OXFORD, Miss.–The University of Mississippi School of Law won its second national moot court championship for 2015 at the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition on March 21 at Georgetown University Law Center. Technically, Ole Miss earned the title of North American Champion and with it the right to represent the continent at the World Finals in Jerusalem, Israel, in October.
“A success like this, in the world’s oldest and most prestigious space law competition, stands out as a highlight on a student’s resume,” says Dean Richard Gershon. “As an international leader in this unique emerging area of law, Ole Miss helps propel students into careers at government agencies like NASA and the CIA, as well as position students for opportunities in the growing private space industry and at companies like Bigelow Aerospace and SpaceX.”
This victory builds on a string of successes for Ole Miss Law’s advocacy programs, which include recently winning the nation’s pre-eminent environmental law moot court competition for the fourth time in five years; winning four national championships in 2014 alone; earning a top-14 national ranking for the school’s moot court board in 2014; receiving second place at the National Sports Law Negotiation Competition this past fall; and achieving a top-8 finish at the moot court National Championship hosted by the University of Houston Law Center this past January.
As North American space law champions, Ole Miss Law will compete in the World Finals against law schools from Africa, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. Three members of the International Court of Justice will serve as judges and will hear arguments in a hypothetical case involving an asteroid mining dispute and liability for a failed attempt to divert an asteroid from colliding with the Earth. In its 24th year, the competition takes place under the auspices of the International Institute of Space Law, headquartered in Paris, France, and attracts over 60 law schools from around the globe.
On the road to the championship, the University of Mississippi School of Law triumphed over a field that included teams from Georgetown, Nebraska, Hawaii, Temple, St. Thomas, Florida State, UC Davis, Arizona State, George Washington University, McGill (Montreal, Canada), and Universidad Sergio Arboleda (Bogota, Columbia).
While all of these law schools focus on international law, Ole Miss stands out as one of just a few schools to offer a program devoted to the law governing aviation, space exploration, and satellites. In fact, the School of Law pioneered the field of space law over 45 years ago and the New York Times has recognized the school as “an international center for space law studies.” The school’s expertise is embodied in its Journal of Space Law, the conferences it hosts, the service of its graduates in the field, and in its curricular programs.
Notably, the School of Law features both a J.D.-level certificate program on remote sensing, air, and space law and an advanced LL.M. degree in air and space law. Indeed, Ole Miss Law offers the only advanced law degree program in the United States combining both aviation law and space law. For more information on these programs, please visit https://law.olemiss.edu/academics-programs/llm/ and https://law.olemiss.edu/academics-programs/certificate-programs/remote-sensing-air-space-law-certificate/
The championship team from Ole Miss Law includes Olivia Hoff of Gulfport, MS, and C.J. Robison from Lubbock, TX, both of whom are second-year law students from the space law certificate program. Joining them is Ian Perry of Ellis County, TX, a 2013 J.D. recipient currently working on his space law LL.M.
“I believe a great deal of our success stems from our knowledge of general international law and space law,” said Robison. “Ole Miss has some of the best resources and professors in the country for such study. Our success is definitely a testament to the University’s leadership in this area.”
“I am extremely proud of these students,” says Professor Jacquie Serrao, the Director of the LL.M. program. “I know they will represent North America and our law school brilliantly at the Finals in October. C.J., Ian, and Olivia are each examples of the caliber of space law scholars and future attorneys which the J.D. and LL.M. programs produce.”
For team member Hoff, a physics and mathematics graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, the space law certificate program offered a path to become a lawyer, but still stay focused on the sciences. “To some degree pursuing the certificate makes me feel as if, even though I changed fields, I am still staying true to my roots.”
The team is coached by Professor Michael Dodge, who graduated from the School of Law’s space law program in 2008 and now teaches U.S. and international space law at Ole Miss. Joining Professor Dodge as assistant coach is Adjunct Professor Michael Mineiro, who holds a J.D. from North Carolina along with an LL.M. and D.C.L. from McGill University, and works on space law issues for numerous federal agencies and international organizations.
“I am tremendously proud of the team’s achievement,” states Professor Dodge. “In the upcoming months, I look forward to working to prepare them for the next stage of the competition. I know they will compete admirably, and skillfully represent the University of Mississippi and its long association with space law.”
More broadly, Dodge praises the promise of the students in Ole Miss’s space law programs. “They all have a passionate interest in aviation and space law issues.” He also speaks ardently of the school’s placement efforts. “Our professors have decades of contacts in academia, government, and private industry. Accordingly, many of our graduates have gone on to realize their dreams, working for such diverse employers as NASA, the FAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, congressional offices, Bigelow Aerospace, Spaceport America, consulting firms, higher education, and of course private law firms.”