It was a ferocious 90-minute slugfest that culminated five weeks of preparation.
But afterward, University of Georgia law students Jake Ware and Stephen Morrison felt they had done their part Friday in the Bulldogs’ annual rivalry with the University of Florida.
The third-year UGA School of Law team prevailed over second-year UF Levin College of Law students Kristie Saoud and Kyle Louramore in the 35th annual Florida/Georgia Hulsey/Gambrell Moot Court Competition at the Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse.
The students’ arguments, often intercepted by relentless questioning from the bench, were followed by a decision in Georgia’s favor by three Florida and two Georgia federal judges.
A Jacksonville legal community tradition, the competition is held on the eve of the annual football showdown in Jacksonville.
“The ball’s in our football team’s court now,” a beaming Morrison, of Savannah, said afterward as he and Ware, of Statesboro, posed for photographs with the championship trophy. (Georgia lost to Florida 27-3.)
Saoud is from Jacksonville and Louramore is from Wellington.
The moot court competition simulates current, unresolved United States Supreme Court cases involving federal constitutional law. Friday’s case contemplated a criminal defense attorney’s conviction for conspiracy in aiding his client’s crimes and the police search of the attorney’s motor vehicle.
Ware and Morrison, who said the judges’ grilling was as tough as any they faced in preparations and in previous competitions, praised their UF peers.
“We know our football team will have a tough challenge tomorrow just like we did today,” Ware said. “They were great competitors.”
After the teams presented their cases and rebuttals, the judges met to determine the winner. Court was then called back into session for Gerald Tjoflat, 11th Circuit Court of Appeals judge, to announce the outcome.
First, Tjoflat praised the competitors’ preparation and spirit.
“It was extremely well done on both sides, which made judging a very difficult proposition,” he said. “One thing we thought you did well on is that each side knew the other side’s case, which is an important thig in oral arguments. It helps to know your weaknesses and your strengths.
“It’s a close case, but Georgia won this one,” he then declared.
The other judges were Senior District Judge William Terrell Hodges and District Judge Marcia Morales Howard, both of the Middle District of Florida, and Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood and Senior District Judge William Moore, both of the Southern District of Georgia.
Avant Edenfield, a Southern District of Georgia senior judge who died in May, often served on the judicial panel and was remembered by his judicial peers before Friday’s competition.
“Judge Edenfield was smart and witty and fearless,” Wood said. “He loved this competition; it represented everything he valued.”
Sauod, an Episcopal School of Jacksonville graduate, said arguing before the judges was an honor and a valuable experience.
“It was a great test of our talent and our hard work, but the judges made a just decision,” she said.
Mark Hulsey, a partner with Jacksonville’s Smith Hulsey & Busey and a University of Florida graduate, began the Moot Court competition. Hulsey was president of The Florida Bar from 1969 to 1970 and The Jacksonville Bar Association in 1962.
The competition is sponsored by Smith Hulsey & Busey and Atlanta-based law firm Smith Gambrell & Russell. The event honors Hulsey and E. Smyth Gambrell, a past president of the American Bar Association and American Bar Foundation.