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Black law student teams advance to national competitions

The mock trial team and moot court team representing Penn State Law's Black Law Students Association will compete against the top teams from across the country in the final round in March.
BLSA's mock trial team

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Two teams representing the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) at Penn State Law in University Park recently advanced to the national stage of advocacy competitions.

“We are so proud of the impressive performances of the BLSA mock trial and moot court teams,” said Dean Hari M. Osofsky. “We wish them all the best for nationals.”

BLSA’s mock trial team placed first overall in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Constance Baker Motley Mock Trial Competition (CBMMTC), which simulates a civil trial proceeding. Each team offered opening statements, direct and cross examination of witnesses, and closing arguments. Team members Solabomi Ladega, Tyson Smith, Tyla Swinton, and Alexis Thackurdin will compete in the national mock trial competition in March against the 17 other top teams in the country. The team is coached by Shushan Sadjadi, a Penn State Law alumna, and Professor Christopher French serves as the team's faculty advisor.

“I am still in shock,” said Swinton, a 2021 juris doctor candidate, president of BLSA, and mock trial team captain. “To think that none of us has done anything like this before, we’ve all come such a long way. I am so proud of us and it was an honor to be captain of such a great team.”

Their coach, Sadjadi, jumped at the opportunity to be a mentor.

“Trial team was a highlight of my law school career, and it was truly an honor to coach this extraordinary team,” Sadjadi said. “Nationals, here we come!”

BLSA’s moot court team placed second overall, and had the best respondents brief, in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition (TMMCC), which simulates an appellate oral argument proceeding and evaluates competitors based on their ability as an appellate advocate. Team members Sidnee McDonald and Jacob Conklin will face the 17 other top moot court teams in the country during the national stage of the competition in March. The team is coached by Penn State Law alumna Kathryn Dutton and 2021 juris doctor candidate Ryan Morrison.

“Thank you to everyone who has made it possible for us to succeed in this competition, from the BLSA Executive Board to the professors who have donated their time,” said Conklin, 2023 juris doctor candidate. “The dedication of my co-counsel, Sidnee, and our coaches is unrivaled, and I look forward to advancing to nationals with them.”

For McDonald, a 2022 juris doctor candidate, the moot competition has been a rewarding experience and an opportunity to hone her legal skills.

“Hearing retired and current judges tell me that they are impressed with my analytical and oral advocacy skills was an amazing feeling,” McDonald said, “and I am looking forward to receiving feedback from the judges at the national competition.”

Both the TMMCC and the CBMMTC are organized by the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA), an organization that articulates and promotes the needs and goals of Black law students to effectuate change in the legal community. The final rounds of the advocacy competitions will take place March 3-6, 2021, at NBLSA’s National Convention.

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