W&L Law Team Wins D.C. Regional Appellate Advocacy Competition Matt Kaminer '22L, Rich Gilliland '22L, and Carson Cox '22L will advance to the national competition.
This month, Matt Kaminer ’22, Carson Cox ‘22 and Rich Gilliland ’22 won the Washington, D.C. Regional American Bar Association Appellate Advocacy Competition, advancing to the national competition in April. Kaminer wrote the brief, while Cox and Gilliland argued.
For now, they are taking a break from their weekly practices, but when they start up again, the other W&L Law team (Angelo Pavone ‘22, Josh Berland ‘22, and Charlie Jones ‘22) will help them practice. This team made it to the semi-finals in the ABA competition, and Charlie Jones won best oralist.
The argument was on qualified immunity, Kaminer explained. Qualified immunity shields government officials from liability when they violate someone’s constitutional rights—but only if it can be demonstrated that the law they offended wasn’t clearly established.
“We represented a state department of education administrator who fired his employee based on the speech of her husband, who published blog posts that were critical of the administrator,” Kaminer said. “So here’s the question: is the law clearly established that you can’t fire someone based on the speech of their spouse?”
In the second part of their argument, they had to determine whether the court should keep or discard qualified immunity.
Kaminer, Cox, and Gilliland lost the first round, but then won the next three. They argued for around eight hours on a Saturday, and ultimately were triumphant.
“It turned into a bit of an endurance challenge,” Gilliland laughed. “By the last round I was losing my mind a bit.”
Cox agreed that it was exhausting, but also beneficial. With each round, they were able to incorporate more of the judge’s feedback into their arguments.
“We not only became more and more used to the argument, but we were getting better at it.”
Kaminer watched all of the arguments, too, and was able to give honest feedback during the hour-long breaks that they had between rounds.
Cox and Gilliland were complimented on their relaxed, conversational demeanor; some judges told them that their argument was the best they’d ever heard.
“But it’s really a testament to the quality of our school’s internal competitions,” Cox reflected “[Rich and I] made it to the semi-finals of the Davis Appellate Advocacy competition, and, within our school, we lost!”
Kaminer said he was grateful to the 3Ls on the Moot Court Executive Board, and to the school’s prioritization of such competitions in general.
“Our moot court program prepares students to be competitive in appellate advocacy,” he concluded.
The national competition, which brings together winning teams from each region, will take place in April.
If you know a W&L student who has done great, accolade-worthy things, tell us about them! Nominate them for an accolade.