Delaware moot court team wins national family law competition
Public Relations - Published: March 12, 2013
A trio of Delaware-campus students has won the 25th annual Domenick L. Gabrielli National Family Law Moot Court Competition, held at Albany Law School, and a Harrisburg-campus student was recognized for individual excellence at the event.

Delaware students Candace Embry, Jessica Keough and Brian McCarthy took top honors Saturday, March 2 at the three-day event that attracted 24 teams. The Widener Law team beat the team from Southern Illinois University School of Law in the final.

“This doesn’t happen without talent, dedication and hours and hours of long, hard work. Everyone gave 150 percent and it paid off beautifully,” Associate Professor Leslie A. Johnson said. She coached the team with Assistant Professor of Legal Methods Rebecca L. Scalio.

The team prevailed through seven rounds to take home the top honors. Three preliminary rounds were judged through point scoring. The next three rounds allowed only the winners to advance.

Coincidentally, a student from the Harrisburg campus – which sent two teams to the competition – took home the second-place award for best advocate. That student, Jamila Espinosa, is in her second-year in the regular division.

“Our students did a fantastic job and I applaud their success. They are a fine example of the caliber of students who compete on behalf of Widener Law,” Law Dean Linda L. Ammons said.

The case involved a state welfare child services department that wanted to remove a 13-year-old morbidly obese child from her home. The child weighed 325 pounds and her mother had been unable to comply with court-ordered treatment for the girl to lose weight.

The Widener team argued both sides of the case. They were assigned a side in the early rounds and a coin toss was used to determine sides for the later rounds.

"I am so proud of Brian, Candace, and Jessica, and so happy that I could be a part of this moment in their lives,” Scalio said. “They truly earned this win with their hard work and dedication."

The five-judge panel that presided over the final round included sitting and retired jurists from the New York Court of Appeals, New York Supreme Court, the Schoharie County, N.Y. Family Court and an Albany Law professor.

Keough is a second-year student in the extended division. Embry and McCarthy are regular-division students. Embry is a second-year student and McCarthy is in his third year.

“This was truly an amazing experience. When they announced the winners, I had to process the information for a moment before I realized that we won. Competing is more than a test of preparation,” Embry said. “It’s also a test of personal endurance and confidence, and conviction in your arguments in front of a panel of unknown challengers.”

McCarthy said the team went in wanting to make Widener proud.

“Hopefully this victory will raise awareness among Widener students about Moot Court, and about the opportunities that it and our other great honor societies have to offer. There really is nothing like seeing the hard work put in by yourself, your teammates and your coaches pay off,” he said.

Keough added: “The Gabrielli National Family Law Moot Court Competition was an amazing experience. The dedication, diligence, and perseverance of my amazing teammates and coaches gave me courage, strength, and pride. Go Widener!”