The Mock Trial program introduced 2013 Arts & Sciences College Marshal and 2013 Convocation speaker Jesse Feitel to the legal field. Feitel, a third-year student in the College of Law, recently won the 44th Annual Mackenzie Hughes LLP Appellate Advocacy Competition. He also won Best Overall Advocate and Best Final Round Advocate in the contest sponsored by the Syracuse law firm Mackenzie Hughes.
"I loved the competition," Feitel says. "In law school, you do a lot of things by yourself so this was a nice change."
"It’s about serious issues," he adds. "We’re representing the government or the defendant whose rights are going to be deprived."
For the competition, law students created a fictional law problem. This year's case focused a person who, while working as a security guard, shot someone and was arrested. Competitors wrote a 25-page brief and prepared a 15-to 20-minute oral argument to make to a fictional Supreme Court.
The case addressed Sixth Amendment and Second Amendment issues. Competitors prepared arguments to address whether the defendant's attorney erred in advising him to plead guilty. It also focused on the constitutionality of a statute that deprives people who commit an act of violence and had undergone mental health treatment should be permanently deprived of a gun.
The competition's cases could have been ripped from the headlines. Last year's problem involved a case about the legality of filming police officers on duty. “It’s usually very timely," Feitel explains. "The students write the problem in a way that makes it really interesting and newsworthy."
Feitel's partner in preparing arguments was third-year College of Law classmate Kevin Smith '09. "I've always been intrigued by arguments people make about the Second Amendment," Feitel says. "It was fascinating to research the issue and look at the arguments on both sides."
He also got to argue in front of real judges – an opportunity most new attorneys don’t get. The College of Law’s Moot Court Honor Society hosted the competition. Judges included Chancellor Kent Syverud; Theodore A. McKee L’75, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; Mae D’Agostino L’80, District Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of New York; William Q. Hayes L’83, District Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of California; and Thérèse Wiley Dancks L’91, United States Magistrate Judge, Northern District of New York.
"You have to prepare for a really long time," Feitel says. "When you’re in the moment, it can change rapidly. It teaches you to think on your feet."
Feitel will graduate in May with both a law degree and a master's in public administration from the Maxwell School. He'll take a break for a week or so, then start studying for the New York bar exam, which he'll take in July.
Feitel, a Long Island native interested in litigation, will work next year as clerk for District Judge Hayes, a three-time Syracuse graduate (B.S. 1979; M.B.A from the Whitman School of Business and his J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law in 1983). Hayes judged the federal round of the advocacy competition.
Last summer, Feitel worked as an associate at New York office of Arnold & Porter, whose chairman, Richard Alexander is a 1982 College of Law graduate. In a tongue-in-cheek nod to his future, Feitel noted that Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland worked at just one private law firm: Arnold & Porter.