Students from the University of Texas School of Law’s interscholastic team won first place in the twentieth annual Conrad B. Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition, held at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, March 9–12, 2012. Third-year students Brian Cumings and Eric Werlinger won first place at the competition, surviving a field of fifty-four teams. Two other members of the team representing UT Law, third-year students Gabriel Markoff and Zachary Popovich, advanced to the final day of the competition and ultimately placed as finalists. Cumings was further recognized among the competition’s outstanding speakers. Coaches of the team are Debbie Langehennig, ‘88, Chapter 13 trustee for the Western District of Texas, and Jay Ong, a shareholder at Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr PC. The 2012 competition marks Langehennig’s ninth year, and Ong’s sixth, as coaches of the Law School team. Professor Jay Westbrook, Benno C. Schmidt Chair of Business Law, serves as Law School advisor to the team.
“The Law School is enormously proud of our students and coaches winning yet another national championship for the Law School,” said UT Law Interim Dean Stefanie Lindquist. “Their win is a well-deserved recognition of their hard work and talent, and it demonstrates the strength of our Advocacy Program and bankruptcy law classes. We are delighted to have such wonderful ambassadors for UT Law.”
The annual Duberstein Competition involves a substantial commitment from students, who undertook fact pattern analysis and brief writing prior to and throughout the Law School’s winter break, as well as competing in the regional annual Elliot Cup Competition, held this year in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the federal District Court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. This year’s fact pattern involved the current “hot button” issues of the limits of bankruptcy court jurisdiction in light of the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in the case of Stern v. Marshall, as well as the availability of good faith and equitable defenses to avoidance actions by the bankruptcy estate seeking to recover post-petition transfers. The team’s volunteer coaches rely heavily during preparation for the competition upon local bankruptcy judges, practitioners and professionals, who graciously contribute their time to assist in training and mentoring the team.
“The development of these students was remarkable,” Westbrook said. “Three of them started with little experience and they all evolved into winning advocates in a national competition in a very short time. All four students were excellent in the classroom and now have demonstrated their excellence in court.”
This is the second national championship won by the Law School team under the expert guidance of these same coaches at the Duberstein Competition in the past three years. In 2010, the Law School team (Kelli Benham, Rex Mann, David Shank, and Patrick Schmidt, all class of 2010) won both the national championship and second place runner up, making the finals round of the 2010 competition an all-University of Texas Law School event. The 2010 team completed its unprecedented achievements by also garnering the 2010 Outstanding Brief Award.