Florida Supreme Court Justices Judge Moot Court Final Four
Six of the seven justices of the Florida Supreme Court — Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead (JD 63) and Leander J. Shaw Jr., Charles T. Wells (JD 64, immediate past chief justice), Barbara J. Pariente, Peggy A. Quince and Raoul G. Cantero III — and retired former Chief Justice Ben Overton (JD 52) judged the annual Justice Campbell Thornal Moot Court Team Final Four competition here Oct. 11.
“The court has been judging UF Moot Court competitions for decades,” said Anstead, adding that Marshall Barnes, a constitutional officer appointed by the Florida Supreme Court, has attended seven of UF’s competitions.
“We are fortunate to have such a wonderful relationship with our Florida Supreme Court. Its level of involvement not only guarantees an exciting Final Four, but also gives team members and students the opportunity to observe skills required for excellence in appellate advocacy,” said Moot Court Student Chair LeAnn Davis. “We are now working on the spring Final Four, to be held Feb. 28 before judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and sponsored by Holland & Knight.”
The justices held an informal Q & A session prior to competition, where they advised students about arguing before a court. “Don’t avoid questions,” said Overton.
“When answering, remember a monotone or absence of eye contact isn’t gonna get it.”
Quince advised students to let a judge — however “long winded” — finish asking questions. “You can’t adequately answer without hearing the whole thing,” she said.
Wells said effective lawyers must “master interactive technology,” noting some courts use video conferencing.
Shaw commented, “Judges know your cases through briefs. Charts eat into your 20 minutes, so the time might be better used for argument.”
“Don’t fear questions,” said Cantero. “Oral argument is a conversation, where lawyers help the court come to a conclusion. Anticipate questions and prepare answers.”
The UF team is named for former Supreme Court Chief Justice Campbell Thornal, and competes each year at more than 20 tournaments throughout the country — winning numerous state and national awards. Prior to tournament competition, the team — whose goal is promotion of excellence in appellate advocacy — holds five-week tryouts judged by student and faculty with input from longtime fall competition sponsors Zimmerman Shuffield Kiser & Sutcliffe of Orlando. The chosen “Final Four” then compete before the Supreme Court justices.
This year’s finalists — Nathan Coppernoll (2L), Camelia Coward (2L), Allison Marshall (2L) and JoAnn Guerrero (2L) — argued a case involving the Sex Offender Registration Act. Coppernoll and Coward argued for Petitioner John Doe, an ex-felon challenging its constitutionality, while Marshall and Guerrero argued for Respondent, a fictitious state. Marshall won Best Brief, and Guerrero won Best Oralist and Best Overall.
“I feel blessed to have participated,” Guerrero said. “Most importantly, I am grateful for the support of my family, friends and coaches — particularly my benching partner, Cammie Coward (Final Four petitioner).”
Marshall said, “I tried out for the team to get more experience with brief writing and oral arguments. Making the team was great in itself, but making Final Four was unreal.”
“Trying out for Moot Court involved hard work,” said Coward. “I was lucky to have great friends who gave time and support. The best part was sitting on the stage and seeing my benching partner, JoAnn, on the opposing side.”
“Arguing in front of Supreme Court justices was an amazing honor,” Coppernoll said. “And team members were phenomenal in getting us ready.”
That same weekend, four team members competed in the Thomas Tang Moot Court in Washington, D.C. Steven Klein and Bradley Harper took first place, and Klein also won “Best Oralist.” John Merchant and Jim Bryan won “Best Brief.” Both teams will compete in the nationals in Atlanta.