MSU Law Moot Court Team Undefeated at ABA’s Oklahoma City Regional Competition

UPDATE, 4/8/2020 – On Monday, April 6, it was announced that the MSU Law team received the award for National Best Brief at the American Bar Association’s (ABA) National Appellate Advocacy Competition.

While oral arguments at the National Finals were cancelled, the team was thrilled to be recognized for their brief.

“I have wanted to bring home the ABA National Best Brief award for MSU since I started my Moot Court career, and I am so glad that we were able to do it for my last competition,” Kruschke said. “Hannah and Jordan played an enormous role in making this happen and I could not be more grateful for their support and insight during the brief writing process. We are also so lucky to have an amazing Advocacy program here at MSU that equips its students to win top-tier national competitions!”

The MSU College of Law team of oralists, Jordan Giles, ’20, Hannah Buzolits, ’20, and brief writer, Allison Kruschke, ’20, went undefeated and received top prizes at the Oklahoma City Regional of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) National Appellate Advocacy Competition from March 5-7. 

Giles and Buzolits were both recognized with individual awards. Buzolits was named first-place speaker with Giles just behind her as the third-place speaker. 

Prior to Regionals, the team had worked together at the Billings, Exum & Frye National Moot Court Competition last fall. “After we had such a great experience at Billings – we made it to the semifinals, Hannah got an oralist award, and we got best brief – we definitely knew that we wanted to stay together and work as a team for ABA because not only do our styles work well together as a Moot Court team but we’re also really good friends and we like each other a lot,” Kruschke said. 

The ABA released the problem to participating teams in mid-November and Giles, Buzolits, and Kruschke went to work, drafting their response to what they all described as one of the toughest problems they’ve faced in their Moot Court careers. 

“This problem was the most challenging that I’ve ever done, which definitely made it the most challenging brief I’ve ever had to write,” Kruschke explained. “Thankfully, we all really put our heads together and came up with a structure that we felt like worked, but it was really hard to do. At the end, I feel like we came out with a pretty good product and it helped us to get the argument structured as well because we had to talk through it so much.”

Throughout the course of the competition, Giles and Buzolits gained their stride round after round. “I think we did a good job trying to keep our morale and energy up. I think the one thing we did the best over the three days was that Hannah and I worked to really adapt our presentation to what the judges seemed to be enjoying,” Giles said. “By the third day, definitely in that last round, I think we were at our most confident. We hit our peak at the right time.”

Kruschke, as the team’s brief writer, served as a bailiff at the competition. “It’s a really interesting and fun experience because part of my role was collecting the score sheets and tabulating who actually won the round, so I had the fun experience of walking out of the tabulation room every time knowing they had crushed it and knowing they were winning every single judge,” she said. 

Professor Jennifer Copland, director of MSU Law’s Competitions Program, coached the team and was present for the competition. “This was an incredible team in every sense of the word,” Professor Copland said. “They not only performed well, but they are all great ambassadors for the Law College.”

With their win at the Oklahoma City Regional, the team qualified for the ABA’s National Competition in Chicago, which was set to take place in April. However, developing news and safety concerns surrounding COVID-19 ultimately led the ABA to make the decision to cancel the competition. The top brief will still be announced to participating teams. 

“The cancellation of Nationals was a huge disappointment to all of us, but understandable given the circumstances. These students worked incredibly hard this year, and they really could have gone all the way. But they can hold their heads high and know they finished Moot Court at the top of their game,” Professor Copland said. “They were undefeated, did not lose a single judge ballot at Regionals, and won awards for top speakers. They finished their last Moot Court competition as champions.”

As 3Ls set to graduate this year, the students reflected on what they now know was their final Moot Court competition, and how the program shaped their law school experiences and readied them for their futures in the legal profession. 

“I don’t think it really has sunk in yet that my Moot Court career is over and that was our last competition, partially because everything has happened so quickly,” Buzolits said. “Moot Court has taught me a lot about myself and it was kind of the driving factor for me to go to law school and to have hopes to be a litigator after law school. It helped me to find my passion for advocacy and for the law, and I made some pretty okay friends along the way.”

Buzolits and Giles both participated in Moot Court during their undergraduate years, whereas Kruschke hadn’t known much about it until entering law school. 

“Moot Court has really been a huge part of my experience at the law school. It’s taught me so much about legal writing and it’s really what helped me understand that the biggest strength that I bring to my profession is being a writer,” Kruschke said. “It definitely has given me a lot of confidence in that regard. Not to mention, I got to meet some amazing people, make some really close friends, and great mentorship through Professor Copland who’s a great professor and coach and has done so much for all three of us. It’s been great.”