the competition depends, in large part, on its volunteers. Local attorneys who volunteered their time to serve as judges for the competition’s preliminary and semi-final rounds included, Brittney Blake, Kylee Carlin, Joseph Hackman, Tatiana Hackman, Zac Ista, Robin Johansen, Brianna Kraft, Josh Krank, Lexi Madlom, Jack Marcil, Samantha Schmidt, and Kevin Thomson. “The judges fostered an environment that encouraged learning, advocacy, and professionalism,” stated Swanson. A spring winter weather advisory prevented the scheduled final round judges from attending the event. Stepping-in at the last-minute to volunteer were Zac Ista, in-house legal counsel for Altru and Assistant Coach for UND Law’s National Trial Team; Haylee Borgen, family law practitioner, former UND Law National Trial Team member and champion for Region 12; and Kate Jund, an Assistant State’s Attorney and a former UND Law National Trial Team member. “The chance to receive feedback from local trial lawyers and judges is a positive aspect of Carrigan Cup,” commented Studer. “Their insights and guidance provided me invaluable lessons for my future career in law.”

STLA is committed to fostering interest in a variety of trial practice careers that exist in the legal profession and educating students about how best to prepare for a career as a trial lawyer. The organization strives to uphold and advance the science and art of jurisprudence, to train in all fields and phases of trial advocacy, and to support and improve the University of North Dakota. “I am so grateful for the tremendous efforts Adley and Jack put into ensuring the competition’s success,” said Heinrich, “their commitment to offering this important opportunity to help train the next generation of trial lawyers in North Dakota is truly remarkable.”

Jack Marcil, alumnus and avid supporter of UND School of Law and the Trial Advocacy Program, told the student advocates at the end of a preliminary round, “I knew Judge Carrigan before he was a judge. I knew him as a trial lawyer. And I can tell you, with certainty, he would be proud of you.”

I knew Judge Carrigan before he was a judge. I knew him as a trial lawyer. And I can tell you, with certainty, he would be proud of you.

Student co-directors Adley Swanson and Jack Blotsky with director Professor Heinrich
AnneMarie Studer poses with her award plaques for Carrigan Cup champion, Best Plaintiff Team, and Best Defense Team (along with partner Emerson Solemsaas), and Best Oralist.
Finalists Leon Walter and Alfred Amuzu
Students pause for a much deserved break. From L-R: Leon Walter, Alfred Amuzu, Heather Helm, Roman Knudsvig, Emerson Solemsaas, AnneMarie Studer, Grant Ellenson, and Ted Ramage.