Koplan Nwabuoku ’14 wins Ilana Diamond Rovner Appellate Advocacy Competition

Third-year student Koplan Nwabuoku (top, right) argued against second-year student John Jefferson (top, left) to win IIT Chicago-Kent's 2013 Ilana Diamond Rovner Appellate Advocacy Competition. Bottom row, from left: The Honorable Robert E. Gordon, the Honorable Ilana Diamond Rovner '66, and Distinguished Professor Sheldon H. Nahmod judged the final round of the competition.

Koplan Nwabuoku, a third-year student at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, won the 22nd annual Ilana Diamond Rovner Appellate Advocacy Competition, sponsored by the law school’s Moot Court Honor Society. The competition is named for IIT Chicago-Kent graduate Ilana Diamond Rovner, judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Students in the Rovner Competition each prepared a brief in a case that raises an issue of national concern, as well as oral arguments supporting both sides of that issue. Students presented those arguments before panels consisting of IIT Chicago-Kent faculty, practicing attorneys and experienced moot court students. The top-scoring students advanced through a series of elimination rounds.

This year, students argued Woollard v. Gallagher, a Second Amendment case out of Maryland challenging that state’s so-called “may-issue” concealed carry law. At issue is whether state officials violate the Second Amendment by requiring that individuals wishing to exercise their right to carry a handgun for self-defense first prove a “good and substantial reason” for doing so.

In the final round, Koplan Nwabuoku argued against second-year student John Jefferson. As the winner of the final round of competition, Nwabuoku received the Ilana Diamond Rovner Award for Outstanding Appellate Advocate and a $500 scholarship. Finalist Jefferson received a $250 scholarship from the Edmund G. Burke Scholarship Fund.

Rovner Competition winner Koplan Nwabuoku graduated from Tulane University with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and international development. He served as president of the Tulane Organization for Global Affairs and was also a member of Tulane’s track and field team. He is originally from Kaduna, Nigeria, and calls Houston, Texas, home. Finalist John Jefferson graduated from Westmont College with honors and then taught seventh-grade English in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with Teach for America. Jefferson is a judicial extern for United States District Court Judge Ruben Castillo and is a member of the Chicago-Kent Law Review.

Second-year student Nicholas Bartzen received the Fay Clayton Award for Outstanding Oralist and a $250 scholarship. Fay Clayton, who graduated with honors from IIT Chicago-Kent in 1978, is a partner in the Chicago law firm of Robinson, Curley and Clayton, P.C. Her legal experience includes numerous trials, appeals, mediations, and arbitrations in tribunals, including the United States Supreme Court.

Melody Gaal, a second-year student, received the Ralph L. Brill Award for Best Brief and a $250 scholarship. Professor Ralph Brill, a member of the faculty since 1961, founded the law school’s groundbreaking legal research and writing program and its award-winning moot court program.

The final round of the competition was judged by a distinguished panel that included the Honorable Ilana Diamond Rovner, the Honorable Robert E. Gordon of the Illinois Appellate Court, and IIT Chicago-Kent Distinguished Professor Sheldon H. Nahmod.

Established in 1992, the Ilana Diamond Rovner Program in Appellate Advocacy provides training for students in IIT Chicago-Kent’s Moot Court Honor Society. Students in the program complete intensive course work in appellate litigation, represent the law school in appellate advocacy tournaments throughout the United States, and are eligible to participate in the Ilana Diamond Rovner Competition.