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Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition National Championship

March 01, 2024

Kanyinsola Ajayi L'24 and Ty Parks L'24 seated at a table at the Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition
Kanyinsola Ajayi L’24 and Ty Parks L’24 at the Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition

Kanyinsola Ajayi L’24 and Ty Parks L’24 advanced to the finals, held in Houston, Texas

Photo and text by Ruth Woldemichael L’25

Representing the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA), Kanyinsola Ajayi L’24 and Ty Parks L’24 captured first place in the Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition (TMMCC) Mid-Atlantic Regional Competition. With this win, the duo advanced to the competition’s national championship.

“I am grateful to BLSA for the opportunity to practice and develop my appellate advocacy skills in the TMMCC,” said Parks. “After taking Professor Nilam Sanghvi’s Appellate Advocacy course with Kanyinsola last fall, I knew that we were more than prepared to submit a compelling brief and persuasively argue our case.”

Penn Carey Law BLSA’s moot court team was coached and supervised by Robert Englert L’06, a Philadelphia trial lawyer and an adjunct professor at the Law School.

“It has been my honor to work with Kanyisola and Ty, who deserve all the credit for this accomplishment,” said Englert. “Their brief was more articulate and persuasive than many of the briefs being filed by practicing attorneys in real courts, and their oral arguments were succinct, strategic, and persuasive. Every year, with each new group of Penn Carey Law students with whom I have the privilege of working, I have come to expect to be awed by my students’ brilliance and their commitment to working hard to achieve whatever goals they have set for themselves. Ty and Kanyisola have far exceeded those expectations. They are both brilliant and the results of their commitment speak for themselves. I am proud of their accomplishment and know that they will do well not only in the National Championships but also in whatever area of the law in which they choose to practice.”

The team acknowledged and appreciated Englert’s guidance as well as the support of several other individuals from the Penn Carey Law community.

“I’m grateful to Professor Matthew Duncan L’03 for his encouragement to continue practicing oral advocacy after Legal Practice Skills, Professor Robert Englert for his feedback and guidance, and my skilled classmates Ruth Woldemichael L’25, Michael Sise L’24, Madison Bober L’24, Miles Gray L’24, and Nikita Ganesh L’24 for mooting us in preparation,” said Parks.

The issues presented in this year’s competition were (1) whether medical expert testimony on Battered Women’s Syndrome is sufficient evidence to prove the affirmative duress defense, and (2) whether, where a juror has been exposed to extraneous information, a defendant is entitled to a presumption of prejudice.

In two preliminary rounds, the team argued once as Petitioner (their briefed side) and once as Respondent. They advanced to the semifinals and ultimately finals as Petitioners. In the final round, teams were judged solely based on oral advocacy. Parks and Ajayi prevailed as Regional Champions, and Ajayi earned the distinction of Best Oralist.

“Throughout each round of the competition, Kanysinola and I worked together to adapt our arguments in response to our competitors,” said Parks. “While difficult, it was a genuinely fun experience!”

The TMMCC is an annual event that brings together law students from across the nation to engage in meaningful legal advocacy. The competition is designed to promote the mission of the National Black Law Students Association and celebrate the legacy of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.     

The competition consists of regional rounds in each of the six regions of the National Black Law Students Association. The top two to three teams from the regional rounds advance to the national competition, which was held in Houston, Texas, from March 8-9, 2024. Out of 51 teams nationwide, the Penn Carey Law team won Third Place.

Both Parks and Ajayi are interested in careers in litigation. After graduation, Parks will clerk in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Ayaji will work as a litigation associate in Washington, D.C.

Learn more about moot court competitions at Penn Carey Law.