Penn State Dickinson team advances to national moot court competition

A team of two students from the Penn State Dickinson School of Law are in Chicago this week to compete in the Thomas Tang National Moot Court Competition scheduled for Oct. 20-23. The competition, administered by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Law Foundation and the NAPABA Judicial council, aims to develop legal approaches relevant to the Asian Pacific community. Teams are evaluated on the basis of legal writing and oral advocacy skills and compete for $10,000 in scholarship prizes sponsored by Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.

Penn State Dickinson team members Nicole Lobaugh, a third-year student, and Isadora Velazquez Rivas, a second-year student, finished second in the Northeast Regional Competition held in Boston Sept. 29-Oct. 2 to earn one of just two spots to advance to the final round. They competed against 10 teams representing Northeastern University School of Law, Fordham University School of Law, St. John's University School of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Boston College of Law, Syracuse University College of Law, New York University School of Law and Touro Law Center. The winning team was from Syracuse University.

"Isa (Velazquez Rivas) and I worked well together as friends and teammates, and this opportunity has been invaluable for both of us," said Lobaugh. "Our legal education has been significantly enriched through this experience, and we were both honored to represent Penn State Dickinson at the regional competition."

In all, 79 teams from across the country competed in six regional competitions. Two teams from each region were chosen to advance to the national round. The competition asked teams to prepare oral arguments for the petitioner and respondent in a case involving Fourth and Fifth Amendment issues. Each team also submitted a written brief for either the petitioner or the respondent in the case, depending upon assignment. The same case is argued in both the regional and national competitions.

Lobaugh and Velazquez Rivas are competing in a series of mock oral arguments and also are being judged on their written brief for the respondent, submitted before the regional competition. The team will be scored on the quality of the oral argument for the petitioner, the oral argument for the respondent and the written brief, with each area counting for a third of the overall score.

"The regional competition was highly competitive and exhausting, but all of our hard work paid off. Now we are both re-focused on the national competition and look forward to the challenge," said Lobaugh.

To prepare, the pair has been working closely with Penn State Dickinson professors Lance Cole, Harvey Feldman, Jeffery Knight and Katherine Pearson. Larry Norton, a local practitioner, also helped the team by judging oral argument practice sessions. Knight accompanied the team to Boston, and Cole is attending the competition in Chicago.

"I'm very pleased to see the hard work of our students pay off again. Isadora and Nicole are continuing a tradition started by recent graduates Alice Song and Ishmael Alejo, who found the Thomas Tang Moot Court program to be a terrific opportunity to advance their advocacy skills while also recognizing important legal issues common to the Asian Pacific community at large," said Pearson.

She added that 2005 graduates Song and Alejo, who participated in last year's competition, were instrumental in organizing Penn State Dickinson's team participation this year.

The Thomas Tang Competition was introduced in 1993 by the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association of the South Texas College of Law in Houston. The competition honors the late Judge Thomas Tang, who served on the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals from 1977 until his death in 1995.

Julie Lu and Brian LeClair, left, of Syracuse University College of Law and Penn State Dickinson students Isadora Velazquez Rivas and Nicole Lobaugh, right arel representing the Northeast Region in the Thomas Tang National Moot Court Competition in Chicago. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated July 22, 2015