John G. Roberts, chief justice of the United States, will have a chance to put four University of Florida law students on the spot this semester.
Roberts will become the first U.S. Supreme Court Justice in history to judge the Justice Campbell Thornal Moot Court Final Four competition. The event takes place Friday at the Curtis M. Phillips Center.
“To have the chief justice of our nation judge our Final Four Moot Court Competition is a great privilege for our students and the University of Florida,” said Robert Jerry, dean of the UF College of Law and Levin, Mabie and Levin Professor of Law. “It is a tremendous understatement to say that it has elevated both the significance of this annual event and the anxiety levels of our student competitors.”
In years past, Florida Supreme Court justices or judges from the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals have presided over the competition. Judge Peter T. Fay, Judge Susan H. Black and Judge Rosemary Barkett will join Roberts on the Moot Court panel. They are all UF College of Law graduates and are judges from the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
“We’re usually lucky to get one judge from the 11th Circuit,” said third-year law student Charles Roberson, president of the Moot Court Executive Board. “This time we’ve got the Chief Justice and we’ve got three judges from the 11th Circuit, so its definitely the most prestigious bench we’ve ever had.”
Roberts became chief justice of the United States on Sept. 29, 2005, after being nominated by President George W. Bush. Immediately prior to that, Roberts served as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Roberts has also argued in front of the Supreme Court many times as a private attorney and as government counsel.
UF’s Moot Court competition gives students a hypothetical case and the students write an appellate brief, which is worth about 40 percent of the final score. After the brief is submitted the students prepare and argue two 10-minute oral arguments, which are worth about 30 percent each. The students first argue against the position of their brief, then later in support of the position they took in their brief.
The Justice Campbell Thornal Moot Court team was founded in 1961 and was named after the Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice. The team competes in numerous intercollegiate competitions across the country. Its mission is to promote excellence in appellate advocacy.
“It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience that the people that are selected for the final four,” Roberson said. “It’s very prestigious, and not very many people can say that they’ve argued in front of the Chief Justice.”
At this time, UF College of Law faculty, staff and students have priority seating for the event, but seating may become open to other constituencies as the event date nears. Those interested in attending are encouraged to check the College of Law Web site (www.law.ufl.edu) for up-to-date information on seat availability after Tuesday. Book bags and back packs are discouraged as they may cause delays during security screening.