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  Sep 19, 2014   |   Last update: August 4, 2014 @ 8:21 am

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College of Law Excels in Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition

(left to right) Haley Carmer, Doug Naftz and John Robinson

Team Wins Best Overall Brief, Ranks Among Top Three in Oral Advocacy

February 24, 2014 — The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Environmental Moot Court Team, composed of Haley Carmer, Doug Naftz and John Robinson, performed exceptionally well in the Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition held February 20-22 in White Plains, New York.

In what Professor Lincoln Davies, the team’s coach, described as an “extraordinary achievement,” the team won the award for Best Overall Brief in the competition.  “It means they wrote the best student environmental law brief in the nation this year,” Davies said. 

The team also made the finals of the competition, meaning that they were one of the top three teams in the nation this year. “This is a terrific accomplishment, because advancement to the finals is based on the students’ oral arguments at the competition,” Davies elaborated. “Thus, the Utah team was deemed the best writers in the competition and one of the top three in terms of oral advocacy.”

Davies described the team’s performance as “simply exceptional — as individuals and as a team. John received the Best Oralist award in two of the preliminary rounds, which meant that our team won that award two out of the three possible times we could.”

“The entire College of Law community should be extremely proud of Doug, Haley, and John for all they accomplished,” Davies added. “This is the preeminent environmental law competition in the country, and they came out on top as the number one team in terms of writing skills and one of the top three teams in the nation for their oral advocacy.  Either one of these achievements is remarkable. Together, they are truly extraordinary.  Built on the strong foundation of our school’s past teams in this competition, John, Doug, and Haley’s performance this year is proof positive of the team’s hard work and dedication, and is only further evidence that Utah has one of the very top environmental law programs in the nation.”

Davies acknowledged the “tremendous support” the team received from the College of Law community, citing “donors, alumni, faculty, staff, the Stegner Center, and the College of Law as a whole. Special thanks go first to S.J. Quinney and Pace Team alumna Sarah Carlquist, who volunteered as the assistant coach to this year’s team. Her invaluable contributions to the team’s development and performance cannot be overstated,” he said. Davies also thanked the many attorneys, alumni, and faculty who gave of their time to judge practice rounds and help the team refine its arguments and prepare for the competition, as well as the donors who provided financial support to send the team to the competition.   

The Wallace Stegner Center is grateful to our donors who provide support for the Stegner Center to send student teams to the Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition and the National Energy and Sustainability Moot Court Competition. Donors include the Energy, Natural Resources & Environmental Law (ENREL) Section of the Utah State Bar, Clyde Snow & Sessions, Lear & Lear, Parr Brown Gee & Loveless, Fabian & Clendenin, John Harwood, Ben Machlis, Jim Moore & Kathryn Lindquist, Mark Rodney Smith, Megan McKay, and Doug Crapo.

Hosted by Pace University in White Plains, New York, this competition is the premier environmental law competition in the country.  This year, 76 schools competed, including highly regarded law schools like Yale and Columbia as well as powerhouse environmental law programs like Utah, Lewis and Clark, and Vermont Law School.  The competition is widely known in the environmental law community as the environmental moot court competition and has received recognition from the ABA for the learning opportunity it provides students.

Every year, the competition uses a different problem involving cutting-edge issues of environmental law.  According to Davies, this year’s problem was extremely complex. It centered on the jurisdictional boundaries of the Clean Water Act, based on arsenic contamination of a fifty-mile-long creek by a hypothetical mining operation.

Students in the competition were required to argue all three sides of the problem—an environmental plaintiff, the mining defendant, and the government—forcing them to see all sides of the issues and advocate from multiple perspectives.  Davies described this process as “very difficult but the crux of becoming a good lawyer.”

The College of Law’s exceptional performance at the Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition comes only two weeks after the College’s National Moot Court Team of Jeremy Christiansen and Stephen Dent earned the award for second-best brief in the nation, besting 192 other teams at the national competition. Last year, the College of Law’s National Court Team of Dick Baldwin, Laurie Abbott, and Nathanael Mitchell drafted the best brief in the nation in the National Moot Court Competition.