Willamette College of Law Captures National Championship

Willamette University College of Law, led by Karolyn R. Klohe '03 and S. Aaron Young '04, won the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition in New York on February 22. Willamette defeated Louisiana State University and Drake University in the final round. In a rare accomplishment, Willamette's team earlier captured the Best Brief award, as well, which was co-authored by Deborah Dunn '03. Professor Susan S. Smith was the team's coach. Willamette's victory takes the national championship trophy from Lewis and Clark Law School, the winner of the 2002 competition.

The 15th Annual National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition was held at Pace University School of Law in White Plains, New York. The competition, which begun in 1989, today draws more than 200 competitors from a diverse group of law schools. More than 200 attorneys serve as judges for three days of oral arguments, creating a rigorous academic experience for student participants. The Pace-sponsored competition is recognized as the preeminent environmental law moot court competition in the United States. The competition is distinctive in that three adverse teams argue the issues. It mirrors the reality of environmental litigation that often involves multiple parties--the government, a public interest group and a member of the regulated industry.

This year's competition centered on the Federal Clean Water Act and the discharge of polluted wastewater from a mining operation. Previous legal problems have included vicarious criminal liability of corporate offices for their company's environmental crimes and commerce clause limits on water pollution regulation.

Teams wrote and filed briefs for their respective parties in early December, hoping for a place in the oral phase of the competition in New York. Those with the highest combined scores for both the written brief and oral argument advanced to succeeding rounds. Klohe and Young faced a judging panel comprising a judge from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, a judge from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, and a judge from the Environmental Appellate Board.

In addition to Lewis & Clark, recent winners of the competition include the University of California, Berkeley in 2001 and the University of Texas, Austin in 2000. In 2002, the University of Washington, Seattle won Best Brief. Yale University won in 2001 and Vermont Law School won Best Brief in 2000.