KU moot court team tops regional round to win spot in national competition

LAWRENCE — Make it two in a row for University of Kansas School of Law moot court teams – two straight wins in high-profile competitions and two straight years representing Region IX at the National Moot Court Competition.

This year, moot court teammates Jill Moenius and Eddie Penner captured first place out of 15 teams at the regionals of the National Moot Court Competition at the University of Missouri. Up next is a trip to New York City from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 to represent KU in the oldest and largest competition of its kind.

Moenius, a third-year law student, graduated from Topeka High School. She earned a bachelor's of science in social work from the University of Arkansas. She is the daughter of John and Chandler Moenius.

Penner, a third-year law student, graduated from Pittsburg High School. He earned a bachelor's of science in biology from Pittsburg State University. He is the son of Eddie and Brenda Penner.

This is the second year in a row that a KU moot court team will compete at nationals. Last year, Lindsey Grise and Evan North advanced to nationals.

"The best part of competing at regionals this past weekend was seeing all our hard work pay off," Moenius said. "Eddie and I put a lot of time into this process throughout the semester, and I believe the understanding of our legal issues that we were able to develop through that hard work is what ultimately led us to our victory."

In addition to the team's overall win, Moenius earned the highest oral advocate score in the competition, and the team received the second highest brief score in the competition. Along the way, they beat out two teams from Saint Louis University and a team from the University of Arkansas, before downing Creighton in the final. The final round judges were Joshua Hawley, associate professor of law at the University of Missouri and a former clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts; Missouri Appellate Court Judge Glen Norton; and James Layton, the solicitor general for the Missouri Attorney General's Office.

Months of preparation ensured the team's success on a prominent stage. The University of Arkansas won the national competition two years ago, and Saint Louis University has placed in the top four at nationals the past two years.

"The bulk of our preparation began in September when we began researching the legal issues and writing our brief," Moenius said. "Then, after we handed in our brief in mid-October, we began practice rounds with our coach – Professor Pamela Keller – state judges and KU law professors to help prepare us for oral arguments."

Before the two could prepare for regionals, they had to beat out another group of competitors: their fellow classmates. Moenius and Penner were the winning team in the law school's annual In-House Moot Court Competition last spring, ensuring them a spot on the eight-team Moot Court Council. The Council goes on to represent KU Law at various national and international competitions. Just last month, Nathan Lindsey and Christopher Omlid captured first place at the International Moot Court Competition in Information Technology & Privacy Law.

"The KU Law In-House Moot Court Competition was great preparation for the regional competition," Penner said. "The students that we faced throughout the competition were similarly skilled to what we saw at regionals. The judges that we had in-house – being law students, faculty, practicing attorneys, and state and federal judges – prepared us for the variety of judging styles that we saw at regionals."

The competition will ramp up at the National Moot Court Competition, where the 25 best teams from across the nation will converge for the championship. Penner said the team plans to take things round by round as they eye a national championship.

"At nationals, we hope to have high enough scores to earn a spot in the single-elimination bracket," he said. "Once in the bracket, anything can happen because of the variance of individual judges and the particular strengths of individual teams."