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CHAMPIONS! LSU Law students win John L. Costello National Criminal Trial Competition

Four women and a male wearing suits pose for a photo in a courtroom with the woman in the middle holding an award

From left:  coach Lindsay Blouin, team members Allena McCain, Elise Benezech (holding the championship plaque), and Brooke Delaune, and coach Joshua Newville.

LSU Law’s Advocacy Programs claimed another national championship this weekend after taking first place in the John L. Costello National Criminal Trial Competition in Fairfax, Va.

Team members Elise Benezech, Brooke Delaune, and Allena McCain faced off against 32 teams from law schools across the United States in the fast-paced, ever-changing Costello competition, and ultimately emerged as the 2019 national champions. The Costello competition provides teams with new evidence and new witnesses in each successive trial round, to more closely simulate the realities of criminal trial practice – teams must adapt their case presentation and develop new evidentiary arguments on the fly in each round.

“I am extremely proud of and impressed by our students’ achievements at the 2019 Costello Criminal Trial Competition! Getting that phone call from the team right after they won the final round was wonderful,” said professor Jeff Brooks, Preis PLC Director of Advocacy & Professional Practice and director of LSU Law’s Field Placements Program. “In my opinion, Costello is one of the most substantively challenging advocacy competitions LSU Law participates in. It tests students on a number of skills that even experienced litigators often struggle with, particularly one’s ability to adapt on the fly to deal with newly provided unknown evidence, witnesses who suddenly change their stories, and last-minute evidentiary rulings from the judge.”

The team was coached by Lindsay Blouin (LSU Law ’12), Deputy Chief Defender at the East Baton Rouge Office of the Public Defender, and Joshua Newville (LSU Law ’12), Section Chief at the East Baton Rouge Office of the Public Defender. The team was assisted in its competition preparations by team alternate Whitney Moore Ruan.

“The Costello team’s success is a great example of how LSU Law’s advocacy teams prepare students to practice. The team came into their practices with a rock-solid foundation in evidentiary law and criminal procedure because of their coursework with our faculty,” Brooks said. “This foundation allowed the coaches, both of whom are practicing criminal defense attorneys, to focus in right away on advanced trial practice skills and to have the students face off in a series of practice trials against a roster of LSU Law alumni practicing in criminal trial advocacy who generously gave of their free time to help train the team.”

The Costello Competition is hosted by George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law. It is uniquely designed by Judge Jonathan Thacher to take participants outside the typical realms of law school competitions. By revealing unknown facts and witnesses as the competition progresses, the Costello Competition simulates the evolving and unexpected nature of real-life criminal trials. This dynamic design provides competitors with a realistic experience as counsel in a criminal trial and an exciting take on trial advocacy.