Published April 1, 2013
Twenty-eight teams from 25 law schools across the country came to Buffalo on March 23 to compete in the 15th Annual Herbert Wechsler National Moot Court Competition organized by SUNY Buffalo Law School. The only national moot court contest in the United States to focus on topics in substantive criminal law, the competition is named after the drafter of the Model Penal Code. It is sponsored by the SUNY Buffalo Criminal Law Society, and held in the Erie County Courthouse.
According to organizers, this year’s contest was close, hard-fought and successful.
The Wechsler Competition problem was based upon a matter awaiting possible review by the U.S. Supreme Court. It concerned a constitutional challenge to a new Florida statute that allows for the imposition of “strict liability” punishment in drug cases, without requiring the prosecution to prove that the defendant knew the substances in question were illicit. Some form of "guilty knowledge" or mens rea is almost always a requirement under American criminal law, especially for crimes involving the heavy sentences permitted by this Florida statute.
This year’s Final Round was argued before a distinguished SUNY Buffalo Alumni bench comprised of the Hon. Eugene F. Pigott, Jr. ’73, associate judge of the New York Court of Appeals; Hon. Erin M. Peradotto ’84, judge on the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department; and United States Attorney for the Western District of New York, the Hon. William J. Hochul, Jr. ’84.
The winners of the 2013 Wechsler Competition were Sarah Kyriakedes and Tony Strike from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, who narrowly prevailed over Lane Oling and Caitlin Madden from the University of Wisconsin Law School in a spirited Final Round.
A SUNY Buffalo team, comprised of Shea Kolar ’13 and Mathew Hoffman ’13, also did exceedingly well, advancing to the Competition’s Quarterfinal round. Hoffman won the Third Best Oral Advocate Award. SUNY Buffalo was also represented by Ashley Fasso ’13 and Kerisha Hawthorne ’14. The coach for the 2013 SUNY Buffalo Wechsler Competition teams was Audrey Herman ’11.
Law schools competing in the 2013 Wechsler Competition included Duke, William & Mary, the University of Michigan, the University of Maine, Ohio State, Kansas, Florida, George Mason, Catholic University, Villanova, CUNY, and New York Law School, among many others.
The two awards for the best briefs went to the University of Florida (best brief for petitioner) and Ohio State (best brief for respondent). In the earlier rounds, the other Best Oralist Awards went to Lisa Herman of Ohio State (1st place) and Emily Gomes of William & Mary (2nd place). In the Final Round, Best Oralist went to Tony Strike of the University of Cincinnati.
The SUNY Buffalo Criminal Law Society’s Executive Board - Phil Modrzynski ’13, Brittany Nasradinaj ’13, Jennifer Estleford ’13, Andrew Eastham ’13, Rebecca Schnirel ’13, Jennifer Bryant ’14, Chris Larrabee ’14, and Torrey Grenda ’13 - was responsible for mounting and managing this highly successful event.