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St. John’s Law and ABI Host Nation’s Premier Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition

2018 Duberstein Competition Winners
Professor Christine Lazaro (far left) and Dean Michael A. Simons (far right) with the Duberstein Competition winners from Alabama Law
Thursday, March 8, 2018

The powerful nor’easter that battered the northeast corridor last weekend, downing trees and powerlines and disrupting travel plans, was no match for stalwart law students who came from around the country to compete in the 26th annual Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition held in New York City on March 3-5, 2018.

Sponsored by St. John’s Law and the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), the Duberstein competition is the nation’s only moot court competition devoted to bankruptcy law. It’s named for distinguished St. John’s alumnus and former ABI Director Hon. Conrad B. Duberstein '41, '91HON, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 90.

Although a number of competitors didn’t arrive in New York until late in the day on Saturday, or early Sunday morning, their skills and preparation were on display as they argued back-to-back rounds. After driving around 17 hours to make its bid, the team from the University of Alabama School of Law advanced in the field of 47 teams and fended off a tough challenge from the George Washington University School of Law to take first place.

The winning Alabama Law team received a $5000 prize from the ABI Endowment Fund, which also provided the second place GW Law team with a $3000 prize. Teams from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law and University of Texas at Austin School of Law tied for third place and split a $3000 prize.

UCLA School of Law took home the Best Brief award, while the University of Nevada Las Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law, SMU Dedman School of Law, Baylor Law School, and the University of Texas School of Law earned recognition for Outstanding Briefs. Stefan Caris Love of UCLA School of Law, David Crampton of Baylor Law School, Kevin Miller of Baylor Law School, and Martin Rowe of Brooklyn Law School stood out for their Outstanding Advocacy, and Ashley Venegas of Florida Coastal School of Law came away with the competition’s Best Advocate award.

Practicing lawyers and sitting judges helped to judge the competition, which included seven rounds of arguments. The panel of distinguished federal jurists presiding over the final competition round at the Conrad Duberstein United States Bankruptcy Courthouse in Brooklyn included:

  • Hon. Kent A. Jordan, U.S. Court of Appeals, 3rd Cir.
  • Hon. Colleen McMahon, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, S.D.N.Y.
  • Hon. Cecelia G. Morris, Chief Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, S.D.N.Y.
  • Hon. Carla E. Craig, Chief Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, E.D.N.Y.

Each year, the competition problem focuses on two sophisticated, cutting-edge issues of bankruptcy law. This year, the competitors considered whether a free and clear sale can terminate a leasehold interest and override the tenant's right to remain in possession, as well as whether a "gift" settlement can funnel value to unsecured creditors while skipping over a priority creditor.

“The Duberstein Competition always attracts dedicated and talented competitors,” says Professor Christine Lazaro, who helped to organize the event. “But this year’s competitors, including eight teams that, unfortunately, were unable to get to New York, made an exceptional effort as they confronted the weather-related hurdles. St. John’s Law students also stepped up to make this a wonderful experience for the competitors, as did our alumni and friends who volunteered as judges throughout the competition.”

The event culminated with a gala awards banquet at the Grand Hyatt New York. About 600 guests, including many of New York’s leading bankruptcy judges and practitioners, enjoyed an evening in celebration of the competition’s contributions to the field.

For more information on the annual Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition, please visit the competition website.