Willamette Takes 2003 National Environmental Law Moot Court Championship

Karolyn R. Klohe 'JD'03 and S. Aaron Young 'JD'04 led Willamette University College of Law to the championship of the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition in New York on February 22, 2003, defeating 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 'JD'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.

In an email sent to the law school community shortly after being notified of the team's win, Dean Symeon S. Symeonides offered the team his hearty congratulations. "We are thrilled with your success," wrote Dean Symeonides, "Your victory for best brief was already a huge step, and now you have done it again! This is terrific! Congratulations and thanks! We are proud of you." The dean also recognized Prof. Smith for her role in "selecting and guiding the team" and also recognized Marci L. Ellsworth JD'03 and Matthew M. Fisher JD'03 for having done "such a great job leading this year's Moot Court Board." Fisher is Moot Court Board chair; Ellsworth is vice-chair. Both received their undergraduate degrees from Willamette University. Klohe received her bachelor's degree from the University of Washington; Young from Texas Wesleyan University; and Dunn from La Sierra University in southern California. A banner congratulating the team hung from above the entrance of the Truman Wesley Collins Legal Center and the team was honored at a reception at the College of Law upon their return from New York.

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 problem 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. Klohe called it the "most terrifying and exciting" event in her life. She said that her only disappointment about the trip is that their progress through each round did not permit her to ever go into New York City. Team members also expressed their gratitude toward the support shown them by the law school and the faculty but "especially by our classmates."

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.