Students Wow Judges at Yearly Davis Moot Court Competition

The four Davis finalists and the three judges of the final round gather to take a photo | Photography by Sarah Telle

The four Davis finalists and the three judges of the final round gather to take a photo | Photography by Sarah Telle

By: Sarah Telle, 1L
Contributing Writer

On Thursday, October 27, four future lawyers stood before three judges and argued about the fate of a small family owned business. They argued with all the passion and conviction that their fictional clients could have desired.

The John W. Davis Moot Court Competition has been a W&L tradition since 1980. Davis is an appellate advocacy competition for 2Ls and 3Ls, which centers on a modern question of constitutional law. The competition includes a written brief and oral argument component.  The Moot Court Board creates the facts of the case from scratch every year and it almost always about some obscure area of the law.  The legal issues this year centered on ripeness and the takings clause. (If you don’t know what those mean, don’t worry; the majority of people in the world don’t know either.)

Normally, a 2L dominated event, this year 3 of the 4 finalists were 3Ls: Annie Cox, Maressa Cuenca, and Rossana Baeza. Ian Huyett represented the 2L class. 

These four individuals argued before the Honorable Brent Benjamin, West Virginia Court of Appeals; the Honorable Stefan Wolfe, US Army Court of Criminal Appeals; and the Honorable Jack Telle, District Judge, Marshall County, Kentucky. The judges challenged both sides, forcing all the finalists to recall relevant laws and cases in order to apply it in creative new ways.

On preparing for the final, Cox noted, “If anyone had passed me on interstate 81 over the past month, I would have looked like a crazy person. I used my internship commute to practice openings and answers in the car, but all the cold calls in the world would not have prepared me for some of the questions in the final.”

All four responded to the questions quite well, wowing the audience and the judges. Before announcing the winners, Judge Wolfe noted, “All of us agreed that none of us could have done this while in law school. It was incredible to be a part of it.” Judge Telle stated, “There is hope for our profession yet.” Justice Benjamin complimented all four contestants and announced the winners.

Cox won first place in oral arguments and Cuenca took second. Pete Thomas won first place in brief writing. Baeza and Cuenca placed second.

Describing her experience, Cuenca said, “I believe that success cannot happen in isolation. I attribute any achievement to my professors who have coached me, my colleagues who have supported me, my family who has loved me, and most of all my God who is faithful. Right before every round, I felt anxiety, stress, depression, fear, and a feeling of incompetence. Always thinking I was not good enough to move up. Perspective is necessary. When we take ourselves less seriously and learn to embrace the hard process, that’s when we can fully enjoy living in the moment. No fear but only joie de vivre!

All of the contestants performed admirably, and it was another successful year for the John W. Davis Appellate Advocacy competition.

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