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Jax Daily Record Monday, Oct. 25, 201012:00 PM EST

Florida-Georgia courtroom rivalry turns 30


by Joe Wilhelm Jr.

Staff Writer

The week leading up to the Florida-Georgia game is full of traditions, and one of those is the Hulsey-Kimbrell Moot Court Competition.

The competition will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse where the University of Florida seeks to create a new tradition.

The University of Florida team won both the moot court competition and the football game last year, ending a two-year streak that saw the University of Georgia team win the court competition and the University of Florida win the football game.

“It used to be an accurate indicator for the game,” said Lanny Russell, moderator for the competition and shareholder at Smith Hulsey & Busey, sponsor of the annual event. “For the first 25 years, the school that won the moot court would lose the football game, but that hasn’t been the case recently.”

The Gators will try to repeat as winners in the court Friday and on the field Saturday.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of a competition created by attorneys Mark Hulsey, a 1948 graduate of the University of Florida Levin College of Law, and Charles A. Kimbrell, a 1947 graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law, to provide law students an opportunity to argue in a real-world setting in front of a panel of federal judges.

“Preparing for and participating in the competition is a big undertaking for very busy federal judges,” said Russell. “They do a great job of providing the students with a very unique opportunity to interact with a very experienced panel of judges.”

The competition will be held at the federal courthouse. The event was planned to allow competitors and guests to attend The Jacksonville Bar Association luncheon at the Hyatt after the competition.

The teams will present oral arguments as petitioner and respondent before a panel of judges including presiding Judge Susan H. Black of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. District Judges B. Avant Edenfield and Lisa Godbey Wood from the Southern District of Georgia, and Senior U.S. District Judges William Terrell Hodges and Harvey E. Schlesinger from the Middle District of Florida.

David Ballard and Erik Chambers will represent the University of Georgia as the petitioner’s counsel. Representing the University of Florida as the respondent’s counsel will be David Hughes and Neda Legavardi. All four students are third-year law students expected to graduate in 2011.

The teams will be arguing a mock appeal based on issues yet to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. Arguments will be presented addressing a hypothetical case of a high school student, Alex Weatherbie, who created a Facebook page that allows him to pretend to be the teacher, Herb Meyer, who submitted a bad recommendation that the student feels prevented him from transferring into one of the best private schools in the area.

Through the Facebook page, the student creates an unflattering picture of the teacher that students and teachers can view on the Internet.

The principal cited the State of “Georgida’s” “Our Children’s Future Act’s” online speech prohibition and suspended Weatherbie from school for five days.

Weatherbie’s parents sued the State of Georgida, claiming the Act’s provision on online speech violates their son’s freedom of speech. Additionally, they challenged the PASS provision, which provides tuition supplements to parents of children in failing school districts who choose to switch schools, either public or private, claiming the tuition aid program violates the establishment clause.

The competition is open to the public, but be advised that the federal courthouse does not allow cell phones in the building.

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