August 28, 2009

Stetson seriously works it at first competition of year

The fall competition season has officially begun. Two teams from Stetson University College of Law finished first and second at the E. Earle Zehmer Workers' Compensation Moot Court Competition, hosted by the Florida Workers' Compensation Institute. Florida Coastal School of Law and Florida State University College of Law were semi-finalists at the 14-team tournament, which took place in Orlando August 16-17. Although the competition is in its twentieth year, this is is the first time it was open to non-Florida law schools.

Florida Coastal took top brief honors. The Best Advocate Award was a tie between Jeremy Paul from Florida Coastal and Wilbert Vancol of Florida A&M University College of Law.

Stetson has a website write-up here.

Tip of the hat to Todd Bruno at LSU for bringing this competition to my attention.

August 26, 2009

Don't quote me on that


I've been saving this one for awhile, but I thought it would be a good post given that I used quotation marks of questionable necessity in a headline a few days ago.

Anyway, click here to check out The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. Genius...

It reminds me of a brief one of my teams wrote for the National Moot Court Competition two years ago. One of the issues was the constitutionality of a fictional firearms statute that was popularly known (in the great state of Old York) as Aidan's Law. My students chose to put quotation marks around "Aidan's Law" (see? I just did it!) every time they referenced the statute. Which, of course, was like every other sentence. The quotations accomplished two things: 1) They made the brief annoying as hell to read; and 2) they made it seem as if "Aidan's Law" (I did it again!!!) was some sort of wink-wink, B.S. statute not to be taken seriously -- not the tact you want to take when you're arguing FOR its constitutionality. The brief didn't score very well, as I recall...

August 24, 2009

The "one"-minute drill?

Over at SCOTUS Blog they've got an interesting post on the August 18 motion of two amici seeking a mere one minute of oral argument in the upcoming campaign finance case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

I've lost count of the times I've told my students "if you can't persuade the bench of your point in less than a minute, then you won't persuade them at all." But although it may be plenty of time for Nick Cage to swipe your ride, even I would be a little concerned about my ability to convince the Supreme 9 in less than 60 seconds.

Interesting strategy, though, in seeking an audience before the Court.

August 19, 2009

Bad Advocacy - Vol. 1

Welcome to a new, recurring post here at The Bench Brief. I can't predict how often it will appear, but I can give it a name. How 'bout "Bad Advocacy"? In it, I'll detail particular cases from the real world that should serve as examples of what not to do, even in the world of "fake" mock or moot advocacy. Thanks to Above the Law for our first entry.

On August 11, United States District Judge Leonard Davis (E.D. Tex., Tyler Division) issued his Memorandum Opinion and Order in the case of i4i v. Microsoft. The big news from from that decision was the accompanying Permanent Injunction that ordered Microsoft to cease selling some versions of its popular Word software program. But this being a law school advocacy blog, let's ignore that part of the case and focus on pages 42-43 of the Order, where Judge Davis discusses his reasoning behind awarding an additional $40 million in enhancement damages against Microsoft.

During voir dire, Microsoft attorney Matt Powers, a partner with the BigLaw firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges, asked jurors what they thought about companies suing not to protect a patented product, but rather just to win money. Davis had counsel approach the bench, during which the following exchange followed:

THE COURT: I understand that you just told the jury if somebody was using the patent not to compete, that that was the wrong way to use the patent?
MR. POWERS: No, not to compete; just to get money, not to protect anything. That's what I asked.
THE COURT: What about protecting the patent?
MR. POWERS: I'll ask it that way again.
THE COURT: I just -- you know, I think you're sort of misstating the law, and I don't want to embarrass you in front of the jury. But I would appreciate it if you would clean that up.
MR. POWERS: I appreciate that. I will do that.

Alas, at least according to the Court, Powers did not "clean that up." Davis wrote that "Microsoft’s trial counsel continued to misstate the law and directly appeal to the jurors’ perceived prejudices," telling the jury during opening that “we’re here because the bankers decided to achieve liquidity” and that “the banker cases are the ones where you don’t have a very successful product, and the bankers decide to try to get their money out another way.” Despite an instruction to the jury that there should be no distinction between "classes" of patent owners, Microsoft charged ahead with its "bailout" theme during closing, arguing:

[i4i] had a product that failed. They had a patent that doesn’t work. They’re asking for a bail-out. President Tyler [sic] didn’t give bankers a bail-out. We would ask for you not to give one here either.

You don't rise to be the co-chair of Weil Gotshal's 500-person litigation section by being a shady lawyer. And as Above the Law points out, he's "kind of a big deal" among IP attorneys. But this is a good example of how even a well-respected, experienced attorney can go a bit too far in making his case.

August 17, 2009

South Texas scrivenors win Scribes

In the "two-month-old news" category, South Texas College of Law won the ultra-prestigious 2008-09 Scribes Brief Writing Award. The award, which is given annually by the American Society of Legal Writers, ostensibly recognizes the best brief in the nation from the previous academic year. Any school winning a first-place brief award at any interschool moot court competition -- regional or national -- can enter that brief in the Scribes competition, and the selection committee then chooses the best brief from all the entries. Sort of a "best of the best"-concept. A "Top Gun" trophy, if you will.

The first-place prize went to the trio of Bridget Burke, Sephanie Holcombe, and Justin Jenson for the brief they entered in the University of Houston Law Center's Moot Court National Championship tournament (Ms. Burke and Ms. Holcombe were also members of the South Texas team that won the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition, where Ms. Burke notched National Best Advocate honors).

Impressively, South Texas also took the second-place Scribes plaque for a brief one its teams entered in the August A. Rendigs, Jr. National Products Liability Moot Court Competition. Third place went to UC Davis King Hall School of Law for its for its first-place brief at the San Francisco regional of the NAAC.

Welcome back (insert "Welcome Back, Kotter" theme music here)

Not sure whether the post headline is directed toward you or me, but in any event, I figure it's time to fire back up ye old Bench Brief, what with the fall semester upon us and all...

I'm really looking forward to another exciting year of covering the "wide world of law school advocacy." This being the second year of The Bench Brief's existence, I hope I can build on the dedicated readership we attracted last year.

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