MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In the final round of WVU Law’s Lugar Cup trial competition last month, 3L Austin Tomlinson found himself in a tricky situation: he was without a teammate.
To win the prized trophy, Tomlinson would have to argue alone against classmates Jenni Kenel and Tori Rinaldi before federal judges John Preston Bailey and Thomas S. Kleeh.
Tomlinson competed alone against the team of two — and he won the 45-year old in-house competition.
This year, 11 teams competed virtually for the Lugar Cup. The case involved a murder and whether it should be classified as first-degree or voluntary manslaughter committed in the “heat of passion.” Tomlinson argued successfully for the lesser charge.
Without a teammate, Tomlinson knew he would be at a disadvantage in the courtroom. He lacked a second set of eyes on his plan of attack, and there was no one to hand him a reminder sticky note if he forgot a detail in his argument. His decision to continue in the final round alone was not an easy.
“Winning the Lugar Cup under normal circumstances is extremely rewarding already because of the high quality of competition students bring to the event,” Tomlinson said. “Being able to pull out a victory against a team of two as an individual has given me validation that I chose the right career path for me and solidifies my goal of becoming a litigator.”
Amy Cyphert, the advisor for the Lugar Trial Association and Lecturer in Law, says that Austin experienced a valuable lesson in self-reliance.
"Austin learned what any litigator knows: trials can be unpredictable, and you have to be flexible and prepared,” she said. “I have no doubt that his perseverance and ability to think on his feet will mean continued success in his career."
Early rounds of the Lugar Trial Competition are judged by members of the West Virginia State Bar. This year, those judges were: (first round) Katy Cimino, Curtiss Boggs, Frank Walker, Kirsha Trychta, Devon Unger Gabrielle Mucciola, Belinda Haynie, Keshia Tenorio, Christopher Bauer, and Melissa Giggenbach; (second round) Andy Cogar, Beth Gross, Nicholas Compton, Monica Coleman, Aaron Moss, and Kristin Scott; and (semifinal) Brian Kornbrath.