LAWRENCE — March Madness hasn’t even started, and KU has already won a national championship. A KU Law team brought home first-place honors from this year’s National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition.
Ashley Akers, of Casper, Wyoming, and Maureen Orth, of Prairie Village, won the competition and received the best brief award. Orth was named the second-best oral advocate and received the first-ever G. William Rice Advocate Award for the highest cumulative points in the competition. Corey Adams of Wichita and Nathan Kakazu of Madison, Wisconsin, placed third and received the second-place brief award. Nick Hayes of Lawrence and Jason Vigil of Las Cruces, New Mexico, also represented KU at the competition, held March 5-6 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.
The NNALSA competition tests students’ knowledge of Indian law by evaluating their legal writing and oral advocacy skills. Students submit written briefs and participate in a simulated courtroom experience.
“This year’s competition involved a hypothetical conflict between a state and tribe related to the growth and sale of marijuana on the tribe's reservation,” said Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner, team coach and director of KU’s Tribal Law and Government Center. Students considered whether the state could apply laws prohibiting some forms of marijuana against the tribe. Akers and Orth argued on behalf of the state in the final round, defeating the University of Oklahoma to win first place.
Team members prepared for the competition by researching and preparing briefs and participating in practice rounds judged by KU Law faculty, alumni and peers.
“Our experience at the NNALSA competition was nothing short of amazing,” Akers said. “Nearly every professor at the law school took the time to judge one or more of our teams as we prepared for this competition. It's an honor to bring home this recognition for our school after it has provided so much time, energy and resources to help us succeed.”
“It feels amazing to win, but the best thing to come out of the competition is how much we learned from our coaches, the KU faculty and each other,” Orth said. “We had so much support from the whole team.”
The final rounds were judged by a panel of esteemed Indian law scholars and practitioners, including tribal judges, tribal law professors, a Michigan Supreme Court justice and a D.C. circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals.
“The competition is an excellent way for students to learn federal Indian law, which is especially valuable given the close proximity of so many tribes to Kansas and the important relationship between tribes, the federal government and states,” Kronk Warner said. “Students learn and improve upon their legal research, writing and oral advocacy skills.”
This is the second year in a row that KU Law advanced to the final round of the NNALSA competition. A KU Law team brought home second place from last year’s competition at the University of Arizona.