Law students present arguments in criminal appeal

November 19, 2003

Two University of Mississippi School of Law students on Wednesday argued a criminal case before the Court of Appeals in Jackson. It was the first time that students have been permitted to present oral arguments in an appeal in a Mississippi state court.

Third-year law students Sidney Preston of Jackson and Ryan Ridgeway of Fort Worth, Texas, represented defendant Marvin Fields in an appeal of two auto burglary convictions from Grenada County Circuit Court.

Preston and Ridgeway are part of the Criminal Appeals Clinic at the University of Mississippi. Since the program's creation in the fall of 2002, nine students have been through the program, said Phillip W. Broadhead, clinical professor. The students have represented defendants in six criminal appeals before the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The other cases were submitted on written briefs.

Preston said afterwards, "This is the first time this has been done. The opportunity to have this experience is unbelievable."

Ridgeway said, "There is only so much we can learn in a classroom. The hands-on experience was the most beneficial part."

Preston and Ridgeway argued Wednesday before a three-judge panel made up of Judges Leslie D. King, L. Joseph Lee and David A. Chandler. The judges afterwards were complimentary of the students' presentations and preparedness. Judge King said the students did as well as full-time lawyers in fielding questions from the panel.

Judge King said, "Getting out and practicing teaches you how to be a lawyer. It gives you not only the theory, but the hands-on practical experience of what you will be doing."

Judge King added, "It keeps us as judges in touch with what's going on as we watch students in the learning process. It's good. I hope to see more students down here."

Judge Chandler said, "This is excellent training."

Judge Lee noted that the written briefs were also well done. The briefs were written by Stacey Mazulerich, who has since graduated from law school.