The National Native American Law Student Association (NNALSA), in partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law (UCLA) and the UCLA Chapter of NALSA, hosted the 25th Annual NNALSA Moot Court Competition on March 8th. The Moot Court Competition featured 64 teams from 30 schools from across the country. Jessica FourBear (3L) and Moreau FourBear (2L) represented the University of South Dakota School of Law as two of the 128 brilliant up-and-coming legal minds in Indian law.
At the tournament, prestigious Indian law attorneys, judges, and professors from around the nation volunteered to critique participants’ briefs and oral advocacy skills. These Moot Court participants traveled from every corner of the nation to compete.
The Moot Court problem related to the Indian Reorganization Act and involved how the Secretary of the Interior inappropriately applied the act in placing Indian lands into trust. Moreau FourBear noted that the issue was multifaceted as it had administrative law aspects in tandem to the overarching Indian law issues. “We had to argue whether the Secretary had proper authority to place land in trust and whether the decision was arbitrary and capricious.”
The USD team received high marks for their off-brief, and notable comments from judges on their professionalism and mastery of the caselaw. Although they did not make it into the final rounds, Jessica FourBear said that, “We utilized every skill in advocacy taught by professors at USD–like Professors Horton, Hutton, Pommersheim, Hess, and McKey–and the judges were impressed. Unfortunately, our brief score was a bit lower than we needed to break the top 16.”
In order to prepare, the USD team spent a substantial amount of time researching their Moot Court problem and practicing their oral advocacy with USD professors. Dean & Professor of Law Emeritus Barry Vickery acted as the team’s coach and provided guidance to the team. However, as Vickery was in California, the team had to give practice oral arguments to Vickery over Skype. Professors of Law Hutton and Pommersheim also helped provide assistance by critiquing the team’s oral arguments in the formal courtroom setting.
Both Jessica and Moreau believed that the preparation and tournament itself was an almost overwhelming amount of work, but was worthwhile to receive high praise from their judges and compete against the best in the nation.
If any students are interested in attending the 26th NNALSA Moot Court Competition, please join the local USD NALSA group or speak with Jessica or Moreau FourBear for more information.