Marquette Teams Win Best Petitioner Brief and Best Respondent Brief at NMCC Regionals

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I had the privilege of working with two outstanding National Moot Court Competition (NMCC) teams again this year. The Region VIII round of the NMCC was hosted by Marquette November 19-20, 2016.

Please congratulate team members Kayla McCann, Emily Tercilla, and Samuel (Micah) Woo, who received the highest brief score in the competition and award for best Petitioner’s brief. Attorneys Jason Luczak and Max Stephenson coached the team.

Please also congratulate team members David Conley, Andrew Mong, and Kiel Killmer for their performance at the competition. The team had the top placing Respondent’s brief and advanced to the quarterfinals (top eight teams). Attorneys Jeremy Klang, Jesse Blocher, and Michael Cerjak coached the team.

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The Aesthetics of Brief Writing

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aesthetics-1Conversations around aesthetics are generally found in the context of the arts. As visual aesthetics are highly important in the context of interactive work (be it music, sculpture, paintings, and the like), it seems only natural to have those conversations. However, when we think of a legal brief, it is rare to ever hear mention of aesthetics. This is because we often are more concerned about the content of the brief rather than the physical appearance—this is a critical flaw. We should concern ourselves with the aesthetics of our brief just as much as we are concerned about the content. We are all aware that judges are busy. Let’s make their job easier: make them want to read your brief.

A brief, much like music, sculpture, paintings and the like, is interactive. A brief is argument that an attorney prepares specifically for the court to interact with. The court’s first impression of the attorney will be how the brief looks. Regardless of what I have been told, I always judge a book by its cover. The judge can and will judge your brief based on how it looks, too. There are simple steps to ensure your brief is the belle of the ball:

1 . Although obvious, do not screw up the basic formatting. Don’t miss the easy ones. Call the clerk and ask what the local rules are if you are not aware of requirements and cannot find the formatting requirements on your own.

2. Leave white space. Why do we need white space? It gives the eyes a break. There is nothing more daunting than flipping the page to see nothing but a wall of text. Your reader will thank you for the white space. In addition, white space can improve the legibility of the document, increase the attention of the reader, and lead to higher overall comprehension of the point you are asserting. A writer can create whitespace by:

  • breaking up a paragraph into multiple paragraphs
  • using point headings
  • using bullet points
  • inserting charts
  • inserting graphics

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When is it Plagiarism?

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Category: Higher Education, Legal Education, Legal Ethics, Legal Research, Legal Writing, Marquette Law School, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public
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trump obamaLast night’s Republican National Convention has thrust “plagiarism” to the forefront of the news. One of last night’s speakers was Melania Trump, the wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. Trump’s speech sounded to many strikingly similar to one given eight years earlier—by First Lady Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

How similar?

Incredibly so. Not just identical words, but nearly identical context and sentence structure. At one point, Trump says, “Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them” (emphasis added). Eight years earlier, Obama had said, “Because we want our children — and all children in this nationto know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them” (emphasis added).

That is plagiarism.

(You can see a side-by-side text comparison here and here and side-by-side video comparison here.) Read more »

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Commonly Confused Words, Part VII

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Here is my final set of commonly confused words. My other posts on commonly confused words are here (that/which/who; more than/over; few(er)/less; amount/number; farther/further; since/because/as; among/between; who/whom; attain/obtain), here (a/an/the; counsel/council; e.g.,/i.e.; it’s/its; principal/principle; then/than; utilize/use; you’re/your; affect/effect; tortious/tortuous; tack/tact; capitol/capital; motioned/moved; flesh/flush), here (although/while; assure/insure/ensure; complement/compliment; rational/rationale), here (a couple, a few, some, several, and many), here (born/borne; good/well; lay/lie; pair/pare/pear; peak/peek/pique; precedent/precedence; whether/whether or not), and here (disinterested/uninterested; discreet/discrete; elicit/illicit; liable/guilty; lead (lead)/lead (led)/led; loose/loosen/lose; plead/pleaded/pled; precede/proceed; prescribe/proscribe; site/sight/cite).

Adverse/averse – Both of these words are adjectives; that is, they describe or modify nouns. “Adverse” refers to something—or someone—that prevents success or blocks our path. It could be, say, adverse market conditions for certain investments; it could be an adverse party in a lawsuit. “Averse” means hostile or opposed to or showing a strong dislike or distaste, and usually refers to feelings about something. E.g., Analiese is averse to cigarette smoke. Or, Simon is risk-averse. That is, Analiese strongly dislikes cigarette smoke and Simon really doesn’t like taking risks.

Allude/elude – “To allude” is to suggest something indirectly. Like, Ryan’s report on our last meeting alludes to what we discussed the first time we met. “To elude” is to evade or escape, usually in a skillful or clever way. (Thus, you can remember elude = evade/escape.) E.g., The prisoners eluded the sheriff for a week before they were finally captured.

Assume/presume – My father used to have a saying about the word “assume,” which he once explained to me by drawing with his favorite pen on a napkin in a restaurant. It involved placing slash marks at two points in the word to show what happens when one assumes. “To assume” is to suppose or to believe, but without any proof. I assume that Jess won’t mind if we leave now means that I believe Jess won’t mind if we leave now, but really I don’t know for sure. I could be wrong. And if I am, well, there’s where my father’s diagram comes in. Read more »

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Commonly Confused Words, Part VI

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previewBack with more sets of commonly confused words. While some may think the words on my lists are elementary, I assure you that I am choosing specific sets because I have seen law students and lawyers misuse them. In an effort to help eliminate that misuse, I present ten more sets of commonly confused words.

Disinterested/uninterested – The distinction between these two words is subtle, but it’s important. “Disinterested” means impartial, unbiased, having no stake in the outcome. E.g., To settle the dispute, we want a disinterested third party. “Uninterested” means not engaged, unconcerned, or bored. E.g., I am uninterested in the NBA playoffs. That means I pretty much don’t care about NBA playoffs or their outcome. They don’t interest me. I would not say, I am disinterested in the NBA playoffs. While with both sentences, I am saying I have no stake or interest in the outcome, “disinterested” implies an impartiality that I don’t mean. I am not impartial or unbiased (disinterested) about the playoffs; I affirmatively have no interest in them (uninterested).

Discreet/discrete – Though pronounced the same way, these two words mean two different things. “Discreet” means cautious or reserved, particularly in conduct or speech. A person who is discreet knows not to talk about a sensitive subject in public. “Discrete” means something that is separate and distinct. For example, in any given case, there may be two or more discrete legal issues; that is, two or more separate and distinct legal issues.

Elicit/illicit – These two words sound nearly the same when said, though the context of the conversation will often provide the cues a listener needs to know which word is which. In writing, though, you want to be sure to choose the correct word. “Elicit” means to draw out or draw forth, usually a response or a reaction. The defendant’s testimony about the crime elicited gasps from the jurors. “Illicit” means something illegal or unlawful, and therein is the best way to remember it. Illicit = illegal. Defendant was arrested for his illicit conduct.

Liable/guilty – And while we’re on the subject of illegalities, let’s distinguish between guilt and liability. While the words may be interchangeable to lay people, in law they tend to have some specific meanings. Someone convicted of a crime is guilty, but someone who violates some civil standard is liable. Read more »

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Commonly Confused Words, Part V

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I’ve previously posted on words that writers, particularly lawyers, commonly confuse. Those posts are here (that/which/who, more than/over, few(er), less, amount/number, farther/further, since/because/as, among/between, who/whom, attain/obtain), here (a/an/the, counsel/council, e.g.,/i.e., it’s/its, principal/principle, then/than, utilize/use, you’re/your, affect/effect, tortious/tortuous, tack/tact, capitol/capital, motioned/moved, flesh/flush), here (although/while, assure/insure/ensure, complement/compliment, rational/rationale), and here (a couple, a few, some, several, and many).

Today, I’ll cover seven more pairs of commonly confused words.

Born/borne – Both words are past participles of “to bear”; however, only one relates to birth. Use “born” when referring to literal or figurative birth, such as: She was born in California or Wisdom is born from years of experience. “Borne,” on the other hand, refers to the other meanings of “to bear”: such as, to carry, to produce, or to bring about. “Borne” would be proper in the following: Costs associated with this litigation will be borne by the defendant.

 Good/well – “Good” is an adjective, “well” is an adverb. That is, “good” describes and “well” modifies or qualifies. A good lawyer writes well. “Good” in that sentence describes the noun, “lawyer.” (What kind of lawyer? A good one.) “Well” qualifies the verb “writes.” (How does the lawyer write? Well.) The exception to this good/well distinction involves health. If you’re asked How are you?, the grammatically correct answer would be I am well (i.e., your health is good).

Do not use “good” to modify a verb. We might say That lawyer is good at writing, but we certainly wouldn’t say That lawyer writes good.

 Lay/lie – My wonderful colleagues Anne Enquist and Laurel Currie Oates from Seattle University have best explained the distinction between these two words in their book Just Writing: Grammar, Punctuation, and Style for the Legal Writer (4th ed. 2013). I am drawing from their explanation nearly verbatim but for style changes to fit the form here. Read more »

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Congratulations to the 2016 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition Winners

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Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition, Amardeep (Simi) Singh and Sara McNamara. Congratulations also go to finalists Samuel Draver and Alan Mazzulla, who additionally won the Franz C. Eschweiler Prize for Best Brief.  Simi Singh won the Ramon A. Klitzke Prize for Best Oralist.

The competitors argued before a large audience in the Appellate Courtroom. Presiding over the final round were Hon. Diane Sykes, Hon. Brett Kavanaugh, and Hon. Gary Feinerman.

Many thanks to the judges and competitors for their hard work, enthusiasm, and sportsmanship in all the rounds of competition, as well as to the moot court executive board and Law School administration and staff for their work in putting on the event. Special thanks to Dean Kearney for his support of the competition.  Thank you as well to the Moot Court Association for its work in putting this event together, and especially 3L executive board members Larissa Dallman and Andrew Otto.

Students are selected to participate in the competition based on their success in the fall Appellate Writing and Advocacy class at the Law School.

Here is a link to the final round video.

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Congratulations to the 2016 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition Finalists

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Congratulations to this year’s Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition finalists: Samuel Draver, Alan Mazzulla, Sara McNamara, and Amardeep Singh. All the semifinalists presented strong oral arguments.

Thank you to the semifinal round judges: Atty. Gil Cubia, Atty. Cathy LaFleur, Prof. Jonathan Koenig, Atty. Steve Meyer, Hon. Paul Reilly, and Atty. Jan Rhodes.

The final round will be held on April 13 at 6:00 p.m. in the Appellate Courtroom. The final round judges will be Hon. Diane Sykes, Hon. Brett Kavanaugh, and Hon. Gary Feinerman. The Law School community is cordially invited to attend the final round. Here is a link to rsvp for the event. The teams will be matched as follows:

Samuel Draver and Alan Mazzulla versus Sara McNamara and Amardeep Singh.

Best of luck to the finalists.

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Congratulations to the 2016 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Semifinalists

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Congratulations to all who competed in the 2016 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition and special congratulations to this year’s semifinalists:  Samuel Draver, Alicia Kort, Alan Mazzulla, Kayla McCann, Sara McNamara, Amardeep Singh, Natalie Wisco, Samuel Woo. Teams are advancing after four rounds of preliminary competition this past weekend.

Thank you to the numerous judges who graded briefs and heard oral arguments, as well as to all the competitors, who prepared hard for the competition and fought good battles this weekend.

The semifinal round will be held on Thursday, April 7 at 6:00 p.m. The teams will be matched as follows:

Samuel Draver and Alan Mazzulla against Alicia Kort and Natalie Wisco in the Trial Courtroom; and Kayla McCann and Samuel Woo against Sara McNamara and Amardeep Singh in the Appellate Courtroom. Marquette students, faculty, and guests are invited to attend the rounds.

Good luck to the semifinalists.

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State Bar’s Appellate Practice Section Hosts Outstanding Brief Competition

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The Appellate Practice Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin is hosting its first Outstanding Brief Competition for members of the bar. Any appellate opening or response brief from a case decided in the last year may be entered in the competition. Entries are due by March 31. As noted on the state bar’s website:

The brief writers (and their firms or agencies) will be publicly recognized, and the briefs will be posted to the Appellate Practice Section’s website to serve as models for appellate practitioners. Anyone can nominate a brief – author, colleague, friend, judge, clerk, or other admirer of great legal writing. Nominations will be kept confidential.

The website provides additional details about how to nominate a brief and other qualifications.  Here is a link to use to nominate briefs and to ask questions.  The Appellate Practice Section seeks through this competition to promote excellent brief writing among Wisconsin practitioners.

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2016 Mardi Gras Sports Law Moot Court Team Success

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2016 Mardi GrasThe Marquette Sports Law Moot Court team advanced to the final eight of the 2016 Mardi Gras Sports Law Invitational Competition hosted by Tulane University Law School. Please congratulate team members Alexa Callahan, Darius Love, and Nicole Ways. Professors Matt Mitten and Paul Anderson coached the team.  This year the competition included more than 50 competitors and 26 teams.

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Congratulations to the 2016 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competitors

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The Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition is the appellate moot court competition for Marquette law students and is the capstone event of the intramural moot court program.  Students are invited to participate based on their top performance in the fall Appellate Writing and Advocacy course at the Law School. 

Congratulations to the participants in the 2016 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition:

Barry Braatz
David Conley
Robert Copley
Samuel Draver
Isabelle Faust
Alexis Guraz
Christopher Hayden
Ashley Heard
Amber Horak
Megan Kaldunski
Alexandra Klimko
Alicia Kort
Jessica Lothman
Alan Mazzulla
Kayla McCann
Sara McNamara
Andrew Mong
Brittany Running
Rexford Shield
Amardeep Singh
Emily Tercilla
Natalie Wisco
Samuel Woo
Kiel Zillmer

 

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