Trial teams win AAJ Regional Championship second year in a row in first all-Wake Forest Law final in tournament history

Group photo of students at AAJ regional championship

AAJ Trial Team

With almost inarticulable pride, American Association of Justice (AAJ) Coaches Matt Breeding (JD ’06) and Katie King (JD ’12) announced on Monday, March 14, that Wake Forest School of Law has won the AAJ Regional Championship for the second year in a row. And they did so by narrowly defeating … Wake Forest.

“That’s right: the top two teams at this year’s regional tournament were both from our beloved law school,” the coaches said.

Just after 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 13, 2016, the two talented trial teams from Wake Forest Law met in the Wake County Courthouse for the final round of the AAJ Student Trial Advocacy Regional Competition (STAC) held in Raleigh, North Carolina, over the weekend. Wake Forest’s first team, led by overall captain Joshua Bussen (JD ’16) won a hard-fought battle against its most formidable rival, Wake Forest’s second team, led by captain Daniel Galyon (JD ’16). The round could not have been closer, with Bussen’s team winning two judges to one over Galyon’s squad.

According to the coaches, both teams tried five masterful cases over the weekend’s tournament, and each trial was a thing of ineffable beauty. Bussen delivered one jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring closing argument after another. Galyon consistently demonstrated an absolute mastery of the rules of evidence and civil procedure with withering cross-examinations that rivaled those of seasoned trial attorneys with decades more experience.

Mia Falzarano (JD ’17) fearlessly and incisively picked apart opponents’ cases with surgical precision and razor-sharp acuity. Carson Smith (JD ’16) was, not surprisingly, utterly unflappable, presenting issues on cross-examination and in closing arguments with an eloquence and clarity well beyond his years. Ethan White (JD ’17) established himself as one of the most intelligent and insightful student advocates in the state, charming the judges with his genuine humor and wit. Damon Gray (JD ’16) exhibited his distinctive power and style, commanding the courtroom and enrapturing the judges with his breathtaking and evocative opening statements. Drew Culler (JD ’17) coupled his innate likability with his keen intellect to establish point after point, surprising then eviscerating opponents with his effortless charm, easy smile and engaging personality. And Zabrina Delgado (JD ’16) once again proved the power of polish, poise and professionalism in the courtroom, winning every judge in every round with her trademark elegance, grace and intellect.

Not only is Delgado the first back-to-back champion in the history of the Wake Forest AAJ trial team, but she is also the only competitor to have never lost a single judge in two years of competition, according to the coaches.

After advancing through the preliminary and semi-final rounds, the two teams squared off in the first all-Wake Forest Law final in tournament history. In the end, team No. 1 of Bussen, Falzarano, Smith and Delgado barely beat team No. 2 of Galyon, Gray, White and Culler. According to the judges, it was Bussen’s genuinely impassioned closing arguments that won the round.

More important than the objective results of the competition, however, was the way the teams carried themselves throughout the weekend, the coaches added.

“They consistently demonstrated the class, dignity, sincerity, and genuine courtesy that have become hallmarks of Wake Forest’s Trial Practice program. Multiple well-respected trial attorneys, judges, competitors, and coaches from other schools complimented not only the teams’ skill, but also the ethical and honest manner in which Wake approached each round. Through the efforts of these classmates and those from the equally outstanding National Trial Team, Wake Forest has earned and solidified its reputation for fairness, eloquence, and competence.”

The students repeatedly mentioned the influence that Professor Carol Anderson has had on their lives and the way they hope to practice law.

“Coaching these young lawyers is an honor and a privilege that their head coaches — King and Breeding — will forever cherish,” the pair said. “They made us proud. They would have made you all proud. Next stop is New Orleans for the National Tournament in April. Please join us in congratulating them and wishing them continued success in New Orleans.”