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Ringel In Awe Of Mooters

Published: November 1, 2012

Moot Court Team
PHOTO BY VICTORIA SANCHEZ
The 2012-13 Moot Court team (back row, l-r) Elysha Thomas, Krist Biakanja, Ashley Hall, Robert Lane, Kyle Maury, Jilliana Velarde, David Casarrubias, Ruben Frausto; (middle row, l-r) Asmita Deswal, Adria Bonillas, Professor Lewis Ringel (head coach), Patrick Dyson (assistant coach), Ryan Chapman; (front row, l-r) Brianna Wilbur and Lily Khosrowpour. Team member not pictured, Yasmin Manners.

Political Science’s Lewis Ringel is in awe of his moot court students. It seems they are of him as well.

“When I was first introduced to the moot court program, another professor coined Dr. Ringel’s program the ‘envy of the nation,’” said senior Kyle Maury, a political science and economics double major. “In my second semester in the moot court program I now understand what sets CSULB apart from the rest. It is Dr. Ringel’s unwavering dedication toward pushing each individual mooter to reach beyond their limits, his rigorous curriculum that makes CSULB mooters more prepared than any competition, and his ability to create an open yet competitive environment that fosters academic growth and team unity.”

Ringel, a political science lecturer who came to CSULB in 2002 to teach a course called Politics Through Culture, began a moot court in his class. Coincidentally, the department was searching for someone to run a brand new moot court program at the same time.

Though he wasn’t hired as the program’s initial director, he did serve as co-director from 2002-05 before taking over the helm in 2006. It’s no coincidence that his passion has been reflected in not only the program’s continued high level of success and national stature, but the achievements of the students as well.

Ringel can point to the 10th-, 15th- and 20th-place finishes at last January’s national tournament as strong indications of the program’s most recent success. It was the second-best overall showing in the 10-year history of the program, which captured the national championship in 2003.

Moot court is the simulation of appellate argument, with two-person legal teams arguing their side of a hypothetical legal case before a panel of judges who ask students questions and grade them on the basis of their knowledge, response to questioning, forensic skills and demeanor.

“I’d have to say that Dr. Ringel has really been the driving force behind our program’s style and the success that’s come from it,” said senior Ryan Chapman, a political science major, who was on last year’s 15th-place team. “He never stops working for the team and constantly motivates us to expand our abilities. He goes out of his way to make himself available for any of us at any time of day and is really the reason our team comes together and works so well. I’m really proud of what our team has done and what he, as our coach, has done for us.”

So where does Ringel’s love of moot court competition come from?

“I guess you have to find your passions in life and this is one for me,” he said, noting that his current team was selected last spring, practiced all summer and has already argued competitively a few times. In addition, team members meet almost every Friday on a voluntary basis, constantly stop by his office to receive guidance and text him at all times of the day and night.

“This is fun for me. I’m a competitive person and this is competitive,” he said. “I think small programs like this really, really work. For a lot of those who participate it will be the best thing they’re going to do in college outside of their personal lives.”

And make no mistake, though Ringel enjoys his role as coach and savors the program’s overall success, his main focus is, and has always been, the betterment of his students.

“This really is about the students, as it should be,” he said, indicating there are 14 members in this year’s program. “This is one of those classes where students can immediately apply what they learn and that’s one of the things I try to tell people when I go recruiting. I love the opportunities our students get to meet all kinds of people.”

“Dr. Ringel puts so much time and effort into CSULB moot court to make sure each of his students can succeed,” said senior Yasmin Manners, a political science major, who along with Chapman made up last year’s 15th-place team. “He’s personalized the program in a way that really sets it apart from other schools and provides a lot of opportunities, like arguing at the California Court of Appeals or getting to know lawyers and justices that we wouldn’t typically have the chance to as undergraduate students. It’s very clear how much he cares about and is genuinely dedicated to not only the success of the Long Beach program, but his individual students.”

Though the majority of mooters enter the field of law, participating in the program doesn’t necessary mean a career in law is a foregone conclusion.

“Some of the students say they really enjoyed this a lot, but they just want to do something else,” he added. “No matter what they go into though, this will definitely make them better. It gives them the ability to think on their feet, the ability to be comfortable speaking in front of people and the ability to work with a teammate. All those things will be beneficial to them throughout their lives no matter what they do.”

Ringel also shared the story of one of his former students from Louisiana State University who is now a lawyer in Houston.

“She and I both remember how during a break at class once she asked to see me outside and told me she was worried that I had screwed up her plan for life,” said Ringel. “She had meant to be an actress but I had talked her into taking a law class with me and now she thought she wanted to be a lawyer. She tells me now she loves it and that it changed her life, so it’s nice to know we can make a difference for the better. With any luck, I’ll be doing the same with my CSULB students in time.”

“Dr. Ringel has a huge impact on the program,” said senior Brianna Wilbur, a political science major. “I have done many things and been a part of a lot throughout college but being on the moot court team has made my college experience. He has shown me a lot about myself. He has pushed me harder than I ever have and instilled a confidence in me I didn’t know was there by making me see my potential. Being on moot court, I have worked harder than I ever have academically and a lot of that comes down to Dr. Ringel inspiring us to not sell our selves short and make him proud.”

So what makes a good “mooter,” as participants are called?

“There are a lot of different factors,” said Ringel. “I’m looking for their styles. Some people come across as very confident and some not so confident, so sometimes putting them together could be a problem because it could give the non-confident person even less confidence and it can make the person who is confident look arrogant. I listen if students talk to me about who they think their teammate should be, but I really listen to my coaches more. Myself and my assistants try to see every possible matchup that we can. There are times every now and then when we get it wrong, but I think usually we get it right.”

Ringel, who grew up on the East Coast, earned his undergraduate degree from the College of New Jersey (formerly known as Trenton State College) and went on to receive his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park. While back there he worked in the Maryland governor’s office and legislature and taught at the U.S. Naval Academy. He has run moot court simulations at the U.S. Naval Academy, Louisiana State University and CSULB; authored and co-authored several articles on moot court; and is contributing author to the How to Please the Court: A Moot Court Handbook. In 2011, Ringel was invited to join the Joseph A. Ball/Clarence S. Hunt Inn of Court, making him one of the few non-lawyers to become a member.

When he participated in moot court in college, Ringel’s role was serving as a judge, not as a mooter.

“It was a lot easier,” he said. “All I had to do was read the case law and ask a lot of questions. I didn’t have to be there answering the questions. I tell my students every year when we are going into the tournament that I stand in complete awe of anybody who puts the time in and gets up there and take the chances that they do. I applaud anybody who is willing to do it because it’s a lot of work and it can be pretty scary and some of the judges they are put in front of are rough.

“I’ve got a couple of students who are 19 years old and they’ve already argued in front of a court of appeals justice,” he added. “There are lawyers who never set foot in an appellate courtroom. The fact that they are able to get up and do it speaks volumes about them.”

Even with his interest in law and his heavy involvement in moot courts, becoming a lawyer was just a passing thought for Ringel.

“I thought about it, but the problem is I know what I would want to do and almost nobody gets to do it. I would want to argue in the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. “The fact is, very few people actually get to do that and I didn’t want to get into tremendous debt and then end up doing a form of law I had little or no interest in.”

CSULB will host the 11th Annual American Collegiate Moot Court Association Western Regional competition on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, the 11th consecutive year the event has been held on campus.