It's All Settled: Mediation Team Takes Home National Championship
Another Group of Undergraduates Will Compete This Weekend in the Moot Court Nationals in California
Jan. 14, 2016
From left: Alexandra Van Duffelen, Olaoluwa Israel, Chidambara Vinayagam and Najib Gazi show off the hardware they won at the International Intercollegiate Mediation Tournament. Tony Seagroves (right) coaches UT Dallas’ mediation and mock trial teams for the Pre-Law Advising and Resource Center.
UT Dallas students are gaining recognition on the national stage in legal advocacy competitions this academic year.
A team of three undergraduates recently captured the national championship in mediation at the International Intercollegiate Mediation Tournament, and this weekend, four students will be competing in the American Collegiate Moot Court Association tournament in California.
In the final round of the mediation tournament, the victory hinged on one student’s skill at resolving a simulated $2 million lawsuit involving a pain medication that caused increased blindness in a customer.
Team captain Chidambara Vinayagam asked teammate Olaoluwa Israel, who had been undefeated as a mediator that day, to take on that role.
“It was a relay, and Chidambara handed the baton to the one she thought would get the team further down the line. That showed me what an incredible leader she is, not to say ‘I have to bring it on home.’ She stepped back, coached him to make sure he was ready, and we won,” said Tony Seagroves, who coaches UT Dallas’ mediation and mock trial teams for the Pre-Law Advising and Resource Center.
Students advanced after alternately competing in the roles of mediator, attorney and client at the tournament held in November at Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa.
Members of the team said good preparation and their ability to work so well together gave them an edge.
“Tony made sure we were well-prepared by the competition by giving us everything we needed,” said Israel, who added that they made sure they implemented everything Seagroves taught them.
Najib Gazi said great team chemistry was a key to the team’s success.
“Our team definitely had a great dynamic at the competition, and it really made us stand out from other teams,” Gazi said.
The team competed with 30 others from 16 universities in the tournament, which was sponsored by the International Academy of Dispute Resolution. Students are scored based on their opening statements and how well they presented both clients’ cases, established trust, remained neutral and worked with a co-mediator.
The UT Dallas team also earned an honorable mention for the Spirit Award, an honor determined by a vote of participants, in the advocate client category.
“Our ultimate goal as a team was to learn from the experience, have some fun and meet new people along the way — all three of which we definitely accomplished,” Vinayagam said.
Another UT Dallas student, Alexandra Van Duffelen competed as part of a team with Texas Wesleyan University students who finished seventh in the advocate/client category. UT Dallas students also won the following individual awards:
- Israel, a criminology junior, second place, All-American Advocate/Client
- Vinayagam, an accounting junior, sixth place, All-American Advocate/Client
- Gazi, a political science sophomore, second and sixth place, All-American Advocate/Client
- Van Duffelen, a political science junior, 10th place, All-American Advocate/Client
Mediation is one of UT Dallas’ three legal advocacy programs that compete against other college teams throughout the country. The pre-law center offers coaching for mediation, moot court and mock trial competitions. UT Dallas will host a regional mock trial competition Feb. 19-21.
Moot Court Teams Set to Make Their Points
Blake Eaton and Alexandra Noll studied case law over the summer, and then spent hours rehearsing their legal arguments last semester and over the winter break.
From left: Blake Eaton, Alexandra Noll, Robert Dube and Kaitlyn Block will compete this weekend at the American Collegiate Moot Court Association tournament. Eaton and Noll won the South Central Regional Tournament in October at Texas Tech University. Dube and Block were quarterfinalists.
This weekend, the political science seniors will make their cases before a mock Supreme Court at the American Collegiate Moot Court Association tournament. The team is one of two from UT Dallas to compete in the tournament at California State University, Long Beach.
Eaton and Noll earned a spot in the national tournament after placing first in the association’s South Central Regional Tournament in October at Texas Tech University School of Law. Kaitlyn Block, a healthcare studies junior, and Robert Dube, a historical studies senior, were quarterfinalists in the regional competition. The teams were among more than 350 from schools across the nation that competed in 10 regional tournaments for a chance to go to the nationals.
Anne Dutia, director of the Pre-Law Advising and Resource Center and moot court coach, said preparation set the students apart.
“I think their success reflects the amount of work students are willing to put into it,” she said. “You have to be willing to delve into the details of the precedents, but also step back and see how it all fits together.”
At the tournaments, teams of two students argue a case before a panel of judges that acts as the Supreme Court. The teams are scored on their knowledge of the subject matter, response to questions from the court, courtroom demeanor and the quality of their arguments. This year’s case involved federal laws governing undocumented students’ access to higher education.
Eaton said he loves studying the case law. “I like reading Supreme Court opinions in my spare time,” he said. “Every year, I read all of them.”
Eaton and Noll’s victory was the third regional championship for UT Dallas students in the past five years. Several other UT Dallas teams and individual students have won honors in the tournaments.
This year, Eaton and Noll said practice has helped them perfect their arguments. During the winter break, they used Skype to practice, with Eaton in San Diego and Noll in Austin.
“If I had something I wasn’t sure about, or if I was trying to figure out a new argument, we would just talk it through with each other or with our coach,” Noll said. “That was very, very helpful.”