VERMILLION, S.D. -- Abigail Howell of Volga, S.D., was named champion in oral arguments over Benjamin Wetherell of Cleghorn, Iowa, during The University of South Dakota School of Law’s Sam Masten Intramural Moot Court Competition on Wednesday.
The two first-year students were judged in the finals of the competition by justices of the South Dakota Supreme Court. Chief Justice David Gilbertson announced Howell’s win as a "close, split decision" as nearly 60 first-year students participated in the Law School’s oral argument version of "March Madness" that began on March 16.
"Both Abbey and Ben did an outstanding job of representing their hypothetical clients," according to Dean of the School of Law Barry Vickrey. "In this process, they demonstrated the high caliber of our students, the excellent quality of our professors, and the extraordinary education they receive. The Law School is especially grateful to the Supreme Court for the time and expertise invested in helping future lawyers, and to the Woods Fuller law firm for its continuing strong support."
Other first-year participants receiving specific honors were Blayne Grave of Sioux Falls, S.D., who was cited for best overall brief, as well as best appellant brief; and Michelle Venable-Ridley of Pulaski, Va., for best appellee brief in the competition. All participants and the Law School were honored at a Wednesday evening reception hosted by the Sioux Falls law firm of Woods, Fuller, Shultz and Smith where Roger Damgaard, a member of the firm and a long-time supporter of the Law School’s competitive Moot Court program, presented Vickrey with a $5,000 check to the Law School Foundation in support of the Moot Court program.
In addition to Gilbertson, South Dakota Supreme Court Justices judging the finals of the competition included the Hon. John Konenkamp, Hon. Steven Zinter, Hon. Judith Meierhenry and Hon. Richard Sabers, a recently-retired justice who had judged the tournament’s final round for more than two decades. All five justices are graduates of USD School of Law. Close to 65 volunteers, including area judges, judicial law clerks, other attorneys, professors, deans, and Moot Court board members, helped judge preliminary rounds during the nine-day tournament. The hypothetical case for the competition was authored and compiled by Rachel Alexander, assistant professor and director of the Legal Writing Program at the Law School.
The Sam Masten Moot Court Tournament is named for a long-time, outstanding South Dakota trial lawyer who practiced in the Canton area, was a leader of many organizations in the legal profession, and served as an adjunct professor at the School of Law. Masten served as President of the State Bar of South Dakota, was instrumental in the creation of the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association, and was the State Delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates for a number of years.