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Law Grad Wins $65,000 Moot Court Prize

Moot court winners typically get applause and bragging rights, but these competitors split $115,000 in prize money.

In the rare air of the Phillip R. Shawe Scholarship Competition, three winners beat out 240 students who submitted briefs. The finalists argued before a panel of judges, and University of Florida Levin College of Law's Steven Hermosa answered the $65,000 first-place questions.

"You not only answered the questions, but you used the questions to further your argument," competition judge Alan Dershowitz told Hermosa. "By the end of your answers, you were not in the same position you were in before the question was asked, you were in a better position, and that to me is the key to an extraordinarily effective oral argument."

Moot Court, Real Case

Shawe established the unprecedented competition after the Delaware Supreme Court ruled in a dispute he had with Liz Elting over their company, TransPerfect. The shareholders sued each other in 2014, and the Supreme Court said the company must be sold.

The competition focused on constitutional issues with the courts' powers to force a sale when shareholders of a privately-held corporation are deadlocked. The students argued against the appointment of a custodian to direct the sale under Delaware General Corporate Law Section 226.

It was a real case but a moot court, with Alison Tilden and McKay Neumeuster of Yale Law School and Catherine Dowie of Suffolk University School of Law tying for second place. They won $25,000 each.

After the competition and awards banquet, the contestants and about 300 attendees retired to the hotel rooftop to celebrate. Adding to the audacious event, rapper Snoop Dogg made a surprise appearance and performed.

Wrapping Up

According to the scholarship's Facebook page, Shawe offered Elting an "offer she couldn't refuse" for TransPerfect. Even Dershowitz weighed in on the case, calling the offer the "paradigm of justice."

It's not clear whether Dershowitz joined in the rooftop activities, but he reportedly called "Delaware justice an oxymoron" and Chief Justice Leo Strine a "judicial tyrant."

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