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March 30, 2017

The University of Kentucky College of Law’s Bankruptcy Moot Court team of Grace Greenwell and Alex Magera tackled both sides of a bankruptcy case to finish in the top 8 of the 25th Annual Duberstein Moot Court Competition, which attracted 48 teams from across the nation.

The annual event, widely recognized as one of the nation’s preeminent moot court competitions, was held March 4-6 at St. John’s University School of Law in Queens, New York. Law students wrote an appellate brief on a significant issue in bankruptcy practice and argued the case before a panel of judges.

“The appellate brief is basically a 35-page argument, using both the facts given to us and any law we can find, to make the best argument for our client. The oral argument is the same thing, just in oral form, with the justices interrupting at any point during our argument to ask us specific questions,” said Magera, a current third-year law student.

Greenwell and Magera’s issue asked whether a Chapter 11 plan of reorganization could include a provision that permanently discharges a claim by one non-debtor against another non-debtor. After receiving their problem in December, the students immediately started working on their brief. The process entailed researching, and then writing, about everything that supported their position. After submitting the brief, the students turned their attention to the oral argument. Unlike the brief, the oral argument required disputing both sides of the issue.

“My favorite part of all moot court competitions is delivering the oral argument. Honestly, my favorite aspect of this profession in general is delivering an oral argument,” said Magera. “Oral argument separates the pretenders from the contenders. Appellate judges and justices can easily pick apart any holes, weaknesses, falsities, or exaggerations in an oral argument. Without thorough preparation and knowledge of the facts and law of the case, the judges and justices will destroy you.”

“While we were well prepared for the competition aspect, several judges commented positively that we stood out for our more realistic approach to the issues,” said Greenwell.

Greenwell and Magera practiced their oral argument three times a week in front of Christopher W. Frost, the Thomas P. Lewis Professor of Law at UK Law, local attorney Kevin Henry (UK Law ’78), and other prominent individuals in the profession. Prof. Frost teaches contracts, bankruptcy, secured transactions, and payment systems at UK Law and his research focuses on corporate bankruptcy law.

“Prof. Frost was truly the catalyst of our success. All of his assistance helped fine-tune our arguments and led to our success in leading UK Law to one of its best finishes ever in this competition,” said Magera.

The competition culminated in a gala awards dinner at the banquet at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in Manhattan. Through the awards dinner, which draws close to 1,000 attendees, Greenwell and Magera had the opportunity to get to know their competitors and meet many leading bankruptcy judges and practitioners. Before returning to the heart of the Bluegrass, the law students also had the chance to explore New York, including various 9/11 memorials, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park.