Thursday, February 1, 2024

This year, HELI created and launched the first environmental moot court team in Iowa Law’s history. For the first time ever, the three-person Iowa Law team is competing in the Jeffrey G. Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition (NELMCC) at Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law 

Pace University’s NELMCC is one of the largest interschool moot court competitions in the country. Each year, law student advocates nationwide assemble at Pace University to compete in this environmental moot court competition. Over 200 competitors and 150 attorneys participate in grading briefs and serving as judges for the three-day competition. The Iowa Law team is being coached by Ingrid Gronstal, HELI Research Fellow and advised by Mary M. Ksobiech, Professor of Legal Analysis, Writing & Research. The student team consists of advocates Spencer Culver (3L), Sophia Gustafson (3L), Sami Savala (3L). 

Iowa's Moot Court Team 

 Below are the profiles for the three student team members for the 2023-2024 competition. 

Sophia Gustafson  



Year: 3L 
Hometown: Des Moines Iowa  

"I decided to do environmental moot court for two reasons. First, like many people in my generation, I have become increasingly concerned about climate change and its impacts on the environment. Namely, I am interested in how the law intersects with regulating the industries responsible for emissions, pollution, and global warming. Second, I have always loved the competitive aspect of public speaking. While in high school, I was a two-time state champion and even placed ninth at nationals my senior year. I also competed in mock trial in undergrad and Appellate Advocacy I, the Van Oosterhout-Baskerville Domestic Competition, and the Stephenson Competition here at Iowa Law. I have loved every opportunity to brief and argue on complex, interesting, and diverse legal issues. The National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition is just one more opportunity to have fun, do what I love, and learn about an interesting section of Administrative Law.  

The biggest takeaway I have had so far is how flexible environmental law is and how much it has developed in the past couple of years even. What interested me is how new a lot of the case and agency law is and how it is constantly evolving. I think this moot court opportunity will impact my future career by allowing me to hone my public speaking skills even more and develop my legal knowledge on an area I was unfamiliar with prior to beginning this competition."


Spencer Culver



Year: 3L 
From: Kansas City, Missouri

"The moot court has been an excellent opportunity to sharpen my legal writing skills. For technical proceedings, it can be challenging to find your voice as an advocate and emphasize a compelling theme without making your brief too complex. This competition has offered live experience at that task. After a few re-writes, I clarified my thinking and improved my section of the brief. I am proud of what our team accomplished together.  

Since I aim for part of my practice to involve energy litigation, the opportunity to litigate whether it was appropriate for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve construction of an interstate pipeline will directly bear on my future practice skills. Few opportunities would have better aligned with my future career interests."




Samantha Savala 



Year: 3L   
From: Des Moines, Iowa 

"My biggest takeaway from moot court so far is that it is an excellent opportunity to develop and refine your research, writing, and oral advocacy skills. All the supportive peers, faculty, and judges make putting those skills into practice very rewarding. 

I believe that this moot court opportunity will impact my future career by helping me think through difficult issues from a variety of perspectives, learn to be adaptable and think on my feet during oral arguments, and engage in sound and persuasive reasoning."






Join us in wishing Iowa Law’s first environmental moot court team the best of luck on the Competition!