Competing in the world’s oldest and largest moot court competition against 550 law schools from 90 countries around the world, Columbia Law School scored a rare dual victory when it won two top awards for best written advocacy in the 2016 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.
The competition is a fictional dispute between two countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations. Teams of five law students must submit one written memorial on behalf of the Applicant country and one on behalf of the Respondent, and then present their oral arguments during the oral rounds of the competition.
Katherine Ebright ’18, Eve Levin ’18, Libby Marden ’17, Will Mattessich ’16, and Henry Ross ’17 made up the stellar Columbia team, having qualified earlier in the year to advance to the White & Case International Rounds held March 27-April 2 in Washington, D.C. The team was presented with the Richard R. Baxter Awards for the Best Overall Applicant Memorial and the Best Overall Respondent Memorial. Not since 1998 has one school earned both awards in the same year.
Team members, from left to right: Henry Ross '17, Katherine Ebright '18, Eve Levin '18, Libby Marden '17, and Will Mattessich '16.
This year’s dispute, titled “The Frost Files,” concerned mass surveillance and cyber-attacks. The students received considerable support from distinguished international law alumni and faculty who offered coaching and advice over the course of seven months. Professor Lori Damrosch, a renowned scholar on international law, was the team’s faculty advisor. In addition, Professors Sarah Cleveland and Matthew Waxman; Visiting Professors Amal Clooney, Claus Kreß, and Mila Versteeg; Adjunct Professor of Law Larry Johnson; and Lecturer-in-law Delyan Dimitrov '08, gave their time and extensive feedback to prepare the students for the rigorous competition.
“We are so fortunate to have had an incredible support system,” said Marden. “We benefited greatly from the advice and feedback of many alumni and professors, and these honors are truly the result of a full team effort.”
The prestigious annual event is administered by the International Law Students Association (ILSA). “The Baxter Award truly is one of the top academic awards for students studying public international law, and a real achievement for a university to win both of the Baxter Awards,” said Lesley Benn, Executive Director of ILSA. “It speaks volumes to the success story of the program at Columbia University, and the dedication of both students and alumni to the Jessup Competition. ILSA congratulates the Columbia Law School Jessup team on this incredible achievement.”
The memorials were judged by an elite group of lawyers, practitioners, judges, and scholars, who considered criteria including: extent and use of research; clarity and organization; and style, grammar, and citation of sources. The Law School’s winning memorials will be published in the ILSA Journal of International & Comparative Law.
In the International Rounds, the Law School was seeded second after the preliminary rounds and eventually advanced to the semi-finals. Generations of students have competed in this event, adding to the School’s exceptional record of success. Columbia has now placed in the top three spots in the world for six of the last seven years, and won national championships nine out of the last 11 years.
Participation in Jessup at Columbia involves a significant academic and social commitment. Current and former team members together conduct a rigorous application process each fall to select two to three new members, to complete the team of five. Candidates submit a written brief, give a 10-minute oral argument, and participate in an informal discussion with current team members and alumni. Once new members are selected, the season kicks off with an annual dinner at a local restaurant, followed by occasional alumni gatherings throughout the year. This year's group coalesced during a team retreat to the farmlands of New Hartford, CT.
The competition is named after Philip C. Jessup ’24, a professor of international law and diplomacy at Columbia Law School from 1925 to 1961. Jessup helped draft the statutes of the International Court of Justice and the International Law Commission, serving in a variety of advisory and representative posts in the U.S. government throughout his career. In 1961 he left Columbia for a nine-year term as the U.S. representative at the International Court of Justice.