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Posted April 19, 2012

Millay, Malinee Win 83rd Lile Moot Court Competition

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Millay and Malinee

Third-year law students Anne Malinee (left) and Kristin Millay (right) won the William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition on Saturday.

University of Virginia law students Anne Malinee and Kristin Millay won the 83rd annual William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition on Saturday, with Millay also taking the prize for best oralist.

In the final round of the contest, which involved written briefs and mock arguments before real federal appeals court judges, the pair defeated fellow third-year law students James Kaiser and Katie Beye. Over the past two years, 163 law students participated in the competition, long considered the premiere event at the Law School testing students' litigation skills.

"[The judges] asked a lot of the questions we anticipated being the most difficult, so it really got into the heart of what we prepared for the most," Millay said. "Once it got started, I don't think I was able to look at my outline again."

The final "problem" of the competition involved a fictional trademark infringement action the University of Virginia filed against "Chincer's," a store (a spoof of the real Mincer's) that sells UVA-themed apparel and accessories. The case also involved a complex hearsay question. Malinee and Millay argued for the petitioner, UVA.

"I had to argue that universities can get trademark protection for their school color schemes in certain circumstances," Millay said.

"I argued that it is inconsistent when a witness testifies that she does not remember facts that she described during her testimony at an earlier proceeding, and therefore, her prior testimony should be admitted under the hearsay exclusion for prior inconsistent statements," Malinee said.

Federal appellate judges Eugene E. Siler Jr. '63 of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, D. Brooks Smith of the 3rd Circuit and Debra A. Livingston of the 2nd Circuit judged the competition and offered a critique of the students' performance after issuing their ruling. The students had dinner with the judges following the competition.

"It was an honor to have the opportunity to argue before such a great panel of judges and it was even better to talk to them afterward and get a sense for what they thought," Malinee said.

Malinee and Millay, who were in the same first-year small section and had both worked as Dillard Fellows (teaching assistants for the Law School's Legal Research and Writing Program), paired up for the competition after the first round. They said their teamwork was critical to their success.

"We each took an issue, and then we would read and research the issue. We would also quiz each other on our questions and we would edit each others' sections of the briefs, so by the end I think we knew each other's issues almost as well as the other person did," Malinee said. "Every round we figured out things that worked for us or didn't work for us."

"We really tried to go through each piece of the argument and brief together. I think that really helped us," Millay added.

Along the way, Millay said, she hit at least one stumbling block, in her second round oral argument.

"We practiced answers to the toughest questions we thought we were going to get, but I don't think we had built up enough lines of defense beyond that," Millay said. "So when the judges didn't buy the first answer, the argument became very, very difficult. At the time it felt awful, but I think I really took that and said 'Alright, I'm going to make sure that never happens again and really learn from it,' and since then my arguments have been a lot better."

Malinee said she won't look back with fondness on the days when briefs were due.

"By the time you write the brief and you edit the brief and you get to Kinko's, it's 4 in the morning," she said.

In the days leading up to the final round, Malinee said, it was hard to focus on anything but the looming oral argument.

"We wanted to do well and we were really willing to give it our best effort, so we definitely put the time in," she said. "We read our brief, we read [the other team's] brief, we wrote down every possible question that we thought we could get asked and we practiced answers to every single question – over and over and over."

After each side finished the oral argument Saturday it was far from clear who had won, Millay said.

"We were very nervous. I don't think we felt sure at all," Millay said. "I think we felt like we had worked very hard and given the answers we wanted to give, but Katie and Jamie did a great job too, so it was very tough to tell."

Malinee attributed their success to hard work and practice. Millay agreed, adding that working together as much as possible also pushed them to perform their best.

"It can be tempting to just split up the issues and just leave it at that, but I think what really made a difference for us was the fact that we parsed every word of the brief together and every question we might get asked and how we wanted to answer it," Millay said. "Talking about that together led us to a better brief and better answers."

The pair also credited their former Legal Research and Writing professor, Sarah Stewart, whom they also worked for as Dillard Fellows.

"She taught us everything about writing a brief," Malinee said.

Malinee, a Leawood, Kan., native who double-majored in history and political science at Vanderbilt University, will enjoy even more experiences with federal appellate judges after law school. She will clerk for Judge Julia Smith Gibbons '75 on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Millay, who is from Bethesda, Md., and has a B.A. in English from the University of Virginia, plans to join the law firm Kaye Scholer in Washington, D.C.

The pair hasn't slowed down to celebrate their win yet — unless you count studying for finals, Millay said.

"Which is the saddest celebration I can think of," Malinee laughed.