UNC HLLSA Students Place Third in National Latina/o Law Student Association Moot Court Competition

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2Ls Melodie Pellot-Hernandez, Josh Martinkovic and Miranda Wodarski.

Excellent preparation and teamwork trumped nerves in the end and led to a third-place finish in a national competition for the UNC School of Law’s Hispanic/Latino Law Students’ Association moot court team.

The 2L team of Josh Martinkovic, Melodie Pellot-Hernandez and Miranda Wodarski advanced to the semifinals of the National Latina/o Law Student Association Moot Court Competition in Chicago Oct. 1 and 2.

In UNC’s first appearance in the annual competition, Carolina Law was among 23 teams registered for the event, held at Northwestern University School of Law and Loyola University Chicago School of Law

“They brilliantly represented Carolina Law,” says O.J. Salinas, UNC clinical associate professor of law and the team’s faculty adviser and coach. “They were poised and professional. They answered the judges’ questions extremely well. They demonstrated that they are strong oral advocates.”

Each team wrote an appellate brief about two issues concerning a recent federal immigration case, Texas v. United States. The case deals with the federal government’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program.

The UNC students jointly wrote a brief and submitted it to the competition then orally argued the issues presented in the case in Chicago. Teams argued both for the states that were suing the federal government and for the government. Teams were judged on their briefs and oral arguments. South Texas College of Law, which defeated UNC in the semifinals, won the competition.

“Judges commented on how well-prepared our students were, how easily our students were able to think on their feet, and how impressed they were with our students’ oral presentation skills,” Salinas says.

The students’ polished performance was the result of many hours of work, including assembling the 30-page brief and practicing for oral arguments.

“It really challenged us to know the case well. Since we were comfortable with the substance, it allowed us to focus on our courtroom presentation and style,” Martinkovic says.

The opportunity to gain practical skills and present oral arguments before real judges and practicing attorneys is invaluable for students.

Pellot-Hernandez said her moot court involvement honed her legal research and writing skills.

“This experience forced me to think on my feet and helped me improve my oral advocacy skills,” she says.

The teamwork was instructive for Wodarski.

“This was my first time competing with a team,” she says. “From Skype calls while I was abroad, to endless coffee shop meetings, to working in Professor Salinas’s office, to traveling to Chicago together and then competing, we really bonded and learned how to work together. This is an important skill to have as a lawyer, and we do not get this opportunity in our everyday law-student lives.”

-October 29, 2015

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