Exceptionally close decision in SUNY Buffalo Law School Moot Court final round

Published November 7, 2012

SUNY Buffalo Law School concluded its annual Desmond Moot Court Competition on Friday, November 2, with a tight and spirited contest in a packed courtroom on the Amherst Campus before an exceptionally distinguished panel of final round judges.

The Hon. Eugene F. Pigott Jr. ‘73 of the New York Court of Appeals presided, in the role of Chief Justice of the United States. He was joined on the bench by the Hon. Erin M. Peradotto ‘84 of the NYS Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 4th Department, and the Hon. William J. Hochul Jr. ‘84, United States Attorney for the Western District of New York, in the role of Associate Justice. All three judges are alumni of the Law School. The event was held in the Francis M. Letro Moot Courtroom in O’Brian Hall.

The 2012 Desmond Moot Court Problem involved a hypothetical constitutional challenge brought by a state (like New York) that recognizes same-sex marriage against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts the use of federal funds through federally-funded programs like Medicaid to traditional opposite-sex marriages only. The state claimed that the federal law violates states’ rights to define marriage and requires the state to discriminate between its citizens based on sexual orientation. The issues were derived from several cases now awaiting possible review in the United States Supreme Court.

The 2012 Desmond Moot Court finalists were Phil Modrzynski ‘13 and Adam Durst ‘13, on one team, and Caitlin Higgins ‘13 and Kinsey O'Brien ‘13 on the other. Both teams had survived several earlier rounds in the competition. At the conclusion of competitors’ arguments on Friday afternoon, the judges retired for an unusually long time to deliberate and choose a winner. In what the judges described as an exceptionally close vote, they announced Higgins and O’Brien as the 2012 Desmond Moot Court Competition winners.

The Desmond Moot Court is one of the highest profile events on Law School, and it annually gives students the opportunity to hone their legal skills. In recent years, these efforts have been assisted by Kevin J. English of Phillips, Lytle and Lawrence J. Vilardo of Connors & Vilardo, who have provided the competition’s participants with additional training in appellate brief-writing and oral argument.

The Charles S. Desmond Moot Court Competition is an annual intramural event at SUNY Buffalo Law School with a tradition of engaging a broad cross-section of the student body in presenting an appellate case in a cutting-edge area of constitutional law.

The Competition is named in honor of the late Charles S. Desmond, the long-time Chief Judge of the State of New York, on the Court of Appeals in Albany, and a devoted alumnus of the SUNY Buffalo Law School. He served on New York’s highest court for twenty-six years.