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UC Davis Asylum & Refugee Law National Moot Court Competition 2015

Posted By Kevin R. Johnson, Mar 16, 2015

Cross-posted at Immigration Prof Blog, where I am an editor.

This past weekend, the Moot Court Honors Board at UC Davis School of Law hosted the 8th annual UC Davis Asylum & Refugee Law National Moot Court Competition.  It is the only competition in the nation devoted exclusively to the topic of asylum and refugee law and the the only immigration law moot court competition on the West Coast.

Like other moot court competitions, this one provides law students from across the country the opportunity to participate in a hypothetical appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Competitors briefed the case.  The questions presented were

1. Whether former membership with a gang constitutes "membership in a particular social group" for purposes of asylum; and

(2) whether participation in vehicle burning and rock throwing as part of a protest of governmental policy constituted commission of a serious nonpolitical crime under 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b)(2)(A)(III), making the asylum applicant ineligible for relief.

Dawei Chi '15 developed the problem.  The Moot Court Honors expressed appreciation to Professor Brian Soucek for his assistance.

Both of the questions arise frequently in contemporary asylum cases.

On Saturday, teams from around the country, including Michigan, UC Hastings, USF, Pepperdine, and several other law schools, competed in the preliminary rounds.  The preliminaries narrowed the field to two teams.

The finals were on Sunday.  The all-New York final round saw teams from NYU (Alicia Berenyi and Kartik Naram) and Columbia (Arielle Klepach and Rebecca Urquiola) law schools facing off. 

The students recruited a great group of judges for the competition,  The judges in the finals had a wealth of immigration and asylum law experience:  Mike Canzoneri (California Attorney General office), Professor Evangeline Abriel (Santa Clara law school), David Harshaw (Assistant Federal Public Defender), and Audrey Hemesath (Assistant U.S. Attorney).  I also was asked to help judge the finals and enjoyed it immensely.  Both teams in the finals were incredibly well-prepared, poised and polished, and presented great arguments.  It was a tough decision but the Columbia team prevailed.  Congratulations to all of the participants.