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Competitors Engage in Spirited Debate at McBaine Competition

By Susan Gluss

It was a fierce competition: Jamie Yood ’14 and Joseph Santiesteban ’14 faced off in a war of wits and rapid repartee. The two finalists of the McBaine Honors Moot Court Competition won their quarter- and semi-final rounds en route to the closing matchup. In the end, it was Santiesteban who snared the prize.

The competitors argued their cases before a trio of prominent judges: UC President Janet Napolitano, former governor and attorney general of Arizona, and former Secretary of Homeland Security; Goodwin Liu, associate justice of the California Supreme Court; and Chief Judge Claudia Wilken ’75 of the U.S. District Court for Northern California.

The real-life case, U.S. v. Nosal, concerned a federal criminal prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)—an anti-hacking statute. Jamie Yood argued for the U.S. government; Santiesteban represented David Nosal, who was indicted for violating the act.

In brief, Nosal had convinced former colleagues at a firm he’d just left to help him start a competing business. The employees, still at the firm, agreed to log in to their computers and download client lists and more from a confidential database. They gave the data to Nosal, breaching their company’s anti-disclosure policy.

The oral argument focused on a narrow section of the statute: whether employees who violate companies’ terms-of-use policies commit federal crimes. It was clear from the get-go that the CFAA statute, first drafted in the mid-1980s, represented a murky area of the law.

Just seconds after petitioner Yood launched into his opening argument, the judges hurled a barrage of questions: What’s the difference between “access” and “use?” Do you think a crime turns on the state-of-mind of the actor? What is the true scope of the statute?

Maintaining his composure, Yood fielded the questions like a tennis player at the top of his game, lobbing quick and consistent returns.

Within seconds of Santiesteban’s own response, Judge Napolitano cut in. “Your client is clearly up to no good,” she said. Judge Liu concurred. “Your client essentially asked his compatriots to get stuff they weren’t supposed to get,” he added.

Santiesteban held his ground with strong, persuasive arguments—despite the repeated interruptions and lightning round of questions.

It was a complex and difficult case. Alumnus Edward Opton ’77, watching from the audience in Booth Auditorium, said the judges’ queries “were pertinent, well-framed, and really challenged each of the attorneys.”

After deliberations, Judge Napolitano announced Josepth Santiesteban as the winner of the competition. The UC president said it was “very close,” and that she would “hire either of you in a nanosecond.” Judge Wilken praised the two for a “fantastic job,” and Justice Liu said he’d “be excited to have either of you argue in my court.”

This fall, Santiesteban will begin work at Ropes & Gray, where he will focus on intellectual property and privacy. Yood will begin a clerkship for Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York.

“Both [students] are winners,” Bill Fernholz told the crowd. Fernholz, the director of appellate programs at Berkeley Law, announced that Crowell & Moring had offered to endow a special fund to finance future competitions. The law firm also funds an annual best brief award, created by alumni at the firm.
Before the judges returned with their final verdict, Crowell & Moring partner Gregory Call ’85 presented the 2014 Best Petitioner Brief to Jessica Diaz ’14 and Best Respondent Brief to Anuradha Sivaram ’14.