Nation’s Premier Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition Marks a Milestone


Last week, over three days, 114 students representing 36 law schools nationwide, along with 150 judges and brief graders, participated in the Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition. As they moved through preliminary rounds at St. John’s Law in Queens and advanced rounds at the iconic Conrad B. Duberstein U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse in Brooklyn, the participants also marked a milestone 30th competition year.

View the special digital commemoration

Those three decades have solidified a partnership between the Law School and the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI). They teamed to establish and name the annual competition in honor of St. John’s alumnus and former ABI director Hon. Conrad B. Duberstein ’41, ’91HON, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 90. Arguing before distinguished judges and practitioners, who volunteer their time and expertise, the competitors address two sophisticated, cutting-edge issues of bankruptcy law.

The first issue this year was whether a defendant is entitled to reduce its preference exposure under the subsequent new value defense by the value of goods sold when the debtor paid for such goods post-petition pursuant to section 503(b)(9). The second issue considered whether a trustee must timely perform the obligations of a debtor under section 365(d)(3) by paying rent due prior to the rejection of a lease but allocable to the period after the effective date of rejection.

Looking back on the pillar event that she helped to organize with St. John’s Law Moot Court Honor Society Director Laura Schwartz and their ABI partners, Professor Christine Lazaro says: “This year was challenging as we returned to the in-person format. The Duberstein directors and our Moot Court and ABI Law Review staffers rose to the challenge and ran another flawless competition. There was a tremendous amount of talent on display throughout the competition, in the courtrooms and behind the scenes.”

View the competition photo gallery

One of the students rising to the challenge of producing this milestone event was Senior Duberstein Director James Pizzo ‘22, who considers it a formative experience. “Prior to beginning my role as Senior Director, all I knew of bankruptcy was that it was the place of second chances,” he says. “Now, after running Duberstein, I have a newfound understanding and appreciation of the complex, sophisticated issues that are faced in bankruptcy law. It’s been an honor and a privilege to put together a competition where students, leading bankruptcy practitioners, and bankruptcy judges come together from across the country to weigh hotly-contested issues.”

For the final Competition round, the presiding panel of esteemed federal judges included Hon. Joseph F. Bianco, U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit; Hon. Cecelia G. Morris, Chief Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, S.D.N.Y.; and Hon. Alan S. Trust, Chief Judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, E.D.N.Y.

Howard University School of Law edged out University of California at Los Angeles School of Law to win the overall competition. The winning team received a $5000 prize from the ABI Endowment Fund, which also provided the second-place team with a $3000 prize. Baylor University School of Law and SMU Dedman School of Law tied for third place and split a $3000 prize. At the post-competition awards celebration, the following competitors received special recognition for their outstanding performance:

Best Brief
University of Illinois College of Law

Outstanding Briefs
Baylor University School of Law
Michigan State University College of Law
Texas Southern University-Thurgood Marshall School of Law
University of California at Los Angeles School of Law

Best Oral Advocate
Emony Robertson, Howard University School of Law

Outstanding Oral Advocate
John Conover, University of Texas School of Law
Nancy Eriksen, Stetson University College of Law
Jessica Munoz Nunez, University of Miami School of Law
Shelby Savage, University of Alabama School of Law

“The Duberstein Competition is one of the most prestigious and well-run moot court competitions in the country, says ABI Executive Director and General Counsel Amy Alcoke Quackenboss. “It’s 30-year history is a testament to all of the students, coaches, practitioners, federal judges and staff who work so hard each year. Congratulations to all of the teams who competed, and especially to the individuals and teams who won this year’s event. ABI is proud to co-host this event with St. John’s Law and we look forward to returning to New York City for next year’s event.”

For more information on the annual Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition, please visit the competition website.