Court of Appeals schedules oral arguments at University of Mississippi School of Law

April 12, 2007

A panel of judges of the Mississippi Court of Appeals will convene court in Oxford at the University of Mississippi School of Law on April 17.

Law students of the Criminal Appeals Clinic will present oral arguments in two criminal cases on appeal. The Attorney General’s office will argue on behalf of the state.

Arguments are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. The arguments will be heard in Moot Court One on the third floor at 300 Lamar Law Center. Anyone planning to watch the oral arguments must arrive by 1 p.m.

Judges scheduled to hear the cases are Presiding Judge William Myers of Ocean Springs and Judges T. Kenneth Griffis Jr. of Ridgeland and Larry E. Roberts of Meridian.

Members of the Court of Appeals occasionally travel to locations outside Jackson for oral argument presentations specially scheduled to accommodate college audiences.

Presiding Judge Myers said the experience will be valuable to the students. “I think that will be a great help to these aspiring lawyers to get in there and see what happens when it really means something to the innocence or guilt of a defendant,” he said.

The students are admitted to limited practice of law under the supervision of attorney Phillip W. Broadhead, clinical professor and director of the Criminal Appeals Clinic at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Broadhead said, “They will have the experience of standing in front of three of the top legal minds of the state and arguing their cases....I don’t know of a classroom experience that matches that sort of real life experience.”

Presenting the arguments for the appellants will be students Casey L. Butts and Paul P. Blake, both of Laurel, and James A. Cooke and Nicholas B. Holtz, both of Oxford.

Appellant briefs were written and submitted during the fall semester by students Megan D. French of Oxford, Paul C. Gault of Amory, Justin T. Cook of Jackson, and Joseph R. Tullos of Hattiesburg. Other Criminal Appeals Clinic students who assisted in the preparation of the arguments as case consultants are Jessica T. Banahan of Pascagoula, Lauren Cannada of Jackson, Clare S. Rush of Jackson, and Ryan J. O'Beirne of Natchez.

Cases to be argued are Robert Lee Moss Jr. v. State of Mississippi, 2005-KA-02340-COA, and Lamont Jackson v. State of Mississippi, 2005-KA-02368-COA. Moss’s case, which will be heard at 1:30, involves a Clarke County conviction and 10-year sentence on a charge of armed carjacking. Jackson’s case, which will be heard at 3 p.m., is an appeal of Jackson County convictions of aggravated assault and rape. Jackson received two life sentences as an habitual offender.

Broadhead asks public defenders from all over the state for referrals of appeals for indigent defendants. The Criminal Appeals Clinic has specific criteria.

“We represent indigent clients as a matter of public service,” Broadhead said. “One semester, we did four murder cases at once. We went to Parchman. I took eight students over to Unit 32, the maximum security unit, and did interviews.”

Since 2002, the Criminal Appeals Clinic has represented 30 people in criminal appeals before the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. Eight cases have been heard in oral argument. Three convictions were reversed. Eight cases are pending, Broadhead said.

The oral arguments will not be broadcast via the Internet, since the Court of Appeals is convening a special session away from its camera-equipped courtroom. However, an audio-video recording of the proceedings on CD may be obtained from the office of the Supreme Court Clerk afterwards.