WOOSTER, Ohio – National champions! Dawson Honey and Brianna Schmidt of The College of Wooster earned that distinction via their first-place finish in the brief writing competition (respondent category) at the American Moot Court Association National Championship Tournament, it was announced at the awards banquet following two days of oral competition, held earlier this month (Jan. 19-20) in Dallas at the University of North Texas College of Law.
Wooster teams have now captured four national championships in brief writing over the last six years, twice in the petitioner category and now twice as respondents.
The championship was the culmination of a months-long process for Honey, a junior from the Seattle area (Bothell, Wash.), and Schmidt, a sophomore from Wooster, Ohio. All of the competitors were presented with the case – a fictitious narrative of a homicide, in which the guilty verdict was largely based on a brain scanning technique the local police department used to determine that the individual was at the scene, and the ensuing sentence of 30 years of solitary confinement – last May.
The case was divided into two issues relating to U.S. Constitution law. Honey addressed the 5th amendment, whether the usage of the functional brain mapping exam violated the self-incrimination clause, while Schmidt dealt with the 8th amendment, and as the respondent, argued the sentence for the petitioner had valid justification.
After writing a one-page summary of each issue during the summer that got them thinking about potential arguments, Honey and Schmidt spent countless hours during the fall semester researching and citing similar cases, finalizing their arguments, and meticulously proofreading before submitting the brief.
Coming off of a third-place finish in the 2017 AMCA brief writing competition, also in the respondent category, Honey and Schmidt had high hopes, but it was still a nerve-wracking wait as the top-10 places were counted down at the awards banquet. When it was finally revealed that they won, Honey and Schmidt were on cloud nine.
“I was extremely, extremely overjoyed. It was a really wonderful moment,” said Schmidt, and Honey agreed it was “very elating, to say the least.” He also noted that “using the experience we gained from last year, and also building upon that, we were able to create a brief, that personally, I was very happy with. There was a part of me that wasn’t surprised we won, but another part of me that was.”
Honey and Schmidt credit their success to a variety of factors, including having similar goals, work ethics, and passion for moot court, as well as for “anticipating your opponents’ argument and finding new and interesting angles to break away from a standard mold of arguments,” according to Honey. And, they look forward to competing for another national championship next year.
Wooster nearly added another championship in oral advocacy, the marquee AMCA competition. Juniors Jordan Griffith of Columbus, Ohio, and Cameron Steckbeck of New Hope, Pa., won their first three elimination rounds to advance to the semifinals, in which they fell to the eventual national champions from Patrick Henry College on a close 3-2 decision. Griffith and Steckbeck improved upon last year’s “Sweet 16” performance while repeating as All-Americans.
Also notable, junior Coral Ciupak and senior Shelley Grostefon advanced to the elimination rounds of the oral competition portion and thus were among the top-44 teams at the tourney, and in the petitioner category of the brief writing competition, Wooster also did well with sophomores Elizabeth Main and Emily Stoehr earning ninth-place honors.
All told, there were five Wooster qualifying teams (and 10 individuals), which marked the third-largest contingent from any school at the AMCA nationals.