Holding the American Collegiate Moot Court Association (ACMA) Western Regional on campus for the past 11 years, Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) knew how to be the good host. Winning the regional at home, however, was a whole new experience.
CSULB seniors Kirst Biakanja and Adria Bonillas won the tournament with a 3-2 victory in the finals against a team from Patrick Henry College. Biakanja, a political science major, and Bonillas, a psychology major, won five straight matchups during Saturday’s elimination rounds en route to the university’s second Western Regional title overall and first in the last 11 years serving as host.
Biakanja and Bonillas were seeded 18th after Friday’s preliminary rounds, but on Saturday, the CSULB tandem proceeded to defeat the 15th-, second-, seventh-, third- and eighth-seeded teams to win it all. In doing so, they became the lowest-seeded team to ever capture the Western Regional crown.
“All of our mooters, even those not moving on to nationals, helped make this happen, but make no mistake, Krist and Adria, and the assistant coach assigned to their team, Tim Appelbaum, earned this. They got hot at the right time,” said Lewis Ringel, a CSULB lecturer in political science who is in his seventh year serving as director of the campus’ moot court program. “They won their rounds, which were pressure packed gut-checks against top-ranked teams. They also had to beat the winningest team in CSULB history—Ryan Chapman and Yasmin Manners—a team with a lifetime record of 22-5 and a team that had won or finished third in its last two tournaments. But, to my way of thinking, they stand on the shoulders of their classmates and assistant coaches.”
Held on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, ACMA Western Regionals featured 34 two-person teams from 10 schools around the country, including five teams from CSULB. Other institutions participating in the competition were Brigham Young University-Idaho, Carroll College (Montana), Fresno State, Cal State Fullerton, Mt. St Mary’s College, Patrick Henry College, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Weber State University and Westwood College.
“This regional win was truly a team effort in every meaning of the word,” Ringel pointed out. “All 13 of our students worked for this win. They all grabbed one end of the same rope and pulled in the same direction. Our teams have worked together since May to brainstorm and practice their arguments. They helped each other with suggestions and many, especially our more senior people, offered feedback and advice to the newer mooters.”
As a program, CSULB earned multiple bids to the 2012-13 ACMA national championship, which will be held in January, as the university had four of the final eight teams. Overall, CSULB placed five teams into the Sweet 16 at the regional.
Also advancing to nationals along with Biakanja and Bonillas are junior Ashley Hall and senior Kyle Maury, who finished fifth at regionals; seniors Chapman and Manners, who finished sixth; and senior Brianna Wilbur, who partnered with Rebecca Sampayan from Patrick Henry College. The pair, who met for the first time just the day before the tournament, finished seventh overall and each won orator awards.
Along with Wilbur, four other CSULB mooters won recognition at the regional for their oratory skills—Chapman, Bonillas, Hall and junior Asmita Deswal.
Ringel believes that his CSULB teams will do well at the ACMA 2013 National Tournament to be held Jan. 18-19 at the Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach.
“I expect us to win a lot of ballots and rounds at nationals,” he said. “We will work hard, practice good sportsmanship, and ensure that CSULB is represented in a manner befitting one of the few programs that has won a national championship.
“We have an experienced squad, and I think our team members are smart enough to recognize that no one will roll over for us and that we will face great teams from great schools that are well-coached and which will compete hard,” he added. “Our goal is to close out nationals with four teams in the semi-finals. It won’t be easy. Our opponents will be talented and worthy, but we will be prepared for the challenge and we will have fun competing. That is something we talk about a lot—ensuring that we have fun mooting and that judges can tell that our teams enjoy their rounds and that they love competing in this arena.”
Moot Court, also known as mock Supreme Court and Supreme Court Simulation, is a simulation of an appellate court proceeding that involves teams of student contestants. Teams from colleges and universities throughout the nation arguing the same case.
This year’s hypothetical case asks two questions: a) Whether a university’s preferential admissions program, which provides extra weight to male applicants in order to balance its student body, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution? and b) Whether the university in question violated petitioner’s right to free association under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution?
Moot court teams are made up of two individuals, and their combined oral argument must be 20 minutes with each member of the team presenting a minimum of seven minutes. Not knowing which viewpoint it will be presenting, each team should have the ability to support both arguments. Moot court judges ask students questions and grade them on the basis of their knowledge of the case, their response to questioning, their forensic skills and their demeanor.