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Santa Clara University Law Students Win First Round of International Moot Court Competition

Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009
Students Brandon Douglass, Adam Birnbaum, and Ann Marie Ursini

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Feb. 5 — A team of three Santa Clara University School of Law students beat nine schools’ teams to take first place in the North American preliminary round of the prestigious International Criminal Court Moot Court Competition held at Pace University School of Law. The team, along with second-place Yale Law School, will now travel to The Hague to compete in the final international round against eighteen other teams from around the world Feb. 15–20.

The early round of the competition was held January 30–Feb. 1 at Pace University School of Law in White Plains, New York.

The winning Santa Clara Law students, coached by Associate Professor of Law Beth Van Schaack, were Brandon Douglass, Adam Birnbaum, and Ann Marie Ursini.

The judges for the Pace round were drawn from the ranks of the world’s top international lawyers and international criminal law practitioners, including the chief prosecutor for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia; the Chief Legal Counsel for the Dutch Mission to the United Nations; the United Nations’ Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs; and various federal and state judges. 

The government of Netherlands will finance the teams' travel to The Hague, which is home to multiple international tribunals including the International Criminal Court (ICC), and is a center of international law.

Santa Clara Law has won the Pace competition before, but this year marked the first time that first- and second-place winners at Pace qualify for the global competition.

In addition to the first-place honors, Douglass was named “best oralist” in the final round, after he and Birnbaum won “best oralists” for their earlier-round performances.

“This is a great testament to Santa Clara’s program in international criminal law,” said Van Schaack, who said observers praised Santa Clara’s performance as “devastating” and of the highest caliber.

Unlike other moot-court competitions, in the final round of the ICC Competition one team member assumes the role of victims’ advocate, in addition to the team members playing the prosecutor and defense attorney. The advocate role is a new one, developed for the first time for the International Criminal Court, reflecting a new emphasis on victims’ rights in international law.

 Each team member must also be able to argue “off brief,” providing a valuable opportunity to understand the relevant substantive and procedure law from multiple perspectives.

 Participants said the competition brought out their best legal skills.

“The judges really made sure we had a hot bench,” said Birnbaum. “They pushed the teams until we reached the edge of our understanding of the law, and then they kept pushing just to see how we held up.’’


Santa Clara School of Law, founded in 1911 on the site of California’s oldest operating higher-education institution, is dedicated to educating lawyers who lead with a commitment to excellence, ethics, and social justice. One of the nation’s most diverse law schools, Santa Clara Law offers its 975 students an academically rigorous program, including graduate degrees in international law and intellectual property law; a combined J.D./MBA degree; and certificates in intellectual property law, international law, and public interest and social justice law. Santa Clara Law is located in the world-class business center of Silicon Valley and is distinguished nationally for our top-ranked program in intellectual property. For more information, see SCU Law School.

Its international law program has placed many students and graduate interns to work at all existing international criminal tribunals, including those adjudicating grave international crimes committed in Cambodia, Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda. Several SCU grads are among the few U.S. nationals working at the International Criminal Court, which the United States has not joined.

In addition, Santa Clara has a summer program in international criminal law in The Hague that is based at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Several SCU graduates are senior trial attorneys with the office of the prosecutor there and help to teach the summer program.

Santa Clara Law will host a symposium on international criminal law on March 13 and 14 that will include a keynote speech from DePaul University College of Law Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, one of the foremost proponents of international criminal law and the ICC.

Media Contact: Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | (408) 554-5121.


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