On Saturday, November 4, members of the Law School community gathered in the MacDonald Moot Court Room for the final round of the 2023 Francis P. Cuccia Cup Moot Court Competition. Weeks of preliminary and elimination rounds culminated in final teams Cameron Misner ’24 and Jack Ligon ’24, arguing on behalf of the petitioner, and Grant Lander ’25 and Dustin Hartuv ’24, arguing on behalf of the respondent, in a casebased on Frese v. Formella, 53 F.4th 1 (2022), from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Misner and Lignon ultimately took the win.
“This year’s Cuccia Cup was an excellent testament to the community that makes Cornell Law School a special place,” says Mike Demers ’24, chancellor of the Moot Court Board. “Teams of two students worked together to compete in a tournament organized by the Moot Court Board with the help of professors, administrators, and visiting federal judges, two of whom this year were Cornell Law graduates.”
The judging panel was composed of Hon. Richard C. Wesley (J.D. ’74), of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; Hon. Stephanie D. Thacker, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; Hon. Roy K. Altman, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida; Hon. Jia M. Cobb, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; and Hon. Anne M. Nardacci (J.D. ’02), of the U.S. District Court the Northern District of New York.
“My favorite part of the final-round experience was that the judges really treated the case as if they had to ultimately decide the legal issue,” says Misner. “They engaged deeply with our positions and pushed us to defend our respective arguments. Given how much preparation all of the competitors did, it was exciting to see it pay off through thoughtful answers to very tough questions.”
Added Hurtov, “Having the opportunity to argue in front of real judges was a great way to learn and practice litigating. I am so grateful to Cornell for hosting the event and for all the people who came to watch during their weekend.”
“The moot court program at Cornell is invaluable in training young lawyers in the art of oral advocacy, and this competition was no exception,” says Carl Rizzi ’16, director of judicial clerkships. “Both teams performed admirably before a diverse panel of federal judges asking difficult and thoughtful questions. As the judges noted, the finalists’ level of preparation and presentation exceeded that of many lawyers they see regularly in federal court.”
Legal writing skills were also recognized through the Best Brief Competition, won by Ammar Inayatali ’24 and Isaac Belenkiy ’24. The other finalists were Debbie Morales ’25, Nate Lo ’25, Alexander Strohl, and Evan Deakin ’25.
Prize money for the Cuccia Cup is funded annually through endowed gifts from the Cuccia family. Prizes for the Best Brief are funded through an endowed gift from Louis Kaiser LL.B. ’21.
The Cuccia Cup is Cornell Law School’s only internal competition in which competitors argue in teams of two. Students who participate in the Cuccia Cup help fulfill part of the requirements to join the Moot Court Board.