OXFORD, Miss.–For the fourth time in five years, the University of Mississippi School of Law won the Jeffrey G. Miller Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y. Held February 19-21, the team triumphed over 61 other law schools at the competition. Ole Miss Law won previously in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
This victory builds on a string of successes for Ole Miss Law’s advocacy programs, which include four national championships last year alone, a top-14 national ranking for the school’s moot court board in 2014, second place at the National Sports Law Negotiation Competition this past fall, and a top-8 finish last month at the moot court National Championship hosted by the University of Houston Law Center.
Collecting the trophy for Ole Miss was a team of two second-year law students, John Juricich of Anniston, Alabama, and Mary Margaret Roark of Cleveland, Mississippi. With elimination round victories over Vermont, Montana, Florida Coastal, Penn State, Florida State, and Northeastern, the pair advanced out of a tremendous field of law schools, which also included Yale, Columbia, Berkeley, and Penn.
“The best experience I have had in law school, hands down,” says Juricich. The victory, Roark and Juricich agree, happened only because of the help of many others. As Roark explains, “the entire school supported John and me throughout this process, and that’s simply not true for all schools with moot court teams.”
“It changes your entire frame of mind when you have a moot court program and a student body that not only strives for winning titles like these, but to a certain extent, expects it as well,” says Roark, in describing how the law school’s high standards propelled them toward success. Juricich credits the coaches, Professor David Case and Professor Stephanie Showalter Otts, for their work honing the team for competition. “This championship wouldn’t have been possible” without the coaches, he explains. “It was an honor to make them proud at the competition by doing exactly what they taught us.”
“An accomplishment like this is the product of countless hours of work by the students and their coaches,” said Richard Gershon, Dean of the School of Law. “Our repeated success at this competition, and in our advocacy programs in general, says a great deal about the outstanding students we have at the University of Mississippi School of Law. This is the embodiment of their promise as lawyers.”
“It is an amazing feat for two second-year law students to win a national competition in a field of teams primarily made up of far more experienced third-year law students,” added Professor Case. “Their exhaustive preparation allowed them to succeed on such a well-known and respected national stage.”
The environmental law competition is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the country, testing students on their ability to argue a mock case before a federal appellate court. The team commenced work on the competition four months ago, in October when they started writing their brief. After filing the brief in November, the team began to practice oral arguments with their coaches. In New York, the team argued in three preliminary oral argument rounds, before advancing to elimination matches in the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final rounds. Both Roark and Juricich garnered Best Oralist Awards at the competition.
The Ole Miss team faced a formidable panel of judges for the finals, including the Honorable Patricia M. Wald, Retired Chief Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; the Honorable Malachy E. Mannion, Judge on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and the Honorable Barbara A. Gunning, Administrative Law Judge for the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Coaching the team were two national experts in environmental law from the University of Mississippi School of Law, Professors David Case and Stephanie Showalter Otts. Case’s scholarship focuses on environmental regulation and he holds a J.D. from Ole Miss and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. Otts, with a J.D. and Masters in environmental law from the Vermont Law School, directs the National Sea Grant Law Center, a program devoted to wise stewardship of marine resources. Praising the work and devotion of the coaches, Dean Gershon said, “Professors Case and Otts once again proved that the faculty here are amazing.”
Ole Miss’s four victories at the environmental law competition come hand in hand with school’s growing reputation as a leader in the specialty. As Otts explains, “Ole Miss is a recognized leader in ocean and coastal law research due to the presence of the National Sea Grant Law Center and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program. The success of our Pace team establishes the growing strength of our academic program in environmental, ocean and coastal, and natural resources law.”