This year, I had the incredible opportunity to be part of a team from FIU College of Law that participated in the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition at Cardozo University in New York City. This competition, put together by the University of Oxford, brings together students, scholars and practitioners from across the world to study issues in comparative media law and policy.
As a third-year law student at FIU College of Law, I was drawn to this competition for the challenge and experience of researching international law and arguing before esteemed international scholars. I also had a unique interest in the topic of this competition, Media Law, after taking related courses and interning at Viacom International.
Our team worked tirelessly for more than two months on two appellate briefs, researching a variety of topics ranging from internet law to human rights, criminal issues and public policy.
When we arrived in New York City, I was hit with the unpleasant shock of 20 degree weather that no Miamian is accustomed to or prepared for. Weather aside, I was in awe at the beauty of the city, and excited for day one of the competition. We would be competing in the America’s Regional Round against teams from the United States and Latin America. Other regional rounds were simultaneously being held in Afghanistan, China, East Africa, Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Europe. The top teams from each regional round would then have the opportunity to argue in the international rounds held in Oxford, England.
9 a.m. – We are told the times for the preliminary rounds. One FIU team argues at 9 a.m. My co-counsel, Adrienne, and I have to anxiously wait until our first round argument at 11:30 a.m. As it turns out, our other FIU team – Sylmarie, Jonathan, and Gaby – go up against a team from Trinidad and Tobago and FIU wins the round (as we learned later, by a handy 8.5-.5 score!). Trinidad and Tobago will go on to win the Final Round argument against Brooklyn Law School at our Americas Regional Round.
11:30 a.m. – Nervous, Adrienne, Crystal, and I arrive to our competition room. Crystal sat next to us at the competition table and was writing notes throughout the argument, preparing me for my rebuttal. Adrienne’s argument came right after mine. Our opposing counsel is a team from Jamaica. Because I speak first, my nerves quickly go away as I get relaxed with the judges, who seem to be listening attentively and enjoying the experience. They interrupt me several times to ask questions, as is custom in appellate arguments. Our judges include Frank Montero of Fletcher Heald and Hildreth (Washington D.C.); Blaise Woodworth of Madison Law Group (New York); and Eduardo Bertoni, director of the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression at Palermo University (Buenos Aires, Argentina).
Yet another win for FIU! We beat Jamaica in the Preliminary rounds (by a 6-3 score).
2 p.m. – Part II of the preliminary rounds. Sylmarie and Jonathan now compete against Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana. FIU wins this round, too; the score was 8-1. At this point, our record on preliminary rounds is 3-0!
9 a.m. – My second round preliminary argument is on the second day of the competition, bright and early. Much to our surprise, we too had to argue against Valparaiso. It was another win for FIU (again by an 8-1 score!). We dominated the preliminary rounds, winning all four of our arguments.
11:30 a.m. – With a 4-0 record, there was no doubt that we would advance to quarterfinals. The problem was that the quarterfinal round began right after our final preliminary round and we were exhausted! We were paired against Jamaica, yet again, for the quarterfinal rounds. They won the coin toss, allowing them to choose to argue the applicant side. Thus, we would send our respondent team, Sylmarie and Jonathan, to argue against Jamaica in the quarterfinals.
I must say, Jamaica was a very good team, but as I was sitting in the room watching my team argue before esteemed judges from Brazil, Argentina, and the United States, and I was proud at how far we had come. I was confident FIU Law was the best team in the competition.
Jamaica knocked us out in the quarterfinals by a 5-4 decision, but the experience of arguing against a talented team proved to be a humbling experience that will undeniably prepare me for the life of an attorney.
The third day of the competition was a free day, as it was Saturday; also, our host school, Cardozo School of Law, is part of Yeshiva University.
We were worried because we had not advanced to the semi-final round, and we were not sure if our scores would be high enough to allow us to advance to the international rounds at Oxford University. We would not know the fate of our team until the conclusion of the final round on Sunday.
We had been defeated, but in our minds, we were still winners. We enjoyed New York City by visiting Central Park and watching a Broadway show.
Sunday was the moment of truth! Anxious, we attended the final round and watched excellent arguments between Brooklyn Law School and the team from Trinidad and Tobago. After the argument, it was time for the competition director to announce which teams would advance to the international rounds.
After naming Trinidad and Tobago and Brooklyn, the obvious teams that would advance, I became nervous. Then, the announcer looked down at his paper, looked directly at our team, and looked back down. That moment I thought: “It’s us! We did it!” My instinct was correct. The announcer said: ‘From Miami, Florida – Florida International University.’ We all jumped with joy!
After that, they announced the top orators. My other team members turned around and started telling me that I was going to win this – but I was caught off guard because I did not even know this was an award they would be announcing! When my name is called, I could not believe it. I am humbled and appreciative to have been named amongst the top five orators of the Americas Regional Round.
I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to compete in such a prestigious competition, let alone be named as one of the top orators! There is not a doubt in my mind that no matter what happens in Oxford, the experiences we had, the knowledge we obtained, and the friendships that we made is what make us a winning team.
– Paula Barbieri Janvion