The Stegner Center’s student team of Ashley Walker and Zacchary Sayer performed superbly at the National Energy Law & Sustainability Moot Court Competition, adding another success to the College of Law’s growing reputation as a serious contender at the environmental moot court competitions. The problem this year featured an interesting combination of the common law definition of a public utility and the Clean Water Act.
Ashley and Zacc won the award for the Best Brief of the entire competition. Their brief also won them virtual celebrity status with the competition organizers, who did not stop personally congratulating them for the quality and style of their brief after the award had been announced. The head of the program, Professor Van Nostrand, who is also the Director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, personally pulled Zacc and Ashley aside at least twice after the award was announced to congratulate them on the quality of their brief. He kept commenting, “Man, you people in Utah must be doing something right.”
In addition to writing an excellent brief, Ashley and Zacc also delivered six excellent oral advocacy performances against very difficult teams. Although the competition does not award Best Oralist for any individual rounds, on two separate occasions, a judge independently stated during the feedback session that he/she thought Zacc offered the best argument of the entire day. Ashley and Zacc were eliminated at the Elite 8 round by the team from Texas Tech that went on to win the competition.
In reflecting on the Energy Moot Court Competition, the team coach Professor Jamie Pleune noted, “Aside from those objective measures of success, Ashley and Zacc’s growth as oral advocates exemplified the type of transformative learning experience that moot court competitions can provide. Over the course of several moot panels with many talented and knowledgeable lawyers from a variety of practice areas (and through their own dedicated and persistent effort), Ashley and Zacc found their voices and learned how to think and speak as advocates, rather than law students. It was a pleasure to work with them in the process.”
Central to the team’s development and success were the individuals who helped them along the way. Ben Machlis, who helped coach, attended every practice, including the lengthy Saturday practices. He brought expertise, razor sharp observations, and well-rounded feedback to every practice. Richards Brandt Miller Nelson generously provided space to host most of the practices.
The team also enjoyed excellent panels of practice round judges who helped refine, clarify, and polish the arguments. Each panel of judges came well-prepared and delivered helpful constructive feedback at the end of each round. Those volunteer practice judges were: Professors Lincoln Davies, Robin Craig, John Ruple, Louisa Heiny, and practiioners Vicki Baldwin, Steve Bergman, Blaine Rawson, Betsy Haws, Steve Jones, Jared Bennet, and David Garbett. Additionally, Professor Richards spent an entire Saturday morning right before the competition helping the team refine and polish their argument delivery.
The Stegner Center also extends its sincere appreciation to the donors whose ongoing support makes the school’s participation in this important competition possible. Donors for the 2015 Energy Moot Court Team include Chevron, the Clyde Snow Sessions & Swenson, the ENREL Section of the Utah State Bar, Holland & Hart, Lear & Lear, Richards Brandt Miller Nelson The Salt Lake Lawyers, Questar, Tim Bywater, Ben Machlis, Jason Groenewold, Cameron Johnson, Jim Moore, David Mooers-Putzer, Doug Naftz, John Robinson, and Rod Smith.