Moot Court team makes history for MSU Law at national NALSA competition

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By Savannah Swix
MSU Law

Sixty-six teams from across the country gathered at UC Berkeley Law for the 28th annual National Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) Moot Court Competition during the weekend of Feb. 21. Two teams from MSU Law’s own NALSA chapter were among the group: Kacey Chopito, ’21, with Kaitlin Gant, ’20, and Austin Moore, ’20, with Kathryn Peterson, ’20.

After the first day of competition, the MSU Law teams waited for the results, hoping to make it to the next round, further than any team in the law school’s history had ever advanced at the National NALSA Moot Court Competition. 50 teams would be cut after the first day, leaving the top 16 to continue.

“Our goal was to make it passed the first elimination round,” Gant said. “We were like, ‘okay, we’ll be proud of ourselves if we make it this far.’”

Chopito and Gant advanced to the next round, but Moore and Peterson were cut. They supported Chopito and Gant through the remainder of the competition alongside one of the teams’ coaches, Linus Banghart-Linn, ’09, a prehearing attorney for the State of Michigan. Neoshia Roemer, staff attorney for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center (ILPC) at MSU Law, also advised the teams ahead of the competition.

“It was so comforting to be at the podium arguing and look over and see Austin, Kathryn, and our coach,” Chopito said.

With their initial goal of reaching the top 16 accomplished, Chopito and Gant celebrated, knowing that they had already made history for MSU Law at this competition – but they weren’t done yet.

“We kept hearing our team number come up and we thought, ‘wow, we’re doing this,’” Chopito said. By the third and final day of the competition, the team had advanced beyond the elite eight to the final four before solidifying their spot in the championship round against competitors from Columbia Law School.

“On Thursday, when we got there and they announced who the final panel was, we were like, ‘can you imagine arguing in front of these total rock stars of Indian Law?’” Gant said. “When they announced our name for the finals, it was a reality check for us – ‘hey, remember on Thursday when you couldn’t believe it? Well, now you actually get that opportunity.’ That was an amazing feeling.”

Chopito and Gant closed their impressive competition run with a second-place win in oral arguments and the award for Second Place Best Overall Advocates.

“Kaitlin and Kacey made a very talented, highly competitive team because they are natural born orators. We are very proud of their achievement, especially since this is MSU’s first time competing in the finals at this competition,” team advisor Roemer said. “Notably, Kaitlin was the only female in the finals – which is another point of pride as we continue to encourage women to compete unapologetically.
We are proud of this achievement as an early highlight in what will surely be long, fruitful, careers for both Kaitlin and Kacey as Native American attorneys contributing to Indian Country.”
 

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