Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Judges rate student Moot Court competitors

February 19, 2004

Mississippi Supreme Court Justices Kay B. Cobb and George C. Carlson Jr. and Court of Appeals Judge Billy G. Bridges judged the final round of the Spring 2004 Moot Court Board Competition on Friday, Feb. 13, at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Student Robin Samson of Covington, La., won the competition, edging out finalist Rob Kelly of Naperville, Ill.

State trial court judges and law school faculty and staff heard the preliminary rounds of competition. Trial judges who served as Moot Court judges included Chancery Judges Glen Alderson of Oxford and Percy Lynchard of Hernando and Circuit Judge Henry Lackey of Calhoun City.

Moot court competition allows participants to gain experience in writing briefs and presenting oral arguments.

Justice Carlson said, "It gives them an opportunity to see what it's really like to argue a case before an appellate court."

Judge Bridges said, "I think the most important reason for these oral arguments would be to gain the practical experience of appearing in a courtroom before a real judge or judges along with your opposition. A great deal of theory, research and brief preparation may be learned in law school, but that feel of the courtroom can only be learned first-hand in the atmosphere provided by physically appearing and practicing before these people."

Judges heard arguments in a hypothetical criminal case involving an issue that has produced a split among the federal circuit courts: whether the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires police questioning at a traffic stop to be reasonably related to the initial justification for the stop. The hypothetical involved a person found to be in possession of a quantity of crack cocaine after an initial traffic stop prompted by the presence of an oversized Grateful Dead band sticker that obscured the driver's view through the back window of the vehicle.

During the course of the competition, students argued both sides of the issue. Justice Carlson said winning participants in each round are selected based on their overall performance during oral arguments, including their demeanor, ability to think on their feet and to answer questions from the judges. Judges offered critiques of the students' work afterwards.

Justice Cobb said, "I always welcome the opportunity to judge appellate moot court competitions, and accept every invitation I receive, if my schedule permits. Having served on the Ole Miss Moot Court Board as a law student, and been on the first Ole Miss appellate team ever to win the Southern regional competition and go to the national finals at New York University in 1976, it brings back fond memories for me and reminds me of the benefit which that part of my law school experience gave me."

Justice Cobb said, "It's always a pleasure to meet talented and enthusiastic young lawyers-to-be, and it gives me a more positive and optimistic outlook for the future of our profession."