SWLAW Blog | Awards & Honors

Alexa Whiteside and Yanick Saila-Ngita won first place at the Western Regional Black Law Student Association's Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition

January 13, 2016

Southwestern BLSA Team Wins Regional Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition

At the Western Regional Black Law Student Association's Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition, which was held at the University of San Diego last week, Southwestern’s team of Yanick Saila-Ngita and Alexa Whiteside dominated the event. They won First Place Team, Best Respondent Brief, and Saila-Ngita was named Best Oral Advocate.

In the preliminary rounds, Southwestern competed against Trinity Law School, University of La Verne, and Seattle University. In the semifinals, Southwestern defeated La Verne before triumphing over Seattle in the final round. Southwestern’s team will travel to Maryland in March to compete in the national round at NBLSA's 48th Annual Convention.

Professors Tara Walters and Kemba Taylor coached the team. “This year’s Frederick Douglass Moot Court competition is about whether a state’s felon disenfranchisement statute violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and/or the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” Professor Walters said. “Our team skillfully and passionately argued both sides of this issue, remaining calm in the heat of intense questioning by the judges. The judges praised the team for their knowledge and use of case law, and for their unique and compelling policy arguments.”

Saila-Ngita said that intense preparation helped the team succeed. “Professors Walters and Taylor always encouraged us to delve into more research to bolster and refine our arguments,” he said. “We devoted several days to honing our oral advocacy skills so that come competition time, we came across as incredibly poised and confident in front of the judges. We were also very flexible during our rounds, altering our arguments to address the points made by the opposing side.”

Whiteside gives a good deal of the credit for the team’s success to their coaches. “They gave up the week after Christmas to get us into competition shape, and man, did we develop,” she said. “They hit us with all the hard questions, as well as the softballs and really challenged us to develop our oral arguments and be the best we could be. I also just want to give an additional little shout out to our classmate and BLSA board member, Sherron Wiggins, for also giving us feedback on a few of our practice rounds and being our moral support in the audience during that final round.”