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Law School’s Advocacy Teams Excel in 2015-2016 Competition Season

All-alumni panel of esteemed jurists presiding at 2016 Reardon Competition
Thursday, May 26, 2016

St. John’s Law offers students a wide range of opportunities to build essential lawyering skills hands on. Among them are the co-curricular Moot Court Honor Society and Frank S. Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute (PTAI), where students learn appellate and trial advocacy, respectively, in competitions at the Law School and across the country.

As they have in past years, St. John’s student advocates excelled during the 2015-2016 competition season. Here are just some highlights from the Moot Court Honor Society’s banner year:

In an impressive local victory, the team of Rachel Houle '17, Bryant Churbuck '17, and student- coach Utku Kurtmer '16  (all assisted by alumna-coach Emily Walsh '09) took first place and won best brief at the Hon. Elaine Jackson Stack Moot Court Competition hosted by the Nassau County Bar Association. This was the second consecutive Stack competition win for St. John’s Law.

Traveling to William and Mary Law School in Virginia, advocates Utku Kurtmer and Tim Gallagher '17 teamed with brief specialist Kristen Lasak '17 and student-coach Lawson Huynh '16 (all assisted by alumna-coach Nicole Woolard '09) to advance to the finals of the prestigious William B. Spong Invitational Moot Court Tournament.

Debra March '16, Sally Profeta '16, and student-coach Erin Teresky '16 (all assisted by alumnus-coach Tom Gerrity '09) reached the semi-finals at the Leroy R. Hassell, Sr. National Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition. Also finding success at the national level was the advocacy team of Frank Tantone '16 and J. Raymond Mechmann, III '17, who joined with brief specialist Erin Teresky, student-coach Sonja Jamelo '16, and alumnus-coach Thomas Rooney '10 to become quarter-finalists at the John J. Gibbons National Criminal Procedure Moot Court Competition.

“Coaching has been one of my great professional joys for many years,” says Gerrity. “Moot Court has always attracted bright and hard-working law students. Working with those students individually is the best way to hone their analytical skills and to improve their ability to address complex legal matters concisely and clearly. I think the participation of our dedicated alumni has helped the Moot Court Honor Society reach new levels of success at competitions and to achieve a richly-deserved national reputation for excellence.”

The success streak continued at this year’s Irving R. Kaufman Memorial Moot Court Competition, where the St. John’s team of Garam Choe '16, Amanda Iannuzzi '16, and student-coach Debra March (all assisted by alumna-coach Kathryn Garland '12) had an impressive quarter-final finish. And Rogendy Toussaint '16 drew accolades as outstanding oralist at the University of Houston Law Center’s Andrews Kurth Moot Court Championship, where Danelco Moxey '10 served as the team’s alumnus-coach

The season concluded with the internal Roy L. Reardon Moot Court Competition. Representing the top 2L advocates, the finalists were Tim Gallagher '17, Mark Gutman '17, David Knapp '17, and Ray Mechmann. They argued before a panel of distinguished judges—all St. John’s Law alumni—that included:

  • Roy L. Reardon ’54, Partner, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
  • Nicholas M. Cannella ’75, Partner, Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto
  • Hon. Albert Lorenzo ’90, Acting Justice, New York State Supreme Court, Bronx County, Criminal Division
  • Hon. Matthew Sciarrino ’93, Acting Justice, New York State Supreme Court, Kings County, Criminal Term; and Judge, New York City Criminal Court, Kings County
  • Hon. Joanna Seybert ’71, United States District Judge, Eastern District of New York

  1. After an exciting final round, Mechmann was named best oralist and Gutman earned second best oralist.

“The Moot Court Honor Society’s outgoing student board did a tremendous job this year managing the organization, competing, and preparing the junior members, all with the dedicated help of the senior staff,” says Professor Christine Lazaro, the organization’s faculty advisor. “Each and every member rose to the occasion so we could continue to do all that we’ve done in the past and more. We also had a lot of assistance from our alumni, and we look forward to their continued support in the coming years. We also look forward to welcoming Dean Susan Landrum as co-faculty advisor starting this fall.”

Dedicated alumni were also there to help PTAI’s student advocates achieve an impressive competition record this year, including one national championship, multiple top finishes, and five individual awards.

In the fall, PTAI veterans Joseph Calabrese '91 and Mike Vicario '09 coached the team of Jamie Capodieci '16, Matt LaSorsa '17, Maurice Sayeh '17, and Christine Chu '17 to victory at the Buffalo-Niagara Mock Trial Competition, a national competition with 36 teams. In the end, Capodieci was named best overall advocate. 

Three other PTAI student advocates earned individual acclaim during the fall season: Dino Litourgis '16 stood out in a crowded field as the best advocate at the White Collar Crime Invitational; Stephanie Ognibene '16 won best direct examination at the ABA Criminal Justice Advocacy Competition; and Evan Feuerstein '16 had the best cross examination at the Judge Paul Joseph Kelly, Jr. Invitational Trial Competition.

In the spring, St. John’s was the site of the the regional rounds of the National Trial Competition hosted by the Texas Young Lawyers’ Association and the American College of Trial Lawyers. PTAI’s team of Caitlyn O’Neill '16, Jamie Capodieci, and Evan Jaffe '16 advanced to the semi-finals and were coached by Burton Ryan '75 and Christina Bezas '13. Jaffe won best direct examination. The team of Evan Feuerstein '16, Marlee Galvez '16, Matt LaSorsa '17, and Arielle Cummings '17 were semi-finalists at the ABA National Criminal Justice Trial Competition hosted by the John Marshall Law School. 

“This was a year filled with a lot of growth for PTAI, especially in terms of exposure for our 2Ls,” says Jaffe, the outgoing director of external competition. “We had over 42 people try out last summer, and over 28 people competed externally throughout the country. We also expanded our reach by going to new competitions, and we brought new talent into the coaching circle—a tribute to the great alumni support we receive. I look forward to continuing that tradition of giving back as an alumnus.”

About the Moot Court Honor Society
The Moot Court Honor Society trains its members in effective advocacy in both brief writing and oral argument. In collaboration with the Center for Bankruptcy Studies, it also co-hosts the annual Hon. Conrad B. Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition, which is widely recognized as one of the nation’s preeminent moot court competitions.

About the Frank S. Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute
Since its launch in 2002, PTAI has provided St. John’s Law students with diverse opportunities to participate in trial training programs, competitions, and trial-related legal writing forums that promote and support St. John's reputation as a leader in the field of trial advocacy.