The McConnell Center's 2017-18 moot court competition team.
The McConnell Center's 2017-18 moot court competition team.

Four McConnell Scholars have advanced to nationals after their strong performance at a regional moot court competition held recently in Michigan. Macey Mayes (’18) and Robert Gassman (’18) finished among the top four regional teams, and Dasha Kolyaskina (’20) and Japser Noble (’20) earned a repeat ride to nationals after finishing seventh overall.

“I am thrilled to finally have a bid for national moot court competition, since this is my fourth and final regional competition,” Mayes said. “But if you consider the fact that we have two teams heading to nationals, it really proves that hard work does pay off and this program works.”

Thirty-eight teams competed in the Dec. 1-2 regional event held at Saginaw Valley State University, with the top seven teams advancing to the national finals slated for Jan. 19-20 at the University of North Texas at Dallas.

Three UofL students placed in the top 20 in the oral arguments category, with Mayes finishing 16th, Noble finishing 17th and Kolyaskina placing 19th out of 76 competitors.

“Our moot court coaching staff knows exactly how to push us to solidify our arguments and oratory skills,” Mayes said. “I can personally say this program has facilitated more growth for me than any class or program I have ever been a part of — bar none.”

Team Kolyaskina/Noble said they hope to improve on their national moot court appearance last year. “The experience of arguing in front of federal judges and lawyers as an undergraduate was invaluable last year, and it made us noticeably better debaters,” Kolyaskina said. “I’m excited to get the chance to learn from other teams and put all of our hours of practice to use.”

The only program of its kind in Kentucky, the Center’s moot court team was among the top 20 in the nation in 2016 and received an honorable mention for their 2017 performance at regionals. The rankings are granted by the American Moot Court Association.

Participation on the team is a large undertaking, as students spend the semester researching, writing and practicing their oral arguments, in addition to their normal coursework and extracurricular activities. Each competition team is made up of two Scholars who handle half of the argument. 

This year’s case considers issues related to the right against self-incrimination protected by the fifth amendment and the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the eighth amendment.

Since 2008, the team has been coached by Neil Salyer, a McConnell Scholar alumnus (’01). Sean Williamson (’11) serves as an assistant coach. UofL history and law professor Thomas Mackey, PhD, also advises the team.