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UAlbany students win kudos in legal debate tournament

UAlbany's Moot Court Team - Emily Spinner, Lauren Mendolera, Winston Brownlow, Amanda Conover, Jessica Landin and James Acker
  Emily Spinner, Lauren Mendolera, Winston Brownlow, Amanda Conover, Jessica Landin and James Acker

Capping an extraordinary experience that began last fall, two UAlbany undergraduates, Jessica Landin and Lauren Mendolera, earned “Best New Team” honors in the national tournament of the American Collegiate Moot Court Association (ACMCA) held in January in Arlington, Texas.

Their journey began in an “Introduction to Law and Criminal Justice” course taught by School of Criminal Justice professor James Acker. Acker put together two teams of undergraduates who volunteered to participate for the first time in the ACMCA’s Eastern Regional Tournament held in November. Competing against seasoned teams from 34 other universities, UAlbany’s newcomers, Landin and Mendolera, argued their way to qualify for the national finals.

The regional competition required the teams to address issues from a hypothetical “Megan’s Law” case which raised questions about how far a university could go in providing information about a student without violating the student’s constitutional right of privacy and procedural due process rights. The Landin-Mendolera team engaged in three oral arguments involving different opponents before different panels of judges. “They competed against seasoned teams, many of whom had been enrolled in semester-length courses devoted to preparing for the ACMCA tournament. They just pulled upset after upset,” said Acker. “Their performance was all the more remarkable because Jess is a sophomore and Lauren is a first-year student.”

Jessica Landin, a Westchester, N.Y., native and psychology major, whose long-term goal is to work for the FBI, said that the experience “was one of the best of my life.” Teammate Lauren Mendolera from Elma, N.Y., plans to major in English, but volunteered because she wanted to improve her public speaking skills as she may want to go into some area of the law. “The experience involved public speaking, thorough analysis and just generally having to think on your feet,” she said. “These skills will all carry over into life.” Acker concurs and also wryly adds, “I would not suggest getting into an argument with either one of them.”

UAlbany’s participation in the moot-court competition was supported by a grant from the University’s Innovations in Teaching Awards program, administered through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL).

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