USD Law Students Hathaway and Van Wagner Win Top Honors at National Moot Court Competition in Child Welfare and Adoption

USD Team Takes Top Honors at National Moot Court Competition in Child Welfare and Adoption

USD Child Advoacy Moot Court Team

Columbus, Ohio (March 16, 2015) – University of San Diego (USD) School of Law students Kelsey Hathaway, ’15 (JD), and Keith Van Wagner, ’16 (JD), members of the USD School of Law Appellate Moot Court Board, earned first place in the National Moot Court Competition in Child Welfare and Adoption Law at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio. USD School of Law students Joseph Mellano, ’15 (JD), and Rijon Charne, ’16 (JD), also competed and advanced to the octo-final round (top 16).

The national competition was held March 13-14, 2015 at the Capital University Law School, Family and Youth Law Center. The USD team of Hathaway and Van Wagner defeated Baylor University School of Law in the final round. Presiding over the final round was Justice William M. O’Neill of the Ohio Supreme Court. Also judging the final round were Dean Rachel Janutis; Gerald Glynn of the National Association of Counsel for Children; Linda Britton, Director of the American Bar Association Commission on Youth at Risk; and Laurie Goldheim, President of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

“This is a big deal,” said Robert Fellmeth, the Price Professor of Public Interest Law and executive director for both the Center for Public Interest Law and the Children's Advocacy Institute at USD School of Law. “The major moot court competition in the area of juvenile law in the nation.”

This year’s annual competition titled, “When Things Go Wrong, Contested Adoption Issues,” included teams from 26 schools. USD School of Law and Loyola Law School are the only two schools who have competed in each of the 10 annual competitions. Final round judges included representatives from the ABA Center on Children and the Law, the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, the National Association of Counsel for Children, the National Center for Adoption Law & Policy at Capital University Law School, and the National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges.

The problem raised two issues of first impression before the Supreme Court of the fictional state of Capitania. First, whether a father's pro se relinquishment of his parental rights to his eleven-year-old daughter, G.J., was made knowingly and voluntarily when he filed it against the advice of his attorney. Second, whether a conflict existed between the daughter's wishes and her guardian ad litem's best interest recommendation such that she was entitled to independent counsel at the termination of parental rights hearing under either the Capitania statute or the Constitution.

“The teams were so well prepared for this year's competition, and a big part of that was due to Professor Fellmeth’s help and discussion of the issues,” said team coach Kirsten Gallacher, '12 (JD). "All four team members have an incredible work ethic, and they pushed each other to improve their oral advocacy skills during every practice and round of the competition."

“It was an honor to have the opportunity to argue before some of the most esteemed child advocates and legal scholars in the field of youth and adoption law,” said Hathaway. “This accomplishment is thanks to the USD Appellate Moot Court Program, which is dedicated to fostering the development of its members as individuals, and promoting academic success as a collective organization. I truly could not have achieved this result without the continuous support of my teammates and the guidance of my current and prior coaches who work tirelessly toward the development of skillful oral advocates.”

“In the final rounds, Kelsey and Keith incorporated all of the substantive and stylistic feedback they received throughout the months leading up to the tournament. Their success is the culmination of all four members' hard work, skill, and dedication.”

Special thanks to the Hon. Michael M. Anello, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of California, Professor Robert Fellmeth of the Children's Advocacy Institute, as well as several USD Law alumni and former moot court members who presided at oral argument practice sessions before the competition.

View full results online.

About the Appellate Moot Court Board

The University of San Diego School of Law Appellate Moot Court Board is a student-run organization dedicated to fostering the development of appellate advocacy skills among law students. The Board’s mission is an amalgam of academic rigor and professional training. Each year, the USD’s best appellate advocates travel to competitions throughout the country to showcase their advocacy skills.

About the Family and Youth Law Center

Established in 1998 with generous seed funding from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Family and Youth Law Center (FYLaw) was created at Capital University Law School to improve the laws, policies, and practices associated with child protection and adoption systems. To achieve these goals, FYLaw builds partnerships and fosters collaboration with local, state, and national organizations; these collaborations frequently are aimed at improving foster children’s chances for adoption by developing and supporting adoption-friendly laws and policies.

About the University of San Diego School of Law

Celebrating 60 years of alumni success, the University of San Diego (USD) School of Law is recognized for the excellence of its faculty, depth of its curriculum, and strength of its clinical programs. Each year, USD educates approximately 900 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world. The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 81 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates. The law school’s faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 23rd worldwide in all-time faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, nonprofit, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.


Patrick Riedling
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