McLennon Honors Moot Court Tournament Building on Its Legacy

USD’s Appellate Moot Court Board works hard year-round planning, organizing, and participating in  several of USD’s well-known moot court competitions, such as the Alumni Tournament and the National Criminal Procedure Tournament, both held in the fall. However, it is USD’s intramural tournament in the spring, the Paul A. McLennon, Sr. Honors Moot Court Tournament, for which the board members are most excited.

“It’s an amazing experience,” said Cody Payne, this year’s Moot Court Chair and a 2010 McLennon participant. “It is an individual tournament that allows you to further develop your brief writing and oral advocacy skills, while also [providing] students with a great networking opportunity.”

This year, more than sixty students are signed up for the one-credit McLennon tournament class taught by USD Law Professor Michael Devitt, whose family’s generous $100,000 endowment made this tournament possible.

“The tournament was started many years ago and honors an amazing man,” said Professor Devitt of the family friend and Illinois attorney who lends his name to this tournament.

Newspaper article announcing original dedication of McLennon Tournament (Left: Paul A. McLennon, Sr.; Right: McLennon as Navy Air Corps pilot)

Paul A. McLennon, Sr., born in Illinois in 1923, was a man who found his calling in life as an attorney and, as such, was a greatly respected individual who touched many people’s lives.  According to an article written in the April 2008 edition of Motions,1 McLennon served in the U.S. Navy Air Corps as an officer pilot flying Wildcats during World War II and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.  On returning home after the war, McLennon attended DePaul University College of Law, graduating in 1950, and started his law career working as a special agent for the FBI until 1955. After five years of working at an Illinois firm, McLennon opened his own practice, the McLennon Law Office, in Wheaton, Illinois.

McLennon was known not only for his oral advocacy skills but also for his kind heart. A longtime friend and associate Brian R. McKillip wrote, “[McLennon] has no clients, just hundreds of friends who have repeatedly turned to him for help and advice—and sent their friends to him as well. He never refused.”2

His son, Paul A. McLennon, Jr., a Chicago attorney, echoed these sentiments: “He is a very special person: ethical, wonderful, brilliant, kind, and generous. One of the biggest sources of pride in my dad’s life is to be associated with and to be a part of [USD’s] law school.”

USD Law Professor Michael Devitt (Left) and Paul A. McLennon, Sr. (Right). Professor Devitt and his family provided the endowment to make the McLennon Tournament possible.

McLennon, Jr. also spoke about the special connection between the Devitt and McLennon families. After Devitt’s father passed away when he and his siblings were young, McLennon, Sr. was there to support the family in any way that he could. After Devitt decided to pursue a law career, McLennon, Sr. became a mentor as well. In honor of their families’ friendship and McLennon’s noble work as an attorney, Devitt’s family started the Paul A. McLennon, Sr. Honors Moot Court Tournament.

McLennon, Sr., accompanied by his son McLennon, Jr., has flown out twice to witness the final rounds, including one year in which United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas presided over the tournament as Chief Justice.

Dean Kevin Cole is in charge of finding the final round judges, and in connection with Professor Devitt, works extremely hard to make this tournament happen year after year.

“I congratulate Dean Cole on his efforts to highlight and focus upon our highly talented students here [at USD].  He personally selects and contacts the final round judges and helps the Appellate Moot Court Board organize and finance [the tournament],” said Professor Devitt.

The 2011 tournament consists of six rounds held between February 22 and March 2.  This year’s problem, written by 3L Brooke Meling, deals with First Amendment issues regarding a high school student’s off-campus cyber speech. The finals will be held at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice and will be judged by the Honorable Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit; the Honorable Larry Alan Burns, District Judge for the United States District Court, Southern District of California; and the Honorable Judith McConnell, Presiding Justice of the First Division, California Fourth District Court of Appeal.

Professor Devitt stated that he and Dean Cole have helped to inspire the vision of the McLennon Tournament.  Said Devitt, “We are hoping it becomes a real tradition here at USD.”

Considering the pride and honor that the name “McLennon” evokes, and the large number of students who eagerly participate each year, most would agree that it has already become one.

ENDNOTES

1 Nicole Cusack, McLennon Competition Highlights Successful Year and Honors “The Man Behind the Name”, Motions, Apr. 2008, at 1, available at http://www.motionsonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/april-2008.pdf.

2 Id.

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