On the weekend of Jan. 14 and Jan. 15, political science senior Olivia Cooper and geospatial information senior Paulina Hruskoci secured a historic second place for UTD at the national Moot Court Competition hosted at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Moot Court is a nationally ranked annual competition that has undergraduate students across the nation debate current legal issues addressed by appellate courts, meaning students argue as if they are before the Supreme Court. Competitors prepare a brief overview of their constitutional law issue and defend their stance while being battered by thought-provoking and arduous questions from the judges. To prepare the teams, professor Barbara Kirby and coach Jody Joiner — former assistant attorney general of Missouri — simulated the same demanding environment in the classroom with the assistance of other students and honorable guests.
“Coach Joiner and I prepared them by grilling them with questions during class,”
said Barbara Kirby, a professor in the pre-law advising center and a Moot Court Coach. “Also, since Coach Joiner and I are both attorneys and read into the case ourselves, we ask the questions to make sure they stay on their toes. And of course, as we went along, we asked increasingly more difficult questions.”
Olivia and Paulina were both proficient with the assigned cases, making it easier to transition perspectives if they were assigned to the opposing argument. Thanks to their practice, Olivia and Paulina excelled in the processing and delivery of their arguments. Hruskoci said that she enjoyed both the challenge and the learning experience involved in the argument process.
“Moot Court taught me how to think on my feet, but also prepare well enough that you’re not caught flat-footed when you’re answering a question,” Cooper said. “And this is for me. This is for when I’m in a class and the professor’s questioning me over readings, when I’m in an interview and one of the interviewers asks a question that maybe I hadn’t thought of or hadn’t prepared for.”
Moot Court presents an opportunity for students to gain skills required for success in all careers, not just law. It’s a competition that allows networking and encourages students like Cooper and Hruskoci to evolve out of their comfort zones. Their performance was supported by quick thinking, strong public speaking skills and Comet pride.
“We have strengthened our national presence in moot court because getting to the final round in Moot Court is just a huge deal if you think about it,” Kirby said, “like being in the final four in any sport or event. And so in the fall, the way just about every team across the country starts off their class is by showing last year’s final round. I mean, that’s how we started off this year. You know, when we start off showing the final round, it’ll be UTD.”