Four Connecticut law students have earned a trip to San Francisco, California, to represent the state at the Hispanic National Bar Association’s 2018 Corporate Counsel Conference.

The annual Uvaldo Herrera National Moot Court Competition brings teams of law students from across the nation to argue a case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. As summarized by Kean Zimmerman, one of the volunteer coaches, “This year’s competition is based on the ‘wedding cake case’ currently under consideration by the high court [Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission], and the hotly debated First Amendment issue of whether a baker may refuse to fulfill an order for a same-sex ceremony.”

In 2017, the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association spearheaded a partnership with two Connecticut law schools and successfully helped prepare teams from UConn Law and Quinnipiac Law to compete in Miami. Positive feedback from the students and coaches ensured a return to competition this year.

Class of 2019 UConn Law students Larry Grijalva and Sharix Alicea will be coached by CHBA board member Zimmerman of Conway Stoughton. Joining them will be Class of 2018 student Denia Perez and Class of 2019 student Geraldo Parilla, coached by CHBA board member Maggie Castinado from the state Office of the Public Defender, and Gabriella Martin, one of last year’s competitors. The teams have reviewed case materials, written and submitted briefs and have been preparing for their oral arguments, all in addition to regular classwork, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities.

The culmination of the students’ training phase is the “Final Bench,” which will take place March 12 in the Law Courtroom at Quinnipiac. This year’s bench includes Judges William Bright, Kevin Doyle, Cesar Noble and Omar Williams. “The energetic response from our high-profile bench of volunteers goes to show how the mission of the CHBA is admired and supported by members and nonmembers in the profession,” said Castinado.

Each team will have one last internal practice session to debrief with the “Final Bench” before flying to California. The competition’s preliminary rounds begin March 15 and concludes with the final round on March 17.

The CHBA is proud to play an important part in preparing the local teams for the national competition. CHBA President Alfredo G. Fernandez of Shipman & Goodwin said the CHBA is dedicated to enhancing professional opportunities for Latino lawyers “and has really emphasized Hispanic law student outreach and development over the last several years, providing mentors, tailored on-campus events, networking opportunities and a robust scholarship program.”

The CHBA Scholarship Fund annually funds academic scholarships to highly qualified Connecticut law students. Fernandez added: “The CHBA values its national network as an affiliate member of the Hispanic National Bar Association, particularly when our law student members can gain the substantive experience that they will at this year’s event.”