2017 Immigration Law Final Argument & Competition Results!

Next time you consider buying or selling chocolate in public, make sure you don’t mention anything about how chocolate makes you feel. Otherwise, you might be arrested for the distribution of a look-a-like substance.

State legislatures have the authority to criminalize certain behavior as they deem necessary, but could federal immigration consequences also follow if there is no equivalent federal crime? And could a non-citizen be deported based on that conviction if he or she is directly appealing that conviction – which could possibly be overturned? These were the questions presented and argued this past weekend at the 12th annual National Immigration Law Competition, in the case White v. Department of Homeland Security.

Writer Ann Marie Hovey ’18 prepared a complex Breaking Bad-themed problem that solicited compelling arguments from both Petitioner’s and Respondent’s counsel. Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo from the Third Circuit, a member of the final round panel, praised the problem for being well-balanced on both sides. Judge Restrepo was joined by Judge John M. Vasquez from the District of New Jersey, and Magistrate Judge Katherine H. Parker from the Southern District of New York in judging the final arguments.

Counsel for Petitioner – TaLona Holbert and Danelly Bello from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law – stressed in their arguments that the government’s efforts to deport their client for selling chocolate is not valid as the conviction is on direct appeal. Counsel for Respondent – Jeremy Bennie and Jeremy Carter from University of Virginia School of Law – argued that the courts should affirm the agency’s decision as it was squarely within their statutory authority.

The panel of judges pressed both sides with difficult questions, asking what would happen if the cacao powder had turned out to actually be a controlled substance, and what the limits are to what the government considered sufficiently “related to” controlled substances enough to render deportation.

Before announcing the final decision, the judges congratulated both teams for an outstanding performance. Judge Restrepo shared that the competitors were just as skilled as the best advocates he sees in the Third Circuit, and that the competitors would have “done very well in his courtroom.” The final decision was a difficult one to make, but the judges gave the win to TaLona Holbert and Danelly Bello from Cardozo Law.

2017 Immigration Law Competition Results

Best Brief: Harvard UniversLaw School
Best Oralist: Joseph Simpson, Georgetown University Law Center

Quarterfinalists: Emory University School of Law, Dickinson Law, William & Mary Law School, Harvard Law School
Semifinalists: Columbia Law School, Georgetown University Law Center
Finalist: University of Virginia School of Law
Finalist and Champion: Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law