Georgia State Law Wins Intrastate Moot Court Competition
Georgia State Law brought home the winning trophy and received the best brief recognition at the Intrastate Moot Court Competition on March 24-25, hosted by the College of Law. Georgia State’s Team A of Yasmin Assar (J.D. ’18), Eleanor Miller (J.D. ’18) and Chadwick Williams (J.D. ’18) beat the University of Georgia School of Law in the final round.
Two teams from each of Georgia’s six law schools participate in the annual competition.
Assar, who also earned Best Oralist at the National Health Law Moot Court Competition last fall, said it felt amazing to win. “There is a huge rivalry amongst the schools. Georgia State lost by a hair last year so it felt great to take the trophies back home from UGA.”
The championship round was judged by judges from the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Northern District of Georgia, and attorneys in the Atlanta community.
“Facing a very hot bench, our team A acquitted themselves extremely well in the final,” said Patrick Wiseman, professor of law.
The problem was about a same sex couple who adopted a child together before the Obergefell v Hodges decision. Since they could not legally marry at the time, only one party was allowed to put her name on the adoption papers. They signed agreements laying out joint custody and child support should they separate, which they did years later (still prior to Obergefell). The adoptive mother severed contact between the child and non-adoptive mother, who then sued to enforce the agreement.
Williams argued the petitioner side in the final.
“Typically, we like the law to align with common sense. Most often, the intuitive answer is the legal answer. However, this is a case of law versus intuition. That’s what made the problem so difficult for us to argue, because all common sense would support the idea that this woman the kid calls ‘mom’ is a parent. However, nothing in the law gives her any leeway. The child may see her as mom, but the law does not,” Williams said.
As the swing on the team, Assar argued alternatively on both sides all six rounds of the competition. In the final, she was the first to argue, and also gave the rebuttal.
Assar said Moot Court has helped her learn to think on her feet. “In the final round, I made two arguments that I had never said in practice or in the prior rounds and I wasn’t sure how they would go over. Apparently, it worked!”
Assar also credits the team’s coach Kaitlyn Pettet (J.D. ’17) with its success.
“Kaitlyn gave us constructive feedback at practices and pushed us to think about questions and arguments we hadn’t considered. She really helped me hone in my rebuttal skills,” Assar said.
The team had a rigorous practice schedule. They spent two weeks to processing the problem and writing the brief, and then practiced about five times per week for four weeks.
“Kaitlyn is an aggressive bencher and gives very candid feedback. She worked with us to break our bad habits and arranged several great benches of professors and practicing attorneys,” Williams said.
Pettet, who competed in Intrastate last year, said coaching was more nerve-wracking than competing.
“Prior to the final round, I remember feeling extremely anxious for my team,” Pettet said. “But as soon as the questions came from the bench, the anxiety immediately evaporated. The team handled their toughest bench with the most poise I had witnessed throughout the entirety of the competition. Their confidence secured the win.”
Pettet said the team had a strong work ethic. “They were most impressive with their knowledge of relevant statutes, case law, and policy implications. I felt overjoyed that the many Justices recognized the cumulative efforts of our team throughout the competition. I am truly impressed by the team’s hard work and dedication, and feel that the outcome was well deserved.”
No team member had any prior experience with family law, so they had much to learn, Williams said.
“I think what really helped us in winning best brief was taking the time to learn and understand the law. And then the brief informed our oral arguments and boosted our scores throughout the competition,” Williams said. “I especially love brief writing because it allows for creativity and persuasion. The oral arguments are just a bonus, allowing us to get up and defend what we wrote.”
The petitioner’s brief was written by Williams and Miller. “I wrote the standing issue, and Chad wrote the enforceability issue,” Miller said.
“One unique argument we made was pointing out that standing to bring a claim is determined at the time of filing suit, and at the time of filing, the non-adoptive mother had not been standing in loco parentis, or ‘in the shoes of a parent,’ for almost a month,” Miller said. “Therefore, she lacked standing to bring the claim. I think we were the only team to bring this point up in our brief, and at competition, we noticed that several judges used this point as a basis for their questions. It was exciting to see that the judges were actually using our brief to question other teams.”
Miller also argued for the respondent during oral arguments. “We made a unique argument analogizing the type of parentage of a non-adoptive mother with type of parentage recognized in legitimacy actions, and that seemed to be particularly effective for my portion of the argument,” Miller said.
Miller said her Lawyering Foundations professor, Trisha Kanan, was the driving force behind her decision to get involved in Moot Court. “She really got me excited about brief writing and giving oral arguments.”
Team B—Kellie Lowery (J.D.’ 19), Caroline Mayson (J.D. ’18), Sean Robinson (J.D. ’18) — made it to the semifinals, where they lost to UGA. The team was coached by Brient Hobbs (J.D. ’17).