May 10, 2022

By Alaina Uricheck ’24

Each year at Susquehanna University, two of the university’s top political science and legal studies students face off in the Gene Urey Scholarship Competition where they each argue one side of a real-life case in front of a panel of judges and are evaluated based on advocacy and accuracy.

Katie Earle '22, left, and Morgan Engler '22 Katie Earle ’22, left, and Morgan Engler ’22This year’s competitors were Katie Earle ’22 and Morgan Engler ’22. The case they argued was Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, which is still pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Victor Manuel Castro-Huerta was convicted of neglecting his 5-year-old stepdaughter. Although Castro-Huerta is not a Native American, his stepdaughter is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals vacated his conviction because the crime occurred in Indian Country. This case addresses whether a state has authority to prosecute persons who are not Native Americans who commit crimes against Native Americans in Indian Country.

Earle argued for the respondent, Castro-Huerta. A senior triple major in political science, legal studies and sociology from Westfield, Pennsylvania, Earle is the president of Pre-Law Society, and a member of the Mock Trial team, Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honorary Society and Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Science. She plans to attend law school in fall 2023.

Engler argued for the petitioner, the State of Oklahoma. Engler, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, is a senior political science and legal studies double major with a minor in the Honors Program. She is president and captain of the Susquehanna Mock Trial Team, a YoungLife leader and is a member of the Pre-Law Society and several other organizations. Engler plans to attend law school next fall.

“The Urey Scholarship Competition benefitted me in so many ways. The competition allowed me to take what I have been learning for the past four years and put it into practice,” Engler said. “This competition made me feel more than ready and even more excited than I was before to attend law school. I do not yet know what area of law I want to practice, but I know I want to be in the courtroom advocating for others.”

The judges agreed that in terms of advocacy, which refers to using the judicial system to advance social change, Earle and Engler tied. The judges in the case were Joshua Funk ’05, chief of staff and counsel for Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Whip; Allison Gordon ’12, data analyst consultant with Consilio, LLC; Mike Piecuch, district attorney, Snyder County; Jack Price Jr. ’73, attorney at Marshall, Bohorad, Thornburg, Price and Campion, P.C.; and Brian Ulmer, public defender, Union County.

The scholarship participants were mentored by Bruce Ficken ’70, attorney with Cozen O’Connor, and Ryan Gleason ’04, judicial law clerk with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

Gene Raymond Urey was professor of political science at Susquehanna University from 1965 until his death in 1999. In 2001, the Gene R. Urey Memorial Scholarship Fund was established to celebrate his passion for teaching, working with young people and the study of the U.S. Constitution. The Gene R. Urey Scholarship Competition honors his legacy by recognizing and rewarding students who, through the study of constitutional law and American government, have become critical thinkers, insightful analysts and articulate speakers.