Law students from The U make elite eight at NALSA contest

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Ross Caplett and Alex Hagen, two first-year students at The University of South Dakota School of Law, advanced to the “elite eight” of the 16th annual Native American Law Student Association (NALSA) Moot Court Competition in Tempe, Ariz., earlier this month.

The team of Caplett, who is from Wyola, Mont., and Hagen of Brandon, S.D., was eliminated by a team from the Oklahoma City School of Law following a well-argued round of competition on the campus of Arizona State University. The duo from Oklahoma City University went on to win top honors in the Best Advocate competition as 64 teams from colleges and universities across the United States participated.

To prepare for the tournament, Caplett and Hagen read and briefed more than 35 Indian law cases. Aside from maintaining regular class attendance, the two USD law students spent the better part of the past two months, including Christmas break, working to prepare their written brief and oral arguments. According to Tom Sorensen, associate dean of the USD School of Law, both students enjoy being active in moot court competitions, especially those involving the important legal issues found in American Indian law.

"Alex competed in USD Law's inaugural NALSA Moot Court competition this past fall and was very impressive," noted Sorensen. "Ross brings prior experience with moot court from the Pre-Law Summer Institute in New Mexico. Ross also volunteered at USD Law's NALSA event as a bailiff.

"In addition, the students’ opportunities to work closely with their professors as advisors continues to be one of the real benefits of the law school’s small size and its outstanding Indian Law Program at USD," he added. "First-year law students earning their way to a spot in the elite eight among 64 total teams in this kind of tournament is simply extraordinary. We’re very proud of our students."   

USD Law School’s American Indian Law program features actively-engaged professors who are experts in this area of law. They include Frank Pommersheim, a nationally-known expert and author who serves on a half-dozen tribal courts across the U.S. Patrice Kunesh, of Standing Rock Sioux, Hunkpapa Lakota descent, was recently named director of USD’s long-existing Institute of American Indian Studies, in addition to her teaching duties at the Law School. She was also instrumental in assisting and designing a question in the area of American Indian law for the South Dakota Bar Examination. John Glover, of Salish descent, was recently named an associate dean at USD Law and continues to direct and teach American Indian Studies at Black Hills State University.

For more information about NALSA at the USD School of Law and NALSA Moot Court, please visit this Web site: http://www.usd.edu/law/archives/s/nalsamootcourt.cfm or call (605) 677-5417.