Undergraduate Moot Court Team Rises Nationally
In whatever way one wants to describe Stetson’s undergraduate Moot Court Team — “underdog” and “Cinderella” are two words that quickly come to mind — this is a certainty: The team is on the way to the AMCA Moot Nationals, Jan. 13-14, at Louisiana State University.
American Moot Court Association (AMCA) is the largest intercollegiate moot court organization in the United States, with more than 500 teams typically competing in regional and national tournaments in attempts to win bids to the National Championship Tournament.
Stetson will be there, front and center, with a chance to qualify for the national tournament — in only its second academic year of competition.
Early in the Fall 2022 semester, a group of talented students was assembled to establish the first team, with no funding or any kind of tradition on campus. The team went on to excel well beyond expectations.
Now, after placing second in the Mid-South Regional in late October 2023, the team — composed of sophomore Tristyn Rampersad and senior Wyatt Sise — is set to battle the best of the region’s best at LSU’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center.
Best of the Region’s Best
Aside from Stetson and LSU, scheduled participants include Benedictine College, Bentley University, Boston University, California State – Fullerton, California State – Long Beach, Colorado Christian University, Indiana University, Liberty University, Morehouse College, Patrick Henry College, Regent University, University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Texas at Dallas.
To advance to the AMCA Moot Nationals, Stetson’s Rampersad and Sise topped, among others, host Liberty University. Liberty had entered the event ranked fourth overall in the country. Patrick Henry College, which entered the event ranked No. 1 nationally, won that Mid-South Regional.
Notably, during AMCA competitions, each judging panel (usually consisting of judges or attorneys) interrupts participants during the presentation of their argument, and the participants must be prepared for those questions and know how to answer them cogently and politely.
‘Really Great Competitors’
Steven Smallpage, PhD, associate professor of Political Science and director of Stetson’s Pre-Law Program, is optimistic about the team’s chances. Smallpage, also director of Stetson’s Center for Public Opinion Research and the Stetson Institute for Social Research, believes the team has “really great competitors.” Also, he asserts: “We have a really good shot at actually qualifying for Nationals. … We are punching well above our weight in terms of how young we are and how far we’ve already come.”
While Rampersad and Sise will be traveling to LSU for the event, other team members are Ryan Barker, Mary DeNote, Benjamin Korkus, Graci McDonald and Tiara Oglesby. The team is coached by Colin Snyder ’23, who was a team member as a senior last year.
Snyder, who is applying to law schools during a gap year and sought to “give back” to his alma mater as a coach, calls Sise “an incredible public speaker” and says Rampersad “shines in strategy and structure.”
Generally, about the team, Snyder says, “It’s very young, but it has achieved a ton in just a short time.”
‘Rise to That Level’
“Colin is a great coach, Tristyn is an absolute genius, and I try to do my part to keep up with those guys,: comments Sise. “It’s been a great run so far. We’re winning rounds against Ivies [Ivy League] and schools with national titles.”
Also, Sise sees growth potential, adding, “Imagine what this program can become with some serious funding from the school and the DeLand legal community. Win or lose this weekend, I’m incredibly proud of this team and our opportunity to represent Stetson on the national level.”
Rampersad, arriving at Stetson in fall 2022 at age 16, personifies that potential, and he makes this statement of purpose: “My expectation is that this tournament is going to be very difficult. We have some of the best teams in the nation that are going to be at this tournament, and many of them have been doing this for years. But I honestly think that we’re going to do very, very well. We’ve already shown it. … Even though the competition is going to keep increasing, I think we’re going to rise to that level.”
Note: Stetson’s team placed ninth in the American Moot Court Association National Tournament and, according to Tristyn Rampersad, has a “very high chance of getting invited” to advance in the national competition. The team is expected to learn its fate within two weeks.