Third-year University of Virginia School of Law students Jennifer Davidson and Jay Swanson won the 89th William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition on Tuesday.
The section-mates, who delivered appellate arguments, defeated fellow third-years Alli Herzog and Tess Sewell, the appellees, to take home the Kingdon Moot Court Prize.
In addition, Herzog won the Stephen Pierre Traynor Award for best oralist. All four finalists received the James M. Shoemaker Jr. Moot Court Award.
Presiding over the competition were U.S. Appeals Court Judges Paul V. Niemeyer of the Fourth Circuit, Gregg J. Costa of the Fifth Circuit and Thomas B. Griffith '85 of the D.C. Circuit.
The winning duo said near-daily practice with fellow students in the weeks leading up to the finals set them up for success. Edmund Saw, also a section-mate, coached them and built their confidence, they added.
But Davidson and Swanson also learned from each other.
“Jay and I often would have very different views of the issues and approaches to arguing,” Davidson said. “We both pushed each other to fill holes in our arguments and think about it from every possible angle. This ultimately made both our briefs and our oral arguments much stronger.”
This year’s scenario involved the termination of an employee, allegedly based on sexual orientation. Written by third-year law students Nicole Lawler and Abby Hollenstein, the problem asked whether Title VII’s prohibition on sex-based workplace discrimination encompasses discrimination based on sexual orientation, as well as the appropriate standard for establishing an inference of discrimination in Title VII actions.
Held annually, the competition starts with a field of about 80 students in two-person teams, writing briefs and arguing student-written problems in a mock federal appeal. Over the course of the participants' second and third years, the field is whittled until two teams meet in the final round.
The time commitment was especially challenging for Swanson — his wife, classmate Diana Vall-llobera, gave birth just two days before the fall quarterfinals. Davidson argued for Swanson in his absence.
“So it was difficult to be away from them while we were practicing,” Swanson said. “But Diana was great and very supportive. The morning after the final round I cooked her a big pancake breakfast as a thank you.”
After graduation, Davidson will clerk for Judge Costa and then Judge Wendy Beetlestone in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Swanson will clerk for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson ’72 of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He will then work at Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C.
In addition to the Lile Moot Court Competition, UVA Law students also compete in other appellate moot court and trial advocacy competitions nationwide.
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.