IIT Chicago-Kent wins NBLSA Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Regional Competition, Advances to National Finals

From left: Gus Hernandez, Haley Jenkins, Mohini Lal and Natalie Adeeyo

From left: Gus Hernandez, Haley Jenkins, Mohini Lal and Natalie Adeeyo

The IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law team of second-year students Natalie Adeeyo, Gus Hernandez, Haley Jenkins and Mohini Lal has won the Midwest regional championship and advanced to the national finals of the National Black Law Students Association’s (NBLSA) Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition.

This is the third time IIT Chicago-Kent teams have won the regional tournament and the fourth time since 2010 the law school has competed in the national finals. IIT Chicago-Kent will join eleven teams in the national tournament, which takes place during NBLSA’s national convention Wednesday, March 11 through Sunday, March 15 in Portland, Oregon.

Twelve law schools competed in this year’s regional tournament. IIT Chicago-Kent was undefeated in its pursuit of the championship, beating teams from Indiana, Loyola University Chicago, Marquette and two teams from DePaul.

The students argued Abdullah v. Dixon, a defamation claim related to statements made by a political candidate on Twitter.

“Our advocates were required to deal with sophisticated legal issues that seldom go to trial,” said David A. Erickson, a retired Illinois Appellate Court justice and the director of IIT Chicago-Kent’s Trial Advocacy Program. “Their mastery of evidence and the substantive law clearly separated them from the rest of the field.”

Team member Natalie Adeeyo graduated from New York University with a double major in journalism and English. Teammate Gus Hernandez received a degree in economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Teammate Haley Jenkins completed her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Teammate Mohini Lal earned a degree in social sciences at Shimer College.

The team was coached by IIT Chicago-Kent alumni Marcell Taylor ’12 and Erik Wilson ’12. Taylor and Wilson were members of the team that advanced to the finals in 2010. Taylor, a member of the IIT Chicago-Kent team that won the NBLSA regional championship in 2011, also won that tournament’s best advocate award. IIT Chicago-Kent’s participation in the competition is supported by a gift to the law school from the Chicago law firm of SmithAmundsen LLC.

The NBLSA Mock Trial Competition, established in 2002, is named for the Honorable Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Known for his work as special counsel for the NAACP in the landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, Justice Marshall amassed an enviable trial record. As a civil rights attorney, he won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court between 1940 and 1961. As a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1961 to 1965, he made 112 rulings–none of which were reversed on certiorari by the U.S. Supreme Court. Appointed U.S. Solicitor General in 1965, he won 14 of the 19 cases he argued on behalf of the government. Justice Marshall was elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Johnson in 1967, where he served until his retirement in 1991. He died in 1993.

IIT Chicago-Kent’s trial advocacy teams have won numerous individual student honors and regional and national competitions. The most recent U.S. News & World Report ranked IIT Chicago-Kent’s Trial Advocacy Program sixth in the country.

This event reflects the values expressed in IIT’s Diversity Statement and is intended to promote diversity at IIT.