Gill and Engel Place Second at National Competition
University of North Dakota School of Law students Amanda Gill and Joel Engel placed second overall at the fourteenth annual Herbert Wechsler Criminal Law Moot Court competition, hosted by the University Of Buffalo School Of Law on March 31, 2012.
"I knew they were a promising team from the beginning," said Associate Professor of Law and Moot Court Coach Kirsten Dauphinais. Gill, a native of Clark, S.D., and Engel, from Sioux Falls began their Moot Court relationship during their first year of law school when they were internal Moot Court partners. "After competing and winning the championship, we decided it was something we enjoyed and wanted to continue further," said Gill. The following year, through a highly competitive process, they were both selected to UND Law's external moot court team where they traveled to Washington D.C. to compete.
Preparation for the Wechsler competition began in the fall with a seminar followed by writing their brief. After completing their brief, they practiced five to six hours a week for roughly seven weeks leading up to the competition. "One thing we discussed this year, through Amanda and Joel's success, is having that number of hours of practice and really putting in the time with the practice is a key component to success in national competition," said Dauphinais.
Gill and Engel competed against teams from 26 law schools from around the country, including New York University, University of Michigan and William and Mary. They advanced through the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds only to be bested in the finals when Gill and Engel argued with students from the Catholic School of America Columbus School of Law, located in Washington D.C.
The match, which was dubbed the "Clash of the Titans," took place in front of The Hon. Tracey A. Bannister of the Erie County Supreme Court, The Hon. George Bundy Smith, a justice emeritus from the New York Court of Appeals, and The Hon. Gerard E. Lynch, of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
They took second place in both the overall competition as well as for the brief they wrote. "It was great because our hard work paid off, and it was fantastic to be there and represent our University as well," said Engel. Gill added, "I think it was an excellent experience and we are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the competition. Not everyone gets to go and it's very rare to even get past the first rounds so it shows that the work and dedication pays off."
Named after the drafter of the model penal code, the Wechsler moot court competition is the only national moot court competition in the United States to focus on topics in substantive criminal law. Problems address the constitutionality and interpretation of federal and state criminal statutes as well as general issues in the doctrine of federal and state criminal law.
This year's problem, presented in the case Jackson v. Hobbs, considered if imposition of a life-without-parole sentence on a 14-year old convicted of homicide violates constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Gill and Engel's relationship goes much further than Moot Court. They met during their sophomore year at UND and began dating one year later. Gill and Engel are engaged and have plans for a June wedding. After finding out about their plans, Judge Lynch offered to marry them at the competition, but they respectfully declined his offer. "I think our parents would be pretty upset," said Gill.