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Howard Law Students Defeat Harvard
By: Christopher Wall
NNPA Special Contributor
Originally posted 4/25/2005

WASHINGTON (NNPA) --The Howard University School of Law Moot Court Trial Team participated in the American Bar Association Criminal Justice and John Marshall Law School competition and placed first in the event, the first Black college to do so.

“The confidence that we had in ourselves created a command in the courtroom like no other,” Errick Simmons said, team captain and third year law student.

“We submitted a declaration of interest last summer,” Simmons said. “The national committee selects teams based on prior success records.”

Eight weeks prior to the competition, each team is given a fact pattern written by a problem drafter who is also one of the judges in the final round. The fact patterns are based on real life cases with the parties and witnesses changed.

The competition is structured around trial advocacy, a component of law where advocates represent their clients under the rule of law in a trial format. Each team was graded on speech advocacy, opening statements, direct examination, cross examination, objections, closing arguments and the presentation and use of exhibits.

“Our preparation was independent of endowment or funds and rested primarily upon the fate we have in ourselves,” Simmons said, who assisted with the preparation of the team. “We are social engineers.”

The four-member team consisted of Derrick Simmons, Adonna Bannister, L. Chris Stewart and Nisha Brooks. The history-making team was coached by Professor Monique A. Pressley.

Membership on the team is selective and began with an inter-school competition with an estimated attendance of 80 to 100 students.

After selections were made, there was an intra-team competition in the fall to determine the representatives for the spring.

The Howard University School of Law Moot Court Trial Team participated in four competitions this school year: the National Trial Competition, the National Black Law Students Association Competition, The American Bar Association Criminal Justice and John Marshall Law School Competition and the Atlanta Association of Trial Lawyers of America, where the team placed first in the region beating Georgetown, American University, Catholic University, George Mason University and the University of Maryland law schools.

Simmons attributes the success of the team to Johnny L. Cochran, Jr., who was a lawyer in residence at the time of the team’s formation in 1997.

“There is a true sign that after the passing of Johnny L. Cochran, Jr. on the same week of the national win of Black law students, that it was revealed and assured that there’s hope in the African-American Black lawyer for years to come,” Simmons said. “The torch has been passed from the old to the new underrepresented.”

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