Above, Coach Paul Landau poses with this year’s Moot Court competitors, from left, Lauren Lee, Ivan Bermudez, Adell Shvartsman, Sandra Gonzalez, Andrew Bricklin, Yae Jin Cha, Felix Bulwa and Ben Schall.
North Hollywood High has captured its second consecutive second-place finish in Duke University’s prestigious Moot Court competition, outscoring 50 others from across the country in the rigorous contest of constitutional law.
Juniors Felix Bulwa and Ben Schall have competed in Moot Court for three years, climbing from a 16th-place finish during their first contest to eighth the following year. In addition to his stellar finish with his teammate, Felix finished ninth nationwide out of the 104 competitors in his individual performance. Both Felix and Ben plan to try for first place next year as seniors.
“Each year they become more sophisticated and more competitive,” said Paul Landau, a former lawyer who now teaches Advanced Placement history and government at North Hollywood High and coaches the school’s mock trial teams. “I try to channel that competitiveness, to motivate them to work as hard as they can to succeed at a higher and higher level.”
Moot Court tests competitors’ researching, writing and debating skills as they argue both sides of a hypothetical Supreme Court case before a panel of Duke University students. This year’s contest dealt with issues currently in the news: whether a cancer patient prescribed medical marijuana can been prosecuted for taking the drug into a state where it’s consider illegal; and when passengers in a vehicle can be frisked during a freeway stop by police.
Under the rigorous training that he has dubbed “Landau Law School,” North Hollywood teams have twice won the national Duke University Moot Court championship. In the weeks leading up to the competition, Landau brings in noted attorneys to listen, coach and advise the students about their legal arguments and techniques.
“These lawyers have 300 to 400 years collective experience, and they are helping these kids get to the final rounds,” Landau said. “To prepare for and anticipate the toughest questions, you have to understand the weakest arguments in your case and figure out how to address them the best that you can. There’s an art to that, and our kids are getting better and better.”
North Hollywood historically has more teams in the competition than any other school, and this year sent four teams to Duke. They include freshman Adell Shvartsman and sophomore Andrew Bricklin, who finished 10th; and Lauren Lee and Yae Jin Cha; and Ivan Bermudez and Sandra Gonzalez.
Now in his 13th year of teaching, Landau said six of his former students are now practicing attorneys, while two others are in law school at Columbia and New York universities and another just got accepted to Georgetown Law School.
“A lot of my former students write to me and when I’m having a bad day, I can open up the letter and read it an know that I’m making a difference,” Landau said. “It’s incredibly rewarding.”