St. Thomas University's Moot Court Team at Fitchburg State University.
A liberal arts degree is known to be a solid foundation for studying law. Eight St. Thomas students tested that theory in the university’s first performance at a moot court competition.

Samantha Dean, a fourth-year student from Saint John, NB, and Stefen Savoy, a second-year from Moncton, NB, were members of the STU team. Along with coach Dr. Amanda DiPaolo and teammates Madison Makepeace, Jillian Trail, Jaycee Bihun, Lindsay McLellan, Raïssa Musoni, and Kathleen Nash, they traveled to Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg, MA, for the competition.

The event hosted 62 teams, and all except for St. Thomas were from the United States. In round-robin style, half of the participants move to the second day of competition. Of the four teams from St. Thomas, three earned their way to day two, with the fourth team falling to last year’s championship school.

Moot court is new at St. Thomas and credit is due to Professor DiPaolo. When she came to St. Thomas to lead the Human Rights Program, she brought moot court with her from Middle Tennessee State University where she taught US constitutional law and led MTSU’s moot court program.  

Since DiPaolo didn’t take up her position at St. Thomas until September, the STU team formed late for the competition. Teams from other schools had received the case in May, while St. Thomas had team members join as late as a month prior to the event.

An added challenge was learning the American system of justice. The event is held in the US, so St. Thomas students had to immerse themselves in American constitutional law.

Big Fish

“We had to learn the American constitution and understand American case law, and Dr. DiPaolo has a no- note rule, so you have to understand it, not just memorize it,” says Dean, a Political Science and International Relations student.

Their work paid off as STU students showed no sign of lacking understanding of American case law.

“When one judge found out we were from Canada, he said he thought we had come from one of the championship schools. This wasn’t only a comment on our hard work, but also the work that Dr. DiPaolo put in—she went above and beyond.”

Savoy, who will major in Great Books and Human Rights, also credits the team’s performance to DiPaolo. On one occasion, Savoy’s opponent assumed his team was from a law school.

“What Dr. DiPaolo expects from you is what you need to perform. Her expectations are not arbitrary or tailored to her; these are the things you need in order to advance and she drills them into you.”

Savoy realized this in his very first session at the competition.

“I was giving page citations and record citations, dropping a lot of numbers. I’m under the impression this is the standard, and then the student arguing against me dropped her mouth open and her pen fell out of her hand. It was one of the highlights of my university career. I knew I had what it took and I was ready.”

“We weren’t just small fish playing in a small pond,” adds Savoy. “We were big fish.”

Moot Court at St. Thomas

Next year, moot court will be an official course at STU. Both Dean and Savoy have advice for anyone thinking of enrolling—“Sign up, start early, and read the court cases every week.”