Ole Miss Law Students Win Pace Competition for Second Consecutive Year

Left to right: John Juricich, Professor David Case, and Mary Margaret Roark. The two students are holding mini storm king paintings,

John Juricich, Professor David Case, and Mary Margaret Roark

OXFORD, Miss.–Third year students Mary Margaret Roark and John Juricich have again won the the Jeffrey G. Miller Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y. Feb. 18-20.  The win marks the second consecutive national title for the pair, third for the law school.

In addition, the win means Ole Miss Law claims five out of the last six Pace competitions, and adds another national championship, making its 12th national or world advocacy title since 2011.

“Having two second year students win a competition like Pace and then return to win the competition again as third year students is absolutely amazing,” said Professor David Case, team coach.   “I’m pretty sure that has never happened in the 28 year history of the Pace competition.”

Roark of Cleveland, Miss., and Juricich of Anniston, Ala.,  competed against over 50 law schools from around the country, beating the University of Alabama and University of Houston in the final round. The team won the Best Brief – Petitioner (Save Our Climate) award and John Juricich was awarded runner up Best Oralist for the competition.

The Pace competition is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the country.  It provides a rigorous academic experience, testing skills in appellate brief writing and oral advocacy, involving issues drawn from real cases, and providing first-hand experience in environmental litigation.

“This year there were six issues to argue for three different parties and more teams were going noteless,” Roark said. “The teams were definitely better in terms of performance.”

Overall, the competition requires intense preparation, including researching and analyzing challenging legal environmental issues, writing persuasive arguments about how the issues should be resolved, arguing the issues orally and having their performances evaluated and critiqued by practicing attorneys at the competition.

The Ole Miss team began in October by writing their brief. After filing it in November, they began practicing oral arguments intensely with their coaches.

“We prepared the same, but we were more relaxed because we knew what it took to achieve the end result,” Juricich explained.

“We were able to more efficiently use our time.”

Judging this year’s championship round was the Honorable Steven M. Colloton, judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit; the Honorable Lynn Adelman, judge, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin; the Honorable Malachy E. Mannion, judge, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and the Honorable Beth Ward, judge, Environmental Appeals Board, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Coaching the team were the law school’s two national experts in environmental law, Professors David Case and Stephanie Showalter Otts.

“Both Professor Case and Otts play such a large role in helping us get prepared,” Roark said.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to build a relationship with Professors Case and Otts that I otherwise would not have had,” Juricich added.

A benefit to participating in a competition of this nature is the payoff it provides students after graduation.  Both students said it helped them find their niche.

“It helped me find a joy and thrill in litigation,” Juricich said.

“I started off not having any interest in environmental law, but I grew to love it,” Roark said.  “It’s made me want to pursue a career in environmental law, in regulatory administrative work.”

“I’ve learned how to tackle issues I might know nothing about, meet deadlines, and have picked up certain writing skills I would not have had.”

Learn more about the Pace competition by visiting their website.