Big wins: Mock trial and moot court teams bring home honors

Photo of four Case Western Reserve University law students standing in a courtroom
From (left) Will Baker, Elise Manchester, Sydney Warinner, and Michael Eckhart

International excellence—and best oralist in the world

After coming in third in the national competition in February, Case Western Reserve University School of Law’s Jessup International Law moot court team ranked 14th in the World Championship Rounds in April, thanks to exemplary performances from team members Michael Eckhart (LAW ’22), Sydney Warinner, Will Baker and Elise Manchester.

Then-first-year students Manchester and Baker ranked #1 and #11 oralists in the world, respectively, in the global rounds—out of more than 2,400 students from over 600 schools around the world.

The team, coached by Co-Dean Michael Scharf and Squire Patton Boggs attorney Liz Safier (LAW ‘21), moved easily into the advanced rounds with a 7-1 record, but eventually lost to University of Queensland, Australia, which won the World Championship in 2018.

Their finish, however, marked one of the highest ever for a Case Western Reserve School of Law team in the World Championship Rounds. Harvard Law School ended up winning the World Championship—making it the first American team to win the Jessup World Championship since CWRU did so in 2008.

A top team at Vis International

For the first time in law school history, CWRU’s team advanced to the elimination rounds of the Vis International Arbitration Moot Court virtual competition—one of only six American teams, including University of Michigan and Harvard University, to reach this level.

More than 350 teams from around the world entered the Vis competition, and only 64 advanced to the knockout rounds. Represented by co-captains Rachel McKay (LAW ’22) and Callan Foran (LAW ’22) in the round of 64, CWRU’s team—which also included John Schon (LAW ’22), Reece Disney and Frankie Collins—was narrowly defeated by the home team, Vienna University of Economics and Business. Cheering from the sidelines were the remaining team members, Elena Strelkova (LAW ’22), Brooke Behrmann and Rose Carlyon, along with faculty coaches Douglas Pilawa (LAW ‘19) and Katy Mercer, PhD (LAW ’83; SAS ’83; GRS ’97, social welfare).

McKay received “Honorable Mention for Best Oralist”—an award given to 25 of 2,500 students. This is the second year in a row that a CWRU student has taken home a top speaking award from the prestigious competition, after Foran last year became only the second person in the law school’s history to win it.

Impressing with success

Last spring, the CWRU mock trial team competed in the first in-person National Trial Competition (NTC) since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team sailed past hundreds of regional competitors and advanced to the national finals in Fort Worth, Texas.

Athavan Balendran (CWR ’18, LAW ’22), Elena Gutbrod (LAW ’22) and Andrew Thompson litigated through five rounds to become one of the top four teams in the country before falling to the eventual national champions—University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law—in the semifinals.

Maddie Kelley (LAW ’22), Jake Doerr (LAW ’22) and Dave Walters also put forth an impressive performance, tying for eighth place and narrowly missing out on advancing to the quarterfinals through multiple levels of tiebreakers.

Case Western Reserve teams also:

  • swept the top three spots at last fall’s Case Classic Mock Trial Competition, which attracts teams from around the country;
  • advanced to the semifinals of the National Black Law Students Association Constance Baker Motley Mock Trial Competition in Memphis, with Makela Hayford (LAW ‘22) honored as Best Advocate for the Midwest Region for the second year in a row; and
  • made it to the quarterfinals of the American Association for Justice Mock Trial Competition.

This article appeared in the fall issue of In Brief magazine. Download the full issue.