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March 23, 2010

Law School students win top honors at Conrad B. Duberstein National Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition

Students from the University of Texas School of Law won both first and second place at the 18th Annual Conrad B. Duberstein National Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition on March 15, 2010. Law School students Patrick Schmidt and David Shank won first place in the competition; Rex Mann, Kelli Benham, and Mark Little won second place and the award for best brief. This near-sweep of awards has never happened before in this competition and is very rare in any national moot court program. The students are coached by Austin attorneys Jay Ong, Debbie Langehennig, ’88, and Vanessa Gonzalez, ’08. Professor Jay Westbrook, ’68, who holds the Benno C. Schmidt Chair of Business Law, works with the teams as well.

“This sweep of the Duberstein competition is a great credit to Patrick, David, Rex, Kelli and Mark; to their able coaches; and to Professor Westbrook,” said Dean Larry Sager. “Bankruptcy Law and Advocacy are great strengths at UT Law, but these wins are about their inspired talent and hard work. We’re lucky to be able claim them as our own.”

The competition is sponsored by the American Bankruptcy Institute and St. John’s University School of Law. The ABI Endowment Fund provides cash awards to the winning participants, while St. John’s provides plaques. The Duberstein Competition is named for the late Judge Conrad B. Duberstein—a St. John’s alumnus and former ABI Director—and has grown into one of the larger appellate moot court competitions in the nation, with nearly fifty teams from thirty-five participating law schools. The final rounds were held this year at the recently-renamed Duberstein Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York.

“The Duberstein win is the most current national championship for UT Law and we’re very proud of these students and coaches,” said Tracy McCormack, ’86, director of the Law School’s Advocacy Program. “This highlights an exceptionally successful year for UT Law and adds a national championship to the four regional championships already won this spring. The Duberstein team brought home the twelfth national championship of the last ten years, but since we still have two more teams competing at the national and international level this semester, we’re hoping to add to that number.”

The UT Law Duberstein moot court teams also participated in the 2010 Elliott Cup in February. Named for the Honorable Joseph Elliott, former Chief Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of Texas, the Elliott Cup serves as a run-up to the Duberstein National Competition. UT Law team members Benham and Mann took first place with Benham also winning Best Advocate. The competition was held at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana.

This year’s case problem was pulled from today’s headlines involving Ponzi scheme bankruptcies, and raised two questions: whether a sophisticated investor who becomes suspicious and withdraws funds is denied the protection provided to good-faith transferees, and whether a bankruptcy trustee can waive an individual debtor’s attorney-client privilege. More than two dozen bankruptcy judges from around the country served on the quarter-final and semi-final rounds as judges.

Contact: Cheryl Brandt, 512- 232-1260, cbrandt@mail.law.utexas.edu