April 28, 2017

A coach’s recap of the 2017 Jessup Moot Court International Rounds

Dagmar Butte ’91 describes the experience of competing in the Jessup International Competition in 2017.

Lewis & Clark’s Jessup Moot Court Team had the incredible honor of getting to compete in the Jessup International Competition in 2017 for the second year in a row. The team comprised students Doug Hageman, Kelsey Peddie, Matt Small, Natascha Smith, and Julie Sugano, and was coached by alums Dagmar Butte ’91 and Spencer Wilson ’15. Coach Butte shares the experience in this recollection:

“The Competition was an incredible experience, beginning with the Orientation on Sunday, April 9, when 143 teams from 89 countries filed into the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C. carrying the flags of their countries. It is hard to express the feeling when law students from all corners of the world celebrate their countries and the competition in that ballroom. The inspiring speech from the International Law Students Association Executive Director Lesley Benn, reminding all of us that the Jessup is about tearing down walls while the rest of the world seems intent on building them, gave everyone chills and plenty of motivation for the week to come.

Later that first day, all of the teams received their preliminary round “pairings” and we found out that Lewis & Clark would be facing teams from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands, and powerhouse Singapore, which usually finishes within the top four at the international rounds. The preliminary rounds run from Monday through Wednesday and culminate in an announcement party where 32 of the teams are told they are advancing. Rounds start at 9:00 am and end at 9:00 pm, so the days are long, but exciting. There are endless opportunities to meet students and judges from around the world and learn not just about law, but culture in a very direct way.  The L&C team made what we all hope to be lifelong friends with the team from Afghanistan, and had amazing interactions with all of the other teams we encountered.

On Wednesday evening, we unfortunately were not among the lucky 32 to advance, but found out later that we were #33. The team that finished at #32 had the same win-loss record (3:1) and only one more raw point (the tie breaker) than our team. We also found out that the round we lost was to perennial champion Singapore. To put the team’s finish into perspective - we had 2992 points and #32 had 2993 points, out of a possible 3600 points. Even the top ranked team only had 3273 points. If even just one judge had given two more points (memorial or oral) on the scale of 50-100 we would have advanced.

Among the U.S. teams, Lewis & Clark was the third ranked school out of a total of 12 who advanced to the international competition. The top three U.S. schools all had the same win-loss record as Lewis & Clark, but with total points calculated, Loyola Law finished 31st and Georgetown finished 24th overall. This is one time were being “close” was certainly a heartbreaker, but our team had a lot to be proud of.

The magic of Jessup, however, is that it’s not over until it’s over. On Thursday evening, all of the teams came together in an event known as the “Go National Ball.” Teams dress in their national costumes and celebrate late into the night (or perhaps more accurately early into the next morning) and get to know each other in a non-competitive setting. Check out the White & Case Jessup Facebook page if you want to see some of the amazing photos that are taken at that event.

On Saturday, all the teams got to attend the Final Round, which was judged by three ICJ Judges. The University of Sydney defeated the team from Jamaica in a very exciting round. Imagine over 800 people in a ballroom listening to you speak and trying to keep your cool – that’s what the two final teams had to do and they did it beautifully.

Saturday evening was a final gala where individual awards were given out. A special award, the Spirit of the Jessup, is given to the team that most inspires the other teams. The winning team was from Iran, selected by vote of all of the teams in attendance. That team also gets to take home a banner signed by all of the participating teams. After another late night of dancing, talking, and making new friends, all of the teams got their score packets on Sunday. They bid each other goodbye, but all of them hope to return – whether as competitors, bailiffs, coaches or judges – because Jessup is a family, and now that family includes Doug, Kelsey, Matt, Tascha, and Julie!”