Chief Judge Alice M. Batchelder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Judge Patricia A. Gaughan of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and Justice Terrence O’Donnell of the Ohio Supreme Court presided over final argument in the 41st Annual Charles W. Fornoff Appellate Advocacy Competition last month in the College of Law’s renovated McQuade Law Center Auditorium.Four students who will graduate in 2014 — Samuel Harden, Alexandria Heinonen, Carl Peterson and Monica Solt — successfully negotiated the double-elimination Fornoff tournament to win a spot in the final.
In an auditorium full of students, faculty and family members, each team of two — Solt and Peterson, and Heinonen and Harden — was given 30 minutes to present argument. The hypothetical case involved two issues: the correct interpretation of an immigration statute and an equal protection claim.
“Taking questions from the judges was very intimidating at first, but as the argument progressed, I started to feel more comfortable and it was easier to listen to their questions and come up with a brief, concise answer,” Heinonen said.
Faculty members Elizabeth McCuskey, Evan Zoldan and Lee Pizzimenti helped students prepare for the final argument.
“The finalists worked diligently in the weeks before the competition to learn the fine points of law and hone their arguments. And their hard work paid off. The judges agreed that all four finalists gracefully answered tough questions and delivered arguments worthy of even seasoned appellate lawyers,” McCuskey said. “Carl, Monica, Ali and Sam should take great pride in their performances, which truly represented the talent we have here at the College of Law.”
At the conclusion of argument, the three-judge-panel named Heinonen best oralist. Solt and Peterson were named best team.
The Charles W. Fornoff Appellate Advocacy Competition is a long-standing tradition at the College of Law and an important part of a law student’s experience.
“As someone who was not very good at public speaking in the past, this was a great opportunity for me to develop those skills, and I gained a lot of experience and other practical skills that will help me both as a student now and as a lawyer in the future,” Harden said.
The competition begins each year in the spring of a student’s first year and continues into the following fall semester. Students argue preliminary rounds before panels comprised of faculty and student judges. In the double elimination tournament, Heinonen was named barrister as the only unbeaten student in the tournament. Solt, bested only by Heinonen, was named solicitor. Peterson and Harden were runners-up.
“I would absolutely encourage first-year law students to participate in next year’s Fornoff competition,” Solt said. “Not only was it an honor to practice with such talented students and knowledgeable professors, but Fornoff greatly improved my oral advocacy skills through a near ‘real’ courtroom experience.”