Shawna Abbatiello (JD ’18) wins 46th annual Edwin M. Stanley Moot Court Competition

Photo of student finalists of Stanley Moot Court Competition 2017

Shawna Abbatiello (JD ’18) of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is the winner of the final round of the 46th annual Edwin M. Stanley Moot Court Competition, sponsored by the Wake Forest Law Moot Court Board, held on Nov. 15, 2017, in the Worrell Professional Center.

In Kyle Young v. Sarah Johnson, Tracea Rice (JD ’19) of Charlotte, North Carolina, represented the fictional plaintiff, Appellant Kyle Young, while Abbatiello represented the Appellee Sarah Johnson.

Both women faced a hot bench made up of the Honorable Samuel James Ervin IV, associate justice, North Carolina Supreme Court; the Honorable Philip Berger Jr. (JD ’99), judge, North Carolina Court of Appeals; and the Honorable Lucy Inman, judge, North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Ervin said following the competition, “I am always struck by how much better y’all were than the lawyers that practice in front of us. Both of you seemed to me to have an encyclopedic cite of the record. Both of you had an exceptional command of cases. It’s always good to come and see that those coming along after us are better than we were.”

Berger added, “I’m always impressed at how good the participants are at Wake Forest Law. Good command of law and facts, you remained poised Great at delivering your arguments.”

Will Reingold (JD ’19) won the James C. Berkowitz Award for best oralist and Ashley Bouchez  (JD ’19) was the runner-up. Bouchez also won for best brief and Holly Ingram (JD ’19) and Jonah Bamel (JD ’19) tied  for runner-up.

The intramural moot court competition is named in honor of the late Judge Edwin M. Stanley, a distinguished Wake Forest alumnus and supporter, who served as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina from 1958-1968.

Mike Stephens (JD ’18), 2017 Stanley Competition co-chair, wrote in an email to the law school, “Our judges were all very impressed with the arguments each semifinalist competitor delivered.”

In addition to Stephens, the co-chairs are Nick Bedo (JD ’18) and Staci Coble (JD ’18). They worked with the Moot Court Board and the LAWR 3 Appellate Advocacy students and faculty to facilitate the competition. A reception immediately followed the finals in the new Law School Commons.

Coble said 50 students competed and eight who advance were new members of the Moot Court board. Additionally, three new board members received honorable mentions.

The other Final Four competitors were Ashley Bouchez and Katherine Wenner. The Elite Eight included Jonah Bamel, Lucas Brown, Charles Middlebrooks and Will Reingold.

Following is a summary of the Stanley Moot Court problem for this case:

This appeal involves the ownership of an engagement ring after the engagement ends. The first issue is whether the ring, which was given by Plaintiff Kyle Young to Defendant Sarah Johnson, was a completed inter vivos gift at the time of the proposal, or whether it was given with the implied condition that marriage must occur. If the Court determines the ring was given with the implied condition of marriage, the second issue is whether ownership should be determined based on a “fault” or “no-fault” rule.

Johnson and Young grew up in Lexington, North Carolina, and were high-school sweethearts. Prior to meeting Young, Johnson developed a close relationship with his grandmother, Delores, and often admired her engagement ring. Young and Johnson continued to date in college, despite attending schools in different states. Young went to the University of Florida on a baseball scholarship, and Johnson majored in education at Appalachian State.

While Young was in college, Delores passed away and left him the ring, which was valued at $80,000, in her will. In March 2016, while Johnson was visiting Young on her spring break, Young proposed, and presented Johnson with Delores’ ring, which she immediately recognized. Young did not condition Johnson’s retention of the ring on marriage, or state that she would need to return the ring if the two did not marry.

Young continued to play baseball, and was ultimately drafted to the Miami Marlins in June 2016. On Labor Day, Young called Johnson, broke off the engagement, and asked for the ring back. Johnson claimed the ring had sentimental value for her, and refused. Young sued Johnson in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Both parties moved for summary judgment.

The District Court granted Johnson’s motion for summary judgement, and Young appealed to the Fourth Circuit. The parties disagree over whether North Carolina would recognize implied conditions in inter vivos gift law, and whether North Carolina would adopt a fault or no-fault approach to determine the ownership of an engagement ring.