The Brendan Moore Trial Advocates achieved tremendous team and individual success in three national competitions during the first weekend of November.
A Moore team consisting of 3Ls finished runner-up, and its 2L counterparts advanced to the semifinals, in the Florida National Trial Advocacy Tournament hosted by the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law. A second 2L team reached the semifinals at the ABA Criminal Justice Trial Competition at Quinnipiac Law School in Connecticut.
Meanwhile, Tom Sperber ’18 earned Best Cross Examination and Best Closing Argument at the Florida tournament and Leanne Fornelli ’19 claimed Best Closing Argument at the National Civil Rights Trial Competition at St. John’s Law School.
The 3L team of Sperber, Colette Carman, Greg O’Brien, and Katherine Peluso entered the fall semester preparing to travel south to compete, albeit at The Puerto Rico Trial Advocacy Competition. They ended up, however, at the University of Florida, on short notice, after Hurricane Maria prompted the Puerto Rico event’s postponement.
“It speaks to how experienced they are as student trial advocates and how talented they are,” said Adam Shlahet ’02, director of the Brendan Moore Trial Advocacy Center, of the team’s runner-up finish. Shlahet praised coaches Gabe Mendoza ’11 and John-Chris Record ’16 for getting the team ready to compete at a high level in less than a month. Shlahet also credited Professor James Kainen and Moore alumni for sharing their time and wisdom to the various teams in competition this month.
In his winning closing argument, Sperber, as prosecutor, asserted that a defendant charged with DUI manslaughter, in a case involving a self-driving car, had possessed the capacity to grab the wheel, and in doing so save the victim’s life. Sperber appealed to jury members’ common sense, he explained, with his contention that the defendant had not averted the tragedy due to his impairment. After the event, Sperber said he considered his success and the team’s success one and the same.
“You can’t make it to the finals in a national competition without everybody being on their game. It was so fun to see each one of my teammates put on the trial they expected to,” Sperber said, noting the team was “thick as thieves through every step of the process.”
Joining Sperber’s team in the University of Florida competition’s final four were a 2L team of Moores consisting of Tomas Barron, Phillip Jobe, Yena Hong, and Brendaliz Minaya Ruiz. Their coaches were Zachary Green ’14 and Haseeb Fatmi ’12.
Fellow 2Ls Tom Arning, Dmitri Gelfand, Caitlin Hickey, and Iris Velasquez reached the semifinals at the ABA Criminal Justice Trial Competition at Quinnipiac. Their coaches were Jason Tortora ’14 and Ben Bergin ’14.
While the Moore team competing at St. John’s did not advance, Fornelli managed to win Best Closing Argument in her first competition. She credited her coaches, Fawn Lee ’14 and David O’Brien ’16, for instructing her to take advantage if an opponent failed to make a motion to preserve writings on a whiteboard. Sure enough, such a scenario played out during the competition, and Fornelli scored points with judges by crossing out the opponent’s arguments and debunking them.
“It’s really a testament to the program and its structure,” Fornelli said of her achievement, noting that Lee worked with her one-on-one to perfect her argument. Dennis Donnelly, Emily Richey, and Mary Cate Simeone also competed with Fornelli at the event held at St. John’s.