Herbert Wechsler Criminal Law Competition provides showcase to nation for SUNY Buffalo Law

At the Final Round of the Wechsler Moot Court Competition, Veronica Przygocki (New York Law School), Shana Pettinato (New York Law School), Virginia A. Seitz ’85, Hon. Eugene F. Pigott, Jr. ’73, Richard Davis (University of Wisconsin Law School), Hon. Erin M. Peradotto ’84 and Lisa Fishering (University of Wisconsin Law School). The team from the University of Wisconsin prevailed.

Twenty-four teams from law schools across the country came to Buffalo to compete in the 16th Annual Herbert Wechsler National Moot Court Competition.

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.

This year, the Herbert Wechsler Competition Problem involved the latest chapter in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ongoing effort to reconcile fundamental Fourth Amendment principles with rapidly evolving technology. The Problem was based upon Riley v. California, Docket No, 13-132 (cert granted Jan. 17, 2014), one of two cases that the U.S. Supreme Court has set for oral argument on April 29, 2014 dealing with the proper treatment of cellphones and smartphones seized from arrestees “incident to arrest.” The issue that competitors argued was whether (or to what extent) the police may conduct a warrantless search of the digital contents of such devices when they have been seized from the person of the arrestee.

Law schools competing in the 2014 Wechsler Competition included the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, William & Mary, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Maine, Ohio State, the University of California Davis, Villanova, Howard University, and the University of Louisville, among many others.

After a number of hard fought and closely decided rounds, two of the 24 teams advanced to the Final Round and argued before a distinguished SUNY Buffalo Law School alumni bench: Hon. Eugene F. Pigott, Jr. ’73, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals; Hon. Erin M. Peradotto ’84, Justice on the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department; and Virginia A. Seitz ’85, who served as the United States Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel from 2011 to December 2013. The winners of the 2014 Wechsler Competition were Lisa Fishering and Richard Davis from the University of Wisconsin Law School, who narrowly prevailed over Veronica Przygocki and Shana Pettinato from New York Law School.

A SUNY Buffalo team comprised of Jeffrey Hartman ’15 and Jessica Carbone ’15 advanced to the Competition’s Quarterfinal round. SUNY Buffalo Law also was represented by Brendan Roche ’14 and Benjamin Nelson ’15. The coach for both 2014 SUNY Buffalo Wechsler Competition teams was Audrey Herman ’11.

The two awards for the best briefs went to the University of Chicago (best brief for petitioner) and the University of Washington (best brief for respondent). In the earlier rounds, the Best Oralist Awards went to Lewis Turner of the University of Colorado (1st place), Brian Kempfer of the University of Michigan (2nd place), and Calland Kluchar of The Ohio State University (3rd place). In the Final Round, the Best Oralist Award went to Lisa Fishering of the University of Wisconsin.

The SUNY Buffalo Criminal Law Society’s Executive Board, including Rebecca Schnirel ’14, Chris Larrabee ’14, Samantha Kintz ’15, Jordan Ghasemi ’14 and Eric Curtis ’16, was responsible for mounting and managing this highly successful event.  The Herbert Wechsler National Moot Court Competition began 16 years ago under the aegis of the Buffalo Criminal Law Center.